Around 5:50PM, a wall of sound slowly starts to build from under the BP Grand Entrance pavilion at LACMA. People stream into the courtyard, some staking their claim on the crisp green lawn in front of the Resnick Building with soft blankets and folding lawn chairs, others sidling up to the Stark Bar to order a Spicy Paloma or glass of summer-y rosé. But 6 o’clock is when the magic really happens — the band starts to play, and sounds of horns, strings, percussion and jazz piano take off into the night sky.
Jazz at LACMA is a rare gem when it comes to Los Angeles experiences. From June to August, every Friday night, the museum hosts a free jazz concert for Angelenos. It’s a vibrant scene — the performers are backlit by Urban Light as patrons gather round to listen and dance the night away, and curious pedestrians walk through the scene on their way to check out Levitated Mass. It all feels so quintessentially LA.
But unlike other Los Angeles monuments that serve as popular date night spots (think: Griffith Observatory or the Santa Monica Pier), Jazz at LACMA isn’t old and tired and now forever associated with an almost Oscar-winning Best Picture film. The most lovely thing about it, though? Like a summer fling, or the feeling you get when you first fall in love, it’s ephemeral. Somehow knowing that you’ve only got a few short weeks to witness it makes the experience that much more enjoyable.
More pragmatically, it’s really, really fun, no matter if you’re going on your first date or if you’ve been with your partner for years. And yes — you’ll have a great time if you head over to the Grand Entrance right at 6 and grab a seat in the folding chairs in front of the stage. But as a Jazz at LACMA veteran, I’m happy to share a few more tips that’ll make your evening that much more magical — and dare I say, best-date-ever worthy?
Be Fashionably Late
Okay, it’s a Friday night in Los Angeles — you’re not going to show up on time even if you try. But strolling up around 6:30 sets you up perfectly. The lines will have died down at Stark Bar’s take-out window, so you can quickly order your drinks (if you’re coming directly from work, the Slushy Irish Coffee might just be the perfect pick-me-up).
Don’t Sit Down
Now that you’ve got a beverage, take a little stroll together. When was the last time you walked through Urban Light, or really looked at the art installations featured on the outside of the Ahmanson building? You’ll be able to hear the music from virtually everywhere on the museum grounds, so you won’t need to worry about missing a thing. If you feel so inclined, grab your partner’s hand and ask them to dance — you won’t be the only couple swaying along to the tunes, trust me.
Check Out the Art
You are at a museum, after all. Although they don’t really publicize it, the docents stop checking for tickets once Jazz at LACMA starts. That means you’re free to check out the museum’s incredible permanent collection until 8PM. Saunter through galleries full of Picasso, Degas and Rembrandt if your date is a traditionalist, or check out Hockney’s Mulholland Drive: The Road to the Studio, if they prefer more contemporary fair.
Watch for Shooting Stars
Once you get kicked out at closing time, head back down to the main event. Refill your drinks if necessary, and find a spot on the grass directly across from Levitated Mass. By this time, the families will have cleared out, so there should be plenty of space. Stretch out and gaze up at the night sky as you listen to the last hour of music. You might not catch any real stars — light pollution is a real bummer, right? — but you’ll probably catch a glimpse of the moon and a few satellites floating through the sky as the evening comes to a close.
By the time the whole concert is over, it’ll only be 9PM — so if the date went well, you’ll still have plenty of time to enjoy each other’s company in the city of stars.