Lion's Lair
Jon Solomon
The past year saw several venues abandon original heavy metal, forcing bands and fans to run for the hills -- or the suburbs. Fortunately, Bottoms Up was waiting in Aurora. With a new name, new owners and a newly renovated interior, the bar formerly known as Heimmie's Pub quickly established a reputation as a place headbangers could feel comfortable. Little touches -- such as treating the bands decently and having a local-scene-savvy musician (Mark Sundermeier, of the non-metal Sad Star Cafe) do the booking -- entice more established area metal bands to play alongside newcomers. Heavy music doesn't rule the roost every night, but when it does, prepare to be rocked like a hurricane.


Heavy-metal fans, leather up and break out the earplugs. House of Rock's black-clad lineup of head-banging hard rock and metal proves that angry music never dies -- it just fades from radio airplay. House of Rock operates from a nondescript warehouse building in Northglenn and features original local and regional bands like Brutal Infliction, Concrete Sandwich, Rogue, Sickbox...you get the idea. For House of Rock patrons, it's all in the name: You'll find no flaccid, strummy "alternative" bands on this stage, thank you very much. Acts rotate frequently in the smallish space; it's often standing room only on weekends, with revelers lined up five deep at the bar. There's an enclosed outdoor patio to escape to when the smoke, screaming guitar and double bass begin to overwhelm your senses.
Grizzly Rose
Eric Gruneisen
All the cowboys in cowtown know that for the best country music, you've gotta go where the rose is grizzly. Even the Country Music Association named the Grizzly Rose one of the top clubs in the country. The huge complex offers free dance lessons on Wednesdays, weekly performances from local C&W bands, and a roster that brings some of Nashville's hottest names to the Grizzly stage. A mechanical bull for aspiring buckers and an apparel shop for wannabe cowgirls are among the attractions. But the gigantic hardwood dance floor is the biggest draw. Nobody beats the Grizzly when it's time to dance up the dust. Yee-haw!


What more could a world-weary, bop-starved jazzaholic ask for? At Dazzle, a cozy and stylish boîte in Capitol Hill, the management provides a broad array of fresh talent -- local and national -- every week, along with a superb sound system, beautifully made cocktails and excellent saloon food, including a perfect hamburger. From the framed jazz photos on the walls to the chrome martini shakers in the display case, Dazzle's atmosphere reeks of downtown cool. You'll find Prada as well as blue jeans lolling on the living-room couches, but music is the thing. A recent release party for saxophonist Keith Oxman's new CD, Brainstorm, featured some sublime playing, and the club's mid-summer big-band marathon, staged on a Sunday, was sheer bliss -- all twelve hours of it.


Dulcinea, what did we do before you were born? Stellar live jazz, blues and funk blare -- or sometimes ooze -- from this Colfax lair six nights a week. A laid-back, hip Capitol Hill crowd helps give Dulcinea's the pervasive feeling of comfort; there's no pretension, just casual cool among the clusters of grungy-yet-comfy sofas and sturdy coffee tables. With older siblings Sancho's Broken Arrow and Quixote's True Blue guiding her way, Dulcinea has already turned into a beautiful lady.


Herman's Hideaway
Eric Gruneisen
It's not the most high-profile club in Denver, nor the biggest. Still, when local bands snag that first weekend slot at Herman's, they know they've reached a benchmark in their careers. One of the few clubs outside LoDo to offer -- and need -- valet parking, the Hideaway has helped launch the careers of groups such as Big Head Todd and the Monsters and Opie Gone Bad. Today, newcomers get a chance to break in during twice-weekly showcases of new talent, and on busy nights, the dance floor is a swirling mass of grooving chaos. A casual crowd and friendly, family-feeling staff make Herman's a fun place to go even if you don't know who's playing. And even if you don't like the act on stage, you won't want for entertainment: Sooner or later, someone will get drunk and provide a sideshow. Just don't let it be you.


Larimer Lounge
Jeff Davis
Many of the lofts in the Ballpark neighborhood sit empty, casting a ghost-town pall over the area during daylight hours. Still, upper Larimer Street got a considerable jolt of life late last year when the Larimer Lounge opened as a music venue with a formidable calendar. After taking over the space, formerly a watering hole known as the Sunshine Lounge, owners Scott Campbell and Mark Gebhardt managed to fill the joint with that nebulous thing known as a good vibe. With live bands and DJs seven nights a week, the rectangular room has already hosted some of the indie world's about-to-break bands, as well as seasoned locals and more experimental -- and green -- acts. During happy hour, local regulars and hepsters congregate for cheap draft beer beneath a gilded ceiling. Larimer Lounge, welcome to Denver.
Lion's Lair
Jon Solomon
The Lion's Lair might be just a cub in Denver's club kingdom when it comes to size. But in terms of character, it's elephantine. Whether the live music is punk, alt-country or straight-up rock, expect the experience to be intimate. On packed nights, patrons are often within spitting distance of artists on the stage. Local and small touring indies dominate the calendar, but bona fide legends working the small-room circuit sometimes show up, too. Yes, the layout is impractical, the feng shui is way off, and when the place is busy, navigating your way to the bar may require militaristic strategy. And what, exactly, is wrong with that? The beer's cheap, the jukebox is soulful and solid...and you can always ask the bartender to hand you a pair of earplugs.


Bluebird Theater
There probably are people who miss the Bluebird Theater's days as a porn theater, but we doubt many of them are music lovers. Unlike skin flicks -- which arguably should be viewed in the privacy of your home, trailer or motel room -- the live-music experience is genuinely enhanced by a proper theater-style environment, and that's just what the 'Bird provides. With sculpted capitals, restored Victorian-style paintings and a vaulted ceiling, the place is as much a work of art as any of the touring and local bands that grace its stage -- and that's no knock on the talent. The Vegas-style marquee regularly lights up with some of the most important names in independent music, as well as locals ready to leap out of clubs and on to a bigger stage. The Bluebird remains a feather in Denver's live-music cap.


Boulder Theater
Britt Chester
The Boulder Theater is not the kind of place you go to get loaded on cheap beer and talk through a performance. Audiences in the palatial, deco-style hall come to actually listen to music, and for good reason: The Theater's schedule is so eclectic and well-rounded, there really is something for everyone to pay attention to. A fine jazz series, hip-hop and rock performances and dynamic high-concept shows from local artists help fill the Boulder nights; monthly e-town tapings are a fun, interactive experience as well. This lovely, historic space offers as much for your eyes as it does for your ears.

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