Sharp's Roadhouse
Eric Gruneisen
The first thing that hits you as you walk into Sharp's Roadhouse is the smell. The club reeks of honky-tonk, that sweet mixture of smoke, beer and sweaty bodies. But contrary to its name, Sharp's is much more than a roadhouse. Over the past year, this joint has attracted a large, devoted cult following of those looking for real country in the Hank Sr., Waylon and Willie tradition. Although Sharp's books plenty of national acts, local faves such as the Honky Tonk Hangovers and Halden Wofford and the Hi-Beams also call its stage home on both Friday and Saturday nights. There's plenty of room for two-steppin' on the upstairs dance floor, for playing pool downstairs, or for flirting at the long, well-tended bar. And if you've got the lonesome blues and just want to drink yourself into oblivion, at least you won't go out broke: At Sharp's, a Bud and a top-shelf cocktail will set you back only six bucks.
With a nondescript alleyway entrance between Lincoln and Broadway, Two AM is inconspicuous enough that first-timers may miss it. Located in the heart of the Golden Triangle, Two AM is a stone's throw from the Church, Serengeti and Vinyl (which will reopen after its collapse in last March's epic blizzard). As such, it is the chosen destination for those who aren't ready to head home or hit the greasy spoon after last call. The dimly lit, window-free, subterranean space is ideal for twirling glow sticks in the dark and dancing until the birds start singing -- and the comfy, welcoming benches circling the room are perfect for those trying to come down from a night of drunken hedonism.
A true headbanger's ball in the depths of suburbia, House of Rock is a natural as the area's best metal club. The absence of nearby neighbors means the local heavyweights can -- and do -- turn the dials all the way to eleven. Local bands can also rejoice now that Russ Austin, Denver's top connoisseur of the hard stuff (music and liquor), is again booking the House acts. Mosh at your own risk.
A lot of venues, especially those that cater primarily to the hip-hop crowd, are employing various security measures to ensure patrons' safety. But most of the tactics -- from invasive pat-downs that border on manhandling to token once-overs from a $15 handheld wand from Radio Shack -- are insulting, humiliating or just plain ineffective. While the outside of Paladium and its conjoined twin, Oasis, may resemble the exterior of Scarface's posh club, the Babylon, a word to all you Tony Montana wannabes: Leave your "little friend" at home. Paladium's staff won't paw you with a DIA-level frisking -- what would be the point, with an industrial-sized metal detector at the front entrance? -- but they won't allow you to be the bad guy, either.

Best Place to See Emerging Hip-Hop Talent -- Denver

Soiled Dove

You Night! at the Soiled Dove is the place to be for aspiring MCs and DJs. Organized and run by Neil McIntyre of Yo, Flaco! and Minezai fame, the Monday-night extravaganza is proof positive that hip-hop is not only alive and well, it's also the new punk rock. The room is consistently packed with artists and fans, cornrow-wearing gangstas, throwback-clad B-boys and backpack-sporting intellectuals, all peaceably co-existing in the name of hip-hop. In addition to great shows by locals, You Night! has played host to KRS-One and, most recently, the return of local faves the Procussions. Other hip-hop-themed nights have sprung up recently, but the original is still the best.

Best Place to See Emerging Hip-Hop Talent -- Boulder

Fox Theatre

Fox Theatre
Brandon Marshall
Boulder's Fox Theatre is a required destination for the nation's hottest up-and-coming hip-hop acts, from Dilated Peoples and Jurassic 5 to People Under the Stairs and the Pharcyde. The theater consistently has its ear to the street, with an aggressive booking policy that takes chances on up-and-comers and gives locals a chance to shine. The club's unobstructed sight lines and crystal-clear sound make the trip to the People's Republic more than worth the drive. Many Mootown denizens consider the Fox to be the house that jam built, but this jam is a little more Def.
El Chapultepec
Courtesy El Chapultepec
When it comes to the elusive spirit of jazz (past and present), colorful Colfax watering hole Dulcinea's is one swinging primate. Taking pains to stock the jukebox with both legends (from Coltrane to Miles, Monk to Holiday) and newer members of the genre (Charlie Hunter, Norah Jones), the Monkey covers a lot of ground. It's an invitingly relaxed setting, too, with comfortable couches, tasteful murals, vintage black-and-white photos, an old-school bar, and a dart room and pool table for more sporting jazz cats. Live music is a blend of local talent, including keyboardist Dave Cieri and soul crooner Jessica Goodkin, and traveling acts, such as the Willie Waldman Project and the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey. Once a month, catch the Progressive Sessions, during which the hottest local jazz players stretch it all out. Get ready for a fresh take on a venerable tradition.
Dazzle

Over the past half-dozen years, Dazzle Restaurant & Lounge has bloomed into one of the most vibrant rooms in town, with live music seven nights a week and a schedule that moves deftly across the jazz strata and features many of the region's most accomplished players. But Dazzle has also become a breeding ground for the next generation of horn-blowers, time-keepers and bass-thumpers: The weekly Jazz Teen Idol is a showcase of up-and-coming artists with more musical talent than Kelly, Ruben and Clay combined. And Dazzle has even made beautiful music with non-profit groups, including the Wishing Well, which helps those with mental disabilities get back on their feet. An elegant, modern variation on the supper club, with a fine menu and cocktails a-go-go, Dazzle sparkles.

Since last October, a cozy nook on West Colfax called Angie's Place has featured top-notch local jazz performers such as singer Teresa Carroll, pianist/vocalist Ellyn Rucker and tenor saxophonist Max Wagner. The music, showcased on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, attracts a largely Lakewood crowd, and no one performs much past 11 p.m. But this unassuming little boîte has nice acoustics and a welcoming atmosphere, as befits a place that offers cappuccinos, lattes and pastries alongside its surprisingly wide-ranging dinner menu. Owner Angie Feighart doesn't go for glitz, and she doesn't book big names, but her homey outpost scores high for good cheer and good music.
The primary artist on the Aurora-based Mobstyle label is self-styled gangsta Don Blas, whose latest platter, The Modus, is one of the best-sounding rap CDs to come out of the Denver area in forever. As Don goes, so goes Mobstyle, and the quality of the company's first effort, which has received spins on KS-107.5 and other major commercial radio stations, bodes well for a bangin' future.

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