The Snake Pit is little more than a black box, but the music that fills it on Thursday nights is legendary. Breakdown Thursdays are one of the best and best-known jungle/drum 'n' bass club nights on the planet. To be sure, the fluttering drum beats and cortex-rattling bass lines are an acquired taste, but there's no better serving of the stuff to be found than the Pit, where the biggest names in the genre drop records weekly. The fact that Diesel Boy, the reigning monarch of the style, played for free there earlier this year is a testament to the obvious: Breakdown has blown up.
B.J.'s Port, a cozy neighborhood bar in Five Points, features jazz only on Sundays, from 4 to 8 p.m. But what music! Pat Bianchi, a hard-driving young jazz organist, leads a smokin' trio composed of the fine Boulder guitarist Bill Kopper and drummer Tony Black, a whirling dervish with the quickest sticks in the business. On vocals you've got singer/actor Ed Battle, who's a Denver institution and a blues master. Saxophonist Billy Tolles may fall by to sit in, along with other Denver jazz players with time on their hands. Hungry? How about some barbecue, with a mess of collard greens and crowder peas? All this, and the sun hasn't even set.
Not much has changed at El Chapultepec over the past couple of decades -- not the interior, not the food menu (the beef-and-bean burritos go surprisingly well with bebop), not the fact that the place is packed like a submarine on Saturday nights. Owner Jerry Krantz knows there's simply no need to try to improve things. The teeny club is perfect as it is: a vibey, swingin', smoky little joint where the stage is almost always occupied by the best players in town. For an authentic jazz experience, head to Market Street.
Herb's
When jazz saxophonist Laura Newman took over Herb's Hideout at the beginning of the year, she created a welcome den for live music on the fringes of LoDo. Though Herb's has always opened its stages to area players, it's now a bona fide venue nearly every night of the week, with emphasis on R&B, funk, jazz and even big band (the Denver Jazz Orchestra performs at Herb's every Monday night). Grab a booth beneath the Matisse-style mural that runs along the wall, and you can still hear and see the show while maintaining normal conversation. If you prefer to get closer, there's plenty of room in front of the stage. Just take care not to take up too much room on the dance floor; it's bound to get packed at the night goes on. Herb's is the perfect little hideout in a hectic part of town.
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 Of Denver®

Best Of