The Hollywood Bowl: The Icon Next to the 101 at 101 Years Old

On July 11, 1922 the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Alfred Hertz, inaugurated the first official season of music under the stars at the Hollywood Bowl.

Over the years the tranquil venue tucked away in the Hollywood Hills  - and a stone's throw from the US 101 Hollywood Freeway - has hosted some of the biggest musicians, bands, and orchestras in modern times.

From the two women in 1920 performing atop a barn door, to the Beatles and Hendrix in the '60s, to King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard in 2023, magic has a way of happening in that natural bowl off Highland Avenue.

Gertrude Ross and Anna Ruzena Sprotte at on a barn door in the first known musical event at the Hollywood Bowl, ca.1920 – By Public Domain

"The Hollywood Bowl was marvellous. It was the one we all enjoyed most, I think," John Lennon said after the Beatles first played there in 1964, "because it seemed so important. We got on, and it was a big stage, and it was great. We could be heard in a place like the Hollywood Bowl, even though the crowd was wild: good acoustics."

The Beatles in 1964 doing "Twist and Shout" at the Bowl.
It wasn't the longests show in the Bowl's history, but it still gets talked about today.

The Beatles went on to play the Bowl two more times in their short career. Recordings of those concerts can be heard on the creatively titled 1977 album, The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl.

Another band from the '60s whose Bowl performance was captured on vinyl was the hometown legends, The Doors, whose 1968 set is still riveting.

The Doors kicked off their gig at the Bowl in '68 with this hypnotic version of "When The Music's Over."

Jazz greats Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Miles Davis, and Herbie Hancock have all graced its stage. The Hollywood Bowl Jazz Festival has been a summer staple since Hugh Hefner bought the Playboy Jazz Festival west in the late 1970s.

And of course classical music has been heard echoing through the hills surrounding the Bowl since its inception. The Bowl is the longtime home of the LA. Philharmonic.

John Cusack brought Peter Gabriel a boom box before he performed "In Your Eyes" at the Bowl in 2012

One of the many beautiful quirks of the Bowl is patrons can bring picnic baskets of food and depending on if its an official Bowl event - bottles of booze. A rarity in most music venues. This can lead to embarrassing clinking of bottles as they accidentally roll down the stairs beneath the benches during quiet moments.

Another oddity of the past was in the 1960s when the management decided a water feature should be built right next to the stage to dance along with the dulcet tunes of the orchestra. Naturally the hippies attending the Jimi Hendrix show just jumped right in.

Hendrix opened for the Mamas & The Papas in '67 and headlined the Bowl in '68.

One of the more bittersweet footnotes in Bowl history is it was the last venue Tom Petty performed in before he passed away. Petty wrapped up his four-month 40th Anniversary Tour with a pair of dates at the Bowl. Willie Nelson recently celebrated his 90th birthday with a two night stand there as well.

Tom Petty's last song, "American Girl," was played at the Hollywood Bowl in September 25, 2017.

This year the Bowl will bid farewell to its longtime conductor Gustavo Dudamel (who is headed to NYC). Among special events like movie screenings of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Return of the Jedi, the venue will also be home for Quincy Jones' 90th birthday; and it will host concerts by Janet Jackson, Tears for Fears, and the Pixies among many others.

Tickets are available at the Bowl's website.

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Last updated: 9 Dec 2023, 14:57 Etc/UTC