The Nine Best Rock Bars in Denver

3 Kings during a King Rat tribute earlier this year.
3 Kings during a King Rat tribute earlier this year.
Brandon Marshall. Full slideshow here.

In our continuing effort to spotlight the best venues in town for music fans of all types, we bring you our picks for the best rock bars in Denver (and, in this case, its suburbs).

A rock bar, for our purposes, is a place you can reliably go to find music anchored by electric guitars and a certain undefinable atmosphere: You know a rock bar when you see one.

See also: Denver Musicians Talk About Their Favorite Venues

Three Kings

is a fine place to hang out during the day: there will be a few rockers drinking while playing pool or chatting by the pinball machines. At night it gets lively, with a wide selection of loud shows ranging from punk to metal to classic rock and even burlesque.

Eck's Saloon

may be located in a Lakewood strip mall, but it is anything but ordinary. It's got a powerful sound system, perfect for live shows. The drinks are strong and the crowd is loud.

Toad Tavern

is a small Littleton bar that packs a mean rock punch. It gets crowded, and loud. What was once a quaint suburban bar is now a full-fledged music venue, as the space was expanded to almost 5,000 square feet and filled with new furnishings, refinished surfaces, raised ceilings and a stage that's been beefed up considerably from its postage-stamp-sized predecessor, which could fit no more than four people. The new stage can easily accommodate a ten-piece act or more, and professional-quality sound and lighting are also now in place.

 
Carioca Cafe (Bar Bar)

is a rock bar with a lot of character. Get there a few hours before a gig and you'll find some of Denver's finest barflies, a few of which might have been there since the doors opened that morning. As the hour gets later, an assortment of hipsters, punks and rockers mixes in with those barflies, the music gets loud, and the next thing you know, you're in a veritable drinker's nirvana.

Zephyr Lounge

is an Aurora spot not known for its fast and friendly service. But what it lacks in social graces, it makes up for with its low prices -- including three different happy hours -- and live entertainment, which is free on weekend nights.

Lion's Lair

is a Denver staple that packs a ferocious punch. Local bands like Ancient Elk and Teenage Kicks often bring down the house, and with dollar PBR drafts and cheap shots, one can't go wrong. Its name was born around the rise of punk, and to this day punk rockers still play and frequent the bar.

 
Bushwackers Saloon

is a small, dark, bar with a lot of character: the walls are decorated with Playboy Magazine covers and bands frequent the small stage. If you want a breather from the dive-bar atmosphere, there is a pretty outdoor space which overlooks the motorcycles that are usually parked nearby.

Tennyson Tap

spent a lot of time renovating the once dingy bar. It's still divey but it definitely isn't trying to be. It's a real shit hole, and a great one at that. The bar has plenty local beers on tap, hence the name of the establishment. There's also local art hanging on the walls, which goes well with local live music.

12 Volt

Upcoming Events

is a wonderfully grungey little dive in Arvada. The bartenders and customers can be rough in all the right ways. It's a great place to see live rock and punk music while enjoying a cold cheap beer.

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