Twelve of Denver's Best Independent Music Venues

Lion's Lair
Lion's Lair

Colorado is lucky to boast many music venues that are run independently of corporate giants. Some of these spaces are big, others small. All keep this city's scene original and vibrant. Here are twelve of Denver's best independent music venues running today.

Black Box
Aaron Thackeray

1. Black Box
314 East 13th Avenue

Black Box opened at the former location of both Bender's Tavern and Quixote's True Blue. Since Nicole Cacciavillano took over operations in 2016, the club has hosted underground electronic-music shows of various stripes. With the venue's stellar Basscouch sound system, audiophiles are sure to be pleased. Black Box also hosts lineups from music collectives including Nocturnal, Sub.mission and Sorted.

Scenes from Cervantes' twelfth-anniversary celebration.EXPAND
Scenes from Cervantes' twelfth-anniversary celebration.
Nicki Lamson

2. Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom / Cervantes' Other Side
2635 Welton Street

Formerly Casino Cabaret, this space once hosted the likes of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, James Brown, and Ike and Tina Turner. The space was rechristened Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom in 2003 alongside its next-door venue the Other Side; the two outlets have most often hosted hip-hop acts, jam bands, funk groups and EDM shows, with the occasional left-field performance, such as when black-metal band Mayhem played there in 2009.

The hi-dive
The hi-dive
Brandon Marshall

3. hi-dive
7 South Broadway

This small club was Seven South through the ’90s, before becoming Quixote's True Blue, and then the hi-dive in November 2003. The venue's booking has evolved over the years, but it has most often been a home to diverse genres and is one of the best spaces in town to catch an act before it blows up. Arcade Fire, Beach House, MGMT and St. Vincent all played early shows here.

Lion's Lair
Lion's Lair

4. Lion's Lair
2022 East Colfax

Dive bar and music venue the Lion's Lair has undergone many changes in its three-plus decades of existence. The Lair has held shows with countless, perhaps even most, local bands. But it has also somehow landed concerts from the likes of Gil Scott-Heron, Lydia Lunch, Flipper, Garland Jeffreys, the Melvins and Pere Ubu.

Summit Music HallEXPAND
Summit Music Hall
Brandon Marshall

5. The Marquis Theater / Summit Music Hall
2009 Larimer Street / 1902 Blake Street

Soda Jerk Presents used to book its shows at now-defunct venues like Rock Island in downtown Denver, Tulagi in Boulder and the Cat in Five Points. But it wasn't until the production company acquired the Marquis in 2006 that it found a reliable home, and in 2010, the company opened the much-larger Summit Music Hall. While the booking at both venues has been diverse, Soda Jerk mostly showcases punk, metal and hip-hop.

Mercury Cafe
Mercury Cafe
Brandon Marshall

6. Mercury Cafe
2199 California Street

The Mercury Cafe has occupied several spaces over the years, including one near 13th Avenue and Pearl Street in Denver, where Black Flag, Gun Club and the Birthday Party all played in the early ’80s. Its current location, at 2199 California Street, has been its home since 1990. More of an active music venue and restaurant throughout the ’90s, the Merc still hosts music on the ground floor in its Jungle Room, as well as in the upstairs Dance Hall, where the sound system is one of the best in a small venue in town. These days, concerts tend to be less loud and aggressive than when Killing Joke and Deicide played the space.

Read on for more of Denver's best independent music venues.

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