For players who are accustomed to competing with the bar-room din at many music venues, Daniels Hall can be a tough room to tackle. The loyal legions who attend concerts in the small, intimate space inside Swallow Hill hang on every lyric and lick and honor performers by giving them their full attention. A sort of sanctuary of pure sound, the place is, note for note, an ideal environment for the serious musician and listener alike. Looking to spend time with a listening audience that's hungry for music, not phone numbers? Try heading to the Hill.
Most of the time, the Skylark Lounge is just a bar -- albeit a great one, with an old-fashioned atmosphere (checkered floor, vinyl booths and soda-fountain-style bar stools) that draws the hipsterati from the Baker neighborhood and beyond. But on Thursday and Saturday nights, the staff clears a few tables and sets up a makeshift stage for some of the finest rockabilly, country and blues artists around. Halden Wofford, the Dalhart Imperials, David Booker and the Lee Bradford Trio are among the regulars who incite all manner of swing, Lindy Hop -- and just plain drunken -- dancing. Live music makes this gem of a room sparkle that much more.
Held the first Friday of every month, the Barn Dance has quickly become an event worth looking forward to -- a family-oriented, music-heavy and just plain fun community happening. Because its organizers know grownups sometimes have a hard time rocking into the late-night hours, the Barn Dance starts and ends early and is designed to offer a little something for all, from traditional stylings to more alternative variations on the C&W canon. An extension of www.DenverBarnDance.com, the series was initially designed as a showcase for artists who make up Denver's thriving country scene. Since then, Marilyn Megenity's open-minded and versatile Mercury Cafe has proved the perfect venue for listeners to kick up their heels while discovering new talent. Can we get a yee-haw?
La Rumba
Eric Gruneisen
Though Sevilla recently relocated from its cavernous corner on Wynkoop Street to new digs in the Denver Pavilions, nothing was lost in the move. It still provides the most appealing environment for south-of-the-border musical expeditions, with a huge dance floor, exotic decor and a stimulating menu of live and DJ music. For those who like to move to merengue, tear up a tango and sizzle to salsa, Sevilla is a internationally flavored delight.
Fox Theatre
Brandon Marshall
Earlier this year, the Fox Theatre notched its tenth anniversary -- but it also celebrated its tenth year as the best-sounding room of its type in the area. Since its 1992 birth on the Hill in Boulder, the space has become a favorite of both artists and fans. Simply put, the Fox provides the finest acoustics imaginable, whether the star attraction is a singer-songwriter playing unplugged or a twelve-piece funk band dedicated to blowing the roof off the sucker.
Gothic Theatre
When he bought the Gothic in 1999, owner Steve Schalk, a former Hollywood set designer, poured his vision (and his bank account) into salvaging the south Broadway space from its formerly sorry existence. The result was a magnificent house with old-world charm, great sound and a progressive booking policy. Beyond its aesthetic qualities -- and there are many -- the theater wins us over by taking chances on lesser known national acts, including jazz artists, and providing a home for creative local projects that might not otherwise have a home. The Gothic brings heart, art, and plain old beauty to the otherwise messy business of concert promotions.

Best Place to Get a Burger With a Side of Death Metal

Sports Field Roxxx

With above-average bar grub and a stage that plays host to the area's heaviest bands, Sports Field Roxxx offers patrons the chance to fill up their stomachs and blow out their eardrums in one sitting. Sports Field has recently expanded its entertainment menu to include punk and rock acts in addition to its trademark heavy metal, industrial and hardcore. The only downside is that you have to scream at the top of your lungs to get someone to pass the ketchup.
The Buffalo Rose's exterior after its 2018 remodel.
Chris Cone
The Buffalo Rose's exterior after its 2018 remodel.
Bands wade into the deep each night at Golden's legendary Buffalo Rose: The bar's music room is built on top of what used to be the City of Golden's municipal pool. The stage itself sits right over the pool's now-empty deep end, adding an extra measure of bottom boom to the sound and giving new meaning to the term "sink or swim."

Best Place for Any (and We Mean Any) Local Band to Get a Fair Shake

Cricket on the Hill

Whether they are truly talented or simply interested in using music as a bludgeon, untested Denver bands have long had a wide-open outlet for their art at Cricket on the Hill. Sure, the place is far from cuddly, but management understands the bar's symbiosis with local rock. The standard deal is straightforward: Three bands split a third of the bar after they pay off the sound guy. No bullshit. No one gets ripped off. No drunken riots...well, not very often. Hey, two out of three ain't bad.
Herman's Hideaway
Eric Gruneisen
You don't have to be terribly accomplished to secure some stage time during the New Talent Showcase at Herman's Hideaway. In fact, the whole point of the Wednesday-night series is to give fledgling acts a chance to test the waters of the live-music experience, even if they only play to an audience of friends and sympathetic strangers. Often the shows are kicked off by a presentation from an industry insider who can offer career advice as well as an ear. Because of the huge level of interest among aspiring stagehounds, owner Allan Roth has begun hosting a similar event on sporadic Tuesdays, as well. We hope that becomes permanent: The Showcase is a great way to sample the city's raw talent in a supportive and fun environment. On to the next.

Best Of Denver®

Best Of