Culture Connoisseur: The Hollywood Bowl

One of the most magical moments of my life was hearing George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" performed live at the Hollywood Bowl. What a night.
One of the most magical moments of my life was hearing George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” performed live at the Hollywood Bowl. What a night.

A special Friday edition of Culture Connoisseur. 

Last night I attended a classical music concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Not only did I get to see one of my favorite shows being filmed (something I didn’t know until the night before), I got to indulge in one of the best things to do in Los Angeles in the summertime. If you haven’t heard of the Bowl before, it’s one of the oldest venues in the city with one of the most storied histories. Set deep into the Hollywood Hills, the Bowl attracts people from all across Los Angeles to come listen to some of the best music in the world. I’ve gone to my fair share of rock concerts and festivals, but there are a few things about  the Bowl in particular that I really love. 

The calendar is wonderful. 

If you look at the summer calendar, you’ll notice that there’s a wide range and selection of concerts to attend. The three classical music concerts I’ve seen at the Bowl — a selection of Gershwin, Yo-Yo Ma performing Debussy, and last night’s Gustavo Dudamel conducting Mozart — rank up there in my personal list of favorites. The Los Angeles Philharmonic is really top-notch, and Angelenos are really lucky to have access. For people who aren’t super into classical music, they also have movie music performances (John Williams famously does shows) and other stuff (This entire weekend, Eric Idle is presenting Spamalot.) Sometimes other artists will come in and use the venue too.

If you're not lucky enough to be sitting in one of the boxes, you can see the musicians on the screens around the venue. Here's Yo-Yo Ma.
If you’re not lucky enough to be sitting in one of the boxes, you can see the musicians on the screens around the venue. Here’s Yo-Yo Ma.

You don’t have to get really expensive seats to enjoy the performances, either. Although I would love to buy a box, just about anywhere in that first tier of seats behind the boxes has an unobstructed view of both the screens and the stage (If you’re really interested, I like K2). The most I’ve ever spent on tickets in that tier is about $60 each, but that was for Yo-Yo Ma and entirely worth it. I’ve never gone and have wanted to, but legend has it that you can attend morning rehearsals for free.


The setup is great. 

The Bowl is on Highland Avenue right below the 101 Freeway, so it can be really terrible to get there. Plus, there’s a lot of stacked parking, and I have yet to figure out how people would leave if there was an emergency / I’m sure it costs a fortune. However, the really cool thing about concerts at the Hollywood Bowl is that you can buy a round-trip shuttle pass that takes you there and brings you back. I usually go to concerts with my grandmother who lives in Arcadia, so we jump on the shuttle that leaves from Arcadia County Park. It’s only about $6 per person, and you can buy shuttle tickets on Ticketmaster when you purchase your concert tickets. The first shuttle arrives about an hour before showtime, so you can relax and eat before settling in. And, you feel better about your carbon footprint and saving gas. Win win win win win win.

The Bowl has a few restaurants and table service in the boxes, but most people bring their own food and wine to enjoy before the performances. If you get there early enough you can snag a picnic table (I low key feel like you’d need to get there at noon for an 8 p.m. performance though). However, there’s nothing quite like getting to your seat early and cracking open a feast. Trust me.

There really is something indescribable about being  enveloped in darkness and music.
There really is something indescribable about being enveloped in darkness and music.

The atmosphere is magical. 

A lot of people think that classical music is “too cultured” or whatever, which is a phrase I really hate and one that is entirely not true. People from all walks of life come to enjoy the performances and the feeling of being at the Bowl. Music composed and originally performed hundreds of years ago can make you feel the same way as a contemporary song in 2015, and if you dig enough you can find stuff you’ll really like. Sure, the classical concerts are mostly instrumental or sung in different languages, and most of the time you’re watching what the musicians are doing via a large screen. But just sitting there after a good meal, soaking in the immense sound and appreciating that someone was genius enough to think of the beauty and commit it to paper / that there are people in front of you who are masters at what they do is an incredible experience that I hope everyone can have at least once in their lifetime. 

Have you been to the Hollywood Bowl before or have questions? Let’s discuss in the comments.


3 responses to “Culture Connoisseur: The Hollywood Bowl”

  1. […] the 405 back to the 101 to go to a Hollywood Bowl concert. This place is magical on a summer evening, and they have the best classical music concerts. I’m excited to go for […]

  2. […] to a December LA Philharmonic performance so my grandmother and I can see them in a different venue than we’re used to. The building is just so gorgeous, and it would be fun to get a little dressed up for an afternoon […]

  3. […] heard of him or seen his photo on lightpole banners around the city. I’ve seen him at the Hollywood Bowl, and next week I’m going to go see him conduct Schoenberg and Mozart at the Walt Disney […]

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