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.
Gothic Theatre
Perched high in the Gothic Theatre's cavernous rafters, the bar at the back of the balcony is the optimal place to quaff a drink at a show. Its lofty location allows for a near-bird's-eye view of the stage as well as the theater's lively art-deco interior. The atmosphere is cozy and unlike that of any other bar in metro Denver. Sleek, dark and enticing, this watering hole is more like a watering zenith.


It's a tent! It's a theater! It's a fully modular, collapsible, portable music venue, planted smack dab in the middle of the Pepsi Center parking lot during warmer months. Replicating a seasonal venue that's been successful in Boston, CityLights was unfolded last spring as a joint partnership between two powerful local forces, Clear Channel Entertainment and Kroenke Sports. And though the maiden season didn't pack 'em in quite as much the suits might have liked -- due, in part, to a sluggish concert season and a saturated summer-concert calendar -- the tent itself is a lovely, luminous structure with a thoroughly urban feel. Let there be Lights.


Carioca Cafe (Bar Bar)
Carioca Cafe, also known affectionately as "BAR," after its generic neon sign, squats on the desolate corner of 21st and Champa. The astoundingly cheap drinks and great Tuesday-night DJs Chuck and Brian attract a strange mix of clientele: scooter folk, indie rockers, Joe Hundredaires and, of course, your typical crusty, decrepit barflies. But these barflies bring their girlfriends, and therein lies the spectacle. Petty jealousies seethe and bristled fur flies when riled up by too many 75-cent Pabst Blue Ribbons and one-buck wells. We're not talking bitch slaps here: This is knock-down, drag-out, table-upending tavern combat, with two-inch manicures drawing blood like the talons of some mythical Maybelline-dripping beast. And there's not even a cover!

Best Place to Sing Along Drunkenly to Marvin Gaye

Streets of London Pub

Streets Denver
Every Thursday night at Streets of London Pub, DJs Rob Hostetter and Dan Shattuck spin the sweet, deep sounds of '60s soul music. Shattuck focuses on the Jamaican strains of rocksteady and ska, but Hostetter specializes in northern soul -- the stomping, exuberant, dance-inducing style of American R&B originally championed by British DJs over three decades ago. His sets slide smoothly from the pounding beats of Edwin Starr to the satiny funk of Young-Holt Unlimited, mixing Motown standards with the most esoteric 45s. There's no dance floor at Streets, but that doesn't stop the white kids from spazzin' out like they're on some goofy Anglo version of Soul Train.


Charlie Brown's Bar & Grill
Mark Antonation
Saddle, stumble or slump on up to the piano in the corner at Charlie Brown's. Even if you've overindulged in the bar's strong cocktails -- that's what people do at Charlie Brown's, after all -- Pauly Lopez's playing will only sweeten the buzz. A veritable ivory-tinkling encyclopedia of Tin Pan Alley songs, show tunes, even sweeping classical pieces, Lopez welcomes all to join him in song around the keys. If he's feeling it, he might even rattle off a medley of old radio-station jingles. A post-theater crowd sometimes shows up to belt the numbers out properly, but most often it's just commoners who turn up to vocalize. Pauly don't play pop, so don't ask. But if you've got a secret soft spot for Gershwin, Rodgers and Hammerstein and their musical ilk, by all means, sing out.


People can get their groove -- and their buzz -- on at Nederland's Acoustic Cafe. This funky coffee shop, founded by state representative Tom Plant, attracts both yuppie skiers and hippie townies. The diverse clientele comes not only for the beans, but also for the beats. Most Friday and Saturday nights, folk and jazz bands perform. And on Sunday afternoons, wannabe musicians can participate in a free-for-all bluegrass jam.


Best Place to Make Fun of Hipsters Making Fun of Yuppies

The Red Room

Yuppies go to the Red Room to feel edgy and urban, not to mention partake in a kick-ass selection of microbrews. Hipsters go to the Red Room for the amazing appetizers and $1.75 cans of Old Milwaukee...and, of course, to make fun of the yuppies. The rest of us go to the Red Room to comment on this behavior like lab technicians conducting some sick sociological experiment. Just make sure there's no one sitting at the next booth over making fun of you.


Best Of Denver®

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