Colorado has been home to DIY spaces since at least the ’80s. These venues have been critical to the growth of the local music scene, providing places outside of commercial venues for musicians to experiment. What follows are twelve of the most important DIY spaces to have emerged in Front Range cities since the turn of the century.
1. 1.21 Jigga Watts
Before starting up as a DIY venue in roughly 2010, Jigga Watts was known as the Tree House, a downtown space where various bands lived and practiced for several years. As 1.21 Jigga Watts, the venue hosted punk and metal bands as well as the occasional experimental outfit. It was decked out with an indoor skate ramp, making it unlike any other space in town.
In a nondescript building bordering the woods, Astroland was the only active DIY space in Boulder for a few years. It was an early home to the nascent garage-rock/punk world of the 2010s and hosted touring and local acts regularly until 2012, by which time it had become inactive.
3. Further Shoppe
This unmarked space between Carioca Cafe and the defunct Old Curtis Street Bar put on shows by touring bands and the local metal, punk and experimental music scene, and also served as an info shop. Operating quietly for a handful of years, Further Shoppe stopped hosting shows by 2012.
4. GNU: Experience Gallery
Located in a basement in historic downtown Fort Collins, GNU: Experience Gallery was led by Brandton Manshel and was one of the more ambitious efforts in the local DIY scene. Manshel reached out to bands up and down the Front Range and touring acts alike to come play shows. Even after GNU shut down in 2013 and Manshel took his connections to the emerging Downtown Artery, he was able to bring that circuit of touring and local acts from elsewhere to the new venue before moving to Trinidad in 2015.
5. Kingdom of Doom (Funhaus, Aqualung's Community Music Space)
Ethan McCarthy of the doom band Primitive Man has exerted some influence on the local scene by running spaces such as Funhaus, Aqualung's Community Music Space and Blast-O-Mat. But first he became a part of Monkey Mania in 2006 and changed the name to Kingdom of Doom after he took over booking and made it a home for metal, grindcore, punk and experimental music. In the fall of 2008, Kingdom of Doom was shut down in the wake of the city's crackdown on underground venues after the Democratic National Convention.
6. Lost Lake
Near 29th and Walnut, Lost Lake occupied the building that once housed an older DIY space called Pinebox Construction. It was clearly someone's residence, and yet looked a little like a television studio set. The people that lived there, including artists Katrin Davis and Mike Moran, had some connections with the local and national indie-pop movement. The venue hosted shows with acts like Love Letter Band, Microphones and Mirah, as well as like-minded artists in the local scene. Lost Lake stopped having shows around 2004.
7. Mega House
Between Colfax and 14th Avenue on the west side of Marion Street, Mega House had shows, and big shows, in the basement. For just over a year, musician Sara Century invited the weird and not so weird bands she liked to play there. These included Itchy-O, Night of Joy, Little Fyodor & Babushka Band, the Inactivists and the occasional touring band. Because it brought so many different social groups together regularly, it had an undeniable impact on Denver's underground music world.
8. Monkey Mania
Between its two locations in the Baker neighborhood and downtown at 2126 Arapahoe Street, Monkey Mania became a legendary venue internationally. The people who ran the space, including Josh Taylor of the band Friends Forever, had connections with underground touring bands through record labels or through relationships garnered in the ’90s before starting the venue in the fall of 1998. They turned it into a DIY hub for years. Monkey Mania held its final show on December 3, 2005, before Josh Taylor moved to Los Angeles to help run the Smell. Monkey Mania continued with the name under different stewardship for another year.
9. Mouth House
Mouth House, at the corner of 29th and California, was formerly a folk-punk haven known as the Pitchfork House. It was home to several people in the Denver art, music and comedy world for a handful of years. Of any DIY space of its time, it had arguably the broadest spectrum of booking, with punk, surf rock, garage rock, avant-garde, metal, folk, industrial, hip-hop and pretty much everything else. By 2014, the tenants had been evicted and the building was sold to new owners, who haven't made it available as a venue for art and music since. The spirit of Mouth House continues with Mouth Bomb records and Mile High Festibowl.
Near 7th and Lipan, TeaHaus was more than a house that hosted shows. It had long been a home to the local folk-punk and experimental-music scenes. In one of its living rooms, you could catch a wide variety of local and touring bands, including Mariposa (Madeline Johnston's project before Sister Grotto), Rind, TJ Borden, Dream Wago and others. After 2013, TeaHaus became less active, and likely no longer hosts shows.
11. Unit B / The Fishtank
Just north of the Denver Rescue Mission on Lawrence Street, Unit B (sometimes called the Fishtank) was an unlikely place to have shows. Touring acts like the Slowness played here, as did a variety of local punk, indie-rock and experimental bands, including folk-punk/grind outfit Drinking Gourd.
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12. Unit E
At 12th and Santa Fe, Unit E hosted a broad swath of the local underground music scene and touring bands. Equipped with a good sound system and people running the venue who had direct ties to the local music world, Unit E hosted several big shows. At its final concert, on June 28, 2013, Rubedo performed with the late, great Ikey Owens. The spirit of the place and its connections passed on to another alternative space, Dryer Plug Studio, later that year.