GRAMMY.com has a piece up that I wrote regarding my years of music-focused travel. Since it had to be edited down for length (I’ve been to a lot of places!), here are the places not covered there.
Los Angeles, CA
LA is arguably the center of the music universe. There is an overwhelming amount of must-do’s for the music geek- but here are three lesser-known essentials.
Fender factory tour: About an hour from LA is the factory that makes many of the gadgets you see in musicians’ hands. The $10, 1-hour tour shows you from start to finish all of the work put into making a Fender guitar. And beyond that, there is a small museum and showroom attached to it that are worthwhile to visit as well.
Bonus: Guitar Center’s Rock Walk, on Rock Row in Hollywood, has it’s own version of the Hollywood Stars- musicians handprints in it’s entryway, as well as a small display of important guitars.
Joshua Tree, CA
130 miles west of LA lays the land that has been a retreat and home to artists of all types for decades: Joshua Tree.
Bonus: Drive North a couple hours to the Palmdale/Lancaster area to see the Four Aces Hotel- used in Lenny Kravitz’s “American Woman” video and Rob Zombie’s “House of a Thousand Corpses”, and the ‘Kill Bill’ church, which can also be seen in the Britney Spears’ movie “Crossroads”.
Las Vegas, NV
KISS Mini Golf: KISS is world famous for not only being, well, KISS, but also for putting their brand on EVERYTHING. Just off the Strip, escape the heat to a blacklit mini golf course with a beer and an animatronic KISS band playing while you putt a ball onto Gene Simmons’ tongue.
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Memorabilia: Between seeing a show at The Joint, eating, gambling, drinking, and laying out by the pool, you can spend hours walking around looking at the incredible collection of rock memorabilia. My favorite is the wall of musician- owned black leather motorcycle jackets. This amazing experience definitely beats staying home and playing online roulette at Easy Mobile Casino.
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Golden Steer Restaurant: Las Vegas’ golden years belong to the Rat Pack and Elvis. Many of the landmarks from that era are long gone, but in the shadow of The Strip, you can get a steak at this classic establishment… and sit in the Frank Sinatra or Elvis booths in classic style. They used to eat here and so can you.
Bonus: Intersection of Koval and Flamingo: This is where Tupac was shot, ultimately leading to his untimely death.
San Francisco, CA
Bonus: In San Francisco’s North Beach, there is a medallion dedicated to Metallica’s late bassist, Cliff Burton, on the sidewalk at Grant, Columbus, and Broadway.
Kurt Cobain bench: Nirvana fans make pilgrimages to Viretta Park, which is across the street from Kurt Cobain’s former home, where he was found dead. Memorial messages of fandom are scribbled on the park’s wooden benches.
Experience Music Project Museum: Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen founded this museum, housed in an iconic Frank Gehry building. Inside, music fans are treated to thorough music exhibits, as well as interactive music rooms.
Crocodile Café: The Croc was a key intimate venue during the Seattle Sound era. Nirvana played an infamous show there as a secret opening act, booked as Pen Cap Chew. They didn’t play any hits, and this was at the beginning of their superstardom. It is now co-owned by Alice in Chains’ Sean Kinney.
Bonus: Singles apartment complex: The fountain may be gone, but on East Thomas Street in the Capitol Hill area is the apartment complex that served as the centerpiece of one of the best music films of all time, Singles, which featured musicians such as Chris Cornell, Eddie Vedder, and Jeff Ahmet, as well as almost every other Seattle Sound band, except Nirvana.
Deemed the “Live Music Capitol of the World”, Austin’s rich music history makes it home to Austin City Limits and SXSW.
Continental Club: It’s rare to find places anymore where you can walk in any night of the week and are guaranteed to enjoy the band playing. Somewhere between a honky tonk and a rock & roll bar, the Continental Club’s small stage, dance floor, and stiff drinks make it a must-experience nestled in the iconic South Congress corridor.
Bonus: About an hour and a half southwest of Austin is the “town” of Luckenbach- a beer joint/dance hall made famous by the Waylon Jennings song.
Nestled against the iconic Mississippi River, Memphis is a small town with a large rock history.
Bonus: Stroll down Beale Street, where ‘blues was born’.
Grand Ole Opry: Take a fantastic tour of the building that is hugely iconic to country music. See where Opry members get their mail, where the flood line went to that caused for a massive reconstruction, and stand on the stage.
Robert’s Western World: I have a soft spot for honky tonks, and Robert’s Western World, on the infamous Broadway strip, is a great one. The small, high stage, packed dance floor, walls lined with cowboy boots, and the smell of bar food being fried up create the perfect “Nash-Vegas” ambiance.
Third Man Records: In an industrial section of Nashville lies Jack White’s record label, Third Man Records. The quirky space offers unique memorabilia for fans of White’s work, as well as records the label has released.
Bonus: An hour south of Nashville, every whisky-drinkin’ rock ‘n’ roller should visit the Jack Daniel’s Distillery. It’s a dry county and you can’t drink it there, but the stellar tour will make you appreciate that iconic bottle more.
Fantoft Stave Church (Bergen): A beautiful 8 hour train ride away from Oslo is the rainy, cold town of Bergen. And a little ways outside of Bergen is the reconstructed Fantoft Stave Church. Beyond seeing a beautiful example of the iconic and indigenous stave church, you can stand there and think about Burzum main man Varg Vikernes burning it down in the name of Satan.
Bonus: Parkteatret Scene (Oslo) is a cool venue to see bands from all over the world. It used to be a cinema shortly after the turn of the century, up into the ‘90s.
Bonus: Abbey Road: You know you want to instagram yourself where The Beatles walked across for that iconic album cover…. just be sure you watch for cars.