A Long Los Angeles Weekend: Navigating the Grammy Awards Party Scene

From a Mark Ronson and Lainey Wilson duet to a surprise Gladys Knight and Dionne Warwick performance, these were the best moments at the biggest events of Grammy Awards' weekend.

Flavor Flav and Miley Cyrus. Getty Images for The Recording A

The Grammy’s long-running tagline is “Music’s Biggest Night,” and while that may sound hyperbolic, for once it’s a slogan that actually rings true. The ceremony engulfs Los Angeles in the days leading up to its Sunday show at the Cyrpto.com Arena in Los Angeles’ downtown area. It seems like the entire metropolis gets in on the action.

Ahead of the festivities, I’m sitting in my fancy room at the Prospect Hollywood Hotel, and as I look around I see a massive portrait of Greta Garbo, murals of flora painted directly onto the wall and a floor blanketed with leopard-print carpeting. In other words, it’s Los Angeles-subtle. Regardless, the old school vibes and sunny courtyard don’t exactly quite jibe with my airplane outfit (stretch pants and a stained hoodie). Hey, American Airlines Basic Economy wasn’t exactly the Met Gala. I wash off the airport grime and get ready: it’s time for a true power dinner.

It’s going to be a long week.

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LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 28: Exterior view of Craig's Restaurant on April 28, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Valerie Macon/Getty Images)
Craig’s Restaurant. Valerie Macon/Getty Images

Wednesday, January 31, 6:37 p.m. 

Craig’s

Where does one go when they want to experience a quintessential Los Angeles experience?  Craig’s, the epitome of a see-and-be-seen restaurant. After pulling up to the valet, who promptly asks my friend a litany of questions about his Toyota Prius with the same level of enthusiasm as if he pulled up in a vintage Rolls-Royce (we can’t tell if he’s being facetious), we’re given the choice of a tucked-away table or one against the wall that has a full-on view of the entire space and the front door. As a dutiful reporter and unabashed celebrity gawker, I choose the one that has the best view of the stage—I mean, restaurant. 

Every seat is taken in the small, boisterous space. With hamburgers and ribs on the menu, a packed bar with the TV on and a soundtrack of 60s pop hits (which later switches to early ‘00s R&B), it feels like (and I mean this in the most affectionate way possible) Celebrity Applebee’s. 

“It’s amazing; after 13 years, it’s still a vibe,” owner Craig Susser tells Observer. “The town’s always a little bit more electrically-charged during awards season, because it gives people a reason to come and gather in L.A., especially after a lot of people moved away during the pandemic.” 

“You see Dua Lipa and Elton John doing dinner and are like, ‘Oh my God, that’s so amazing,’ and then six months later there’s a single out and it’s like, “Oh, that’s what they were talking about,” Susser says. “Charlie Puth had never met Elton. I said, ‘Come over to the table,’ and Elton knew exactly who he was. Six months later, Charlie came in and said, ‘We just did a single and that wouldn’t have happened without you.’” 

Graham Whitford, Tyler Bryant, and Caleb Crosby of Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown. Getty Images

Thursday, February 1, 7:30 p.m.

Sunset Marquis 

The Sunset Marquis is decked out to honor the iconic late rock photographer Mick Rock, with a party thrown by the property’s Morrison Hotel Gallery (a mini gallery of pictures of music superstars taken by Rock) and Stand Together Music. It’s an undeniably cool crowd, including a buoyant Niles Rodgers and Julian Lennon. As I’m browsing the gallery, there are ‘70s-era pictures of a variety of music luminaries, including impossibly baby-faced shots of Ozzy Osbourne and Lou Reed, the latter of which was blown up and hanging above a stage set up by the pool. The band Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown play the outdoor venue, and frontman Tyler Bryant tells a sweet story relating to the Sunset’s rock pedigree: when he was 10, he noticed Jeff Beck was staying at the room next to his, and he spied the legendary guitarist through the keyhole of his room, a story he later told the rocker. “I think he was freaked out…”

Thursday, February 1, some point

(Not) Paramount Studios

There are multiple parties popping off across town tonight, including Spotify’s famed bacchanal which I skipped because the streaming service is so 2023. I’m totally kidding, I just couldn’t get on the list, and whining about not getting into a party is the most Los Angeles thing I can think of. I saw the Spotify bash was sponsored by Dunkin’ Donuts, and that Ice Spice performed. Anyway, I didn’t want to go to that stupid party. Fine. Whatever. 

Friday, February 2, 8:03 p.m.

NeueHouse

I’m at NeueHouse (the pronunciation is Noy-Ya House) for a party hosted by music video platform Vevo. Best New Artist nominee Gracie Abrams performs. Just three years ago, the singer-songwriter had never played a single show, and now she’s here, singing for a mostly indifferent crowd for Vevo. Chills! Dreams do come true. 

Abrams isn’t the only artist serenading party guests. Across town at Soho Warehouse, the R&B singer Summer Walker is performing as part of their Secret Sounds series.

Noah Kahan and Gracie Abrams attend Best New Artist Showcase at the #GRAMMYsNextGen Ambassador Brunch at GRAMMY House. Getty Images for The Recording A

Saturday, February 3, 11:43 a.m.

Rolling Greens

The Recording Academy once again set up Grammy House, a sprawling complex in downtown Los Angeles for activations and photo ops. This morning, there’s a confab featuring all of 2024’s Best New Artist nominees, including Ice Spice and Gracie Abrams, along with  singer-songwriter Noah Kahan, tomorrow night’s eventual Grammy winner Victoria Monét and the brash Jelly Roll. “I feel like I’ve won just by getting nominated,” Jelly Roll says. “I’ve shown an entire group of people it’s possible, because I didn’t start figuring life out until I was 37. They say never age yourself in the music industry, but I’m nearing 40. It just happens for everyone at different times.”

Lainey Wilson and Mark Ronson. AFP via Getty Images

Saturday, February 3, 9:27 pm

The Beverly Hilton 

Legendary music executive Clive Davis’ Pre-Grammy Gala is perhaps the most coveted ticket in town. The annual bash brings a variety of superstars together under one roof for an evening filled with A-list performances and shout-outs from the stage (literally; he lists who’s in the audience as the stage is reset). 

The atmosphere is almost like a wedding with a cocktail hour, a dinner with numbered tables and performances. You turn one corner and see Mariah Carey, looking resplendent. Behind her is Meryl Streep, and then right over there is Dr. Dre. Nearby, Paris Hilton is taking selfies in the mirror, which feels akin to watching Michael Phelps swim or Yo-Yo Ma play the cello. 

Lana Del Rey. AFP via Getty Images

I see Cher. “Can I get a picture?” I ask like a seven-year-old boy at Disney World. “Of course, but don’t tell anybody,” she says, smelling absolutely incredible. I ask Lana Del Rey the same question. “You were amazing at Outside Lands,” I tell her, referring to her headlining set earlier this year at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. “When the purple stage lights lit up the fog, it was so magical.” “That’s so funny,” she coos. “Someone else just told me that.” 

As the performances kick off (introduced by Serena Williams), Mark Ronson recruits Lainey Wilson to sing a gender-swapped cover of the Barbie song “I’m Just Ken.” (Davis said he originally asked Ryan Gosling to sing it, but that the actor is currently on a family retreat.) 

“Who is responsible for this party, both the cause and the catering?” Tom Hanks, who opens the proceedings from the stage, asks. “For the line-up and the language of song that all of us [will enjoy] for the next few hours? Clive Davis! Clive Davis! Clive Davis!” 

Even as the festivities extend well past midnight, it’s still a thrill when Gladys Knight and Dionne Warwick sang “That’s What Friends are For,” which prompted guest Stevie Wonder to jump up on stage for a harmonica solo and an impromptu version of “What The World Needs Now.”

‘Twas a rainy day in Los Angeles. Los Angeles Times via Getty Imag

Sunday, February 4, 3:32 p.m. 

Moxy Hotel Downtown

It’s roughly an hour before the show kicks off, and the rain is coming down in buckets. From my perch on the 25th floor of the Moxy Hotel, I can see the Crypto.com Arena. Despite being just two blocks away, it feels like an endless journey. The bustling lobby bar is full of revelers clad in tuxedos and gowns, and many of them are soaked. It seems there’s no escaping the deluge.

I check Uber to see if they added a rowboat alternative, but no luck just yet. I contemplate my options: order an Uber (which says will take 45 minutes), or just walk. I decide to make a run for it. 

Taylor Swift, Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Jack Antonoff. AFP via Getty Images

Sunday, February 4, 4:00 p.m.

Crypto.com Arena

I somehow make it to the Crypto.com Arena intact, and head backstage. The energy is palpable; Jack Antonoff is taking portraits while SZA walks around. I’m asked to take a large band’s picture as they hold their newly-acquired trophies. “Did you win today, too?,” one of them excitedly asks me. 

In the press room, set-up with a feed of the show, I find a Grammy-branded bag of Lay’s potato chips and a Grammy-branded meal kit with a turkey sandwich on a pretzel roll. As the ceremony kicks off with performer Dua Lipa and early winners begin to trickle in, flashbulbs go off sporadically. I hop inside a photobooth, which I imagine is typically hired for weddings. Today, Mark Ronson will go in there with his Grammy. 

I explore and find myself right behind the stage; the cavernous arena is sliced in half with a massive curtain to make the setting a bit more intimate. I’m on the other side, hearing the muffled sounds of performances along with backstage moments like Brandi Carlile jumping up and down with excitement after accompanying Joni Mitchell on her triumphant comeback performance and Grammy debut, which caused almost everyone in attendance to weep uncontrollably. I get to another perch and can see the audience, including eventual 2024 Album of the Year winner Taylor Swift, singing and dancing along to every performance.

Back in the press room as the show wraps up and Billy Joel closes things out, Phoebe Bridgers, who won three awards as part of Boygenius (including Best Alternative Album) and a fourth award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for “Ghost in the Machine” with SZA, speaks to the press and is asked about her thoughts on how female artists swept the night’s biggest categories. “The ex-president of the Recording Academy, Neil Portnow, said that if women want to be nominated in the Grammys, that they should step up,” she said into the microphone, before a subtle proclamation. “To him I’d like to say: I know you’re not dead yet, but when you are, I hope you rot in piss.” 

Ne-Yo. Getty Images for The Recording A

Sunday, February 4, 10:45 p.m. 

Los Angeles Convention Center

It’s the Recording Academy’s official Grammy Awards after party, located directly across the street from the arena. Despite its close proximity to the ceremony locale, the sheets of rain make reaching the fête a daunting task. But I channel Usain Bolt and make a run for it. Inside, the Los Angeles Convention Center is divided into two rooms: one with a club vibe, the other a jazz lounge with a quartet.

I traverse both rooms and munch on fried cauliflower and pulled pork. Ne-Yo serenades the crowd of Recording Academy members and guests, some holding trophies.  “Did you have a good Grammy week?” the singer asks from the stage. Yes, Ne-Yo. It was Los Angeles-subtle. 

A Long Los Angeles Weekend: Navigating the Grammy Awards Party Scene