Comedy Works Downtown
Comics that turn up for the Squire Lounge's Comedy Night want to win the $25 bar tab that's awarded for best performance each week. But it's not the booze they're after, and it ain't the glory; other venues are far more lucrative and offer way better exposure. No, Colorado comics know that if you can kill on Colfax, you can kill anywhere. And between the heckling of incoherent drunks, the abrasiveness of hipsters playing shuffleboard, and the steely gaze of a room full of jaded comedians, the anything-goes night offers a real challenge. First-time performers need not fear, though: The Squire, while difficult, is a good spot to cut your comedic teeth. Afterward, you'll be promptly belittled from the stage, regardless of the quality of your set. Welcome to the club.

Bender's Tavern
With an elevated stage surrounded by vintage vinyl, Bender's 13th Avenue Tavern is the best place to experience bar culture's most self-indulgent pastime. New Wave/Indie Karaoke Night -- hosted Tuesday and Thursday nights by ebullient wiseacre Keith Houston and his lovely assistant, Laura Benson -- welcomes seasoned hams and budding exhibitionists alike to wrap their pipes around a tune or twelve. Whether you're drunk enough to take on Sinatra or the Sex Pistols (both versions of "My Way" are available), or feel like massacring Morrissey, the eclectic song selection covers everything from Aqua to the Zombies. There's even a psychiatrist's couch available under the spotlight for more introspective numbers like "The Star-Spangled Banner" or Pat Boone's "Speedy Gonzalez." Sing out.

La Rumba
Eric Gruneisen
On Saturday nights, salsa virgins and sexy pros go hand in hand on the dance floor at La Rumba, the stylish Golden Triangle staple that's become one of Latino Denver's top weekend destinations. Rookies can arrive early for a quick primer before the main event: The club offers free lessons, during which buzzed boys and girls are split up like kids at a junior high dance until the instructor unleashes them. Later, crowds cram the large floor for an energetic evening of hot salsa. Although most of the action takes place under the disco ball, patrons can slip to the front room for some bilingual chit-chat. Bailemos!

Launched in June 2001 by DJs Michael Trundle, Tyler Jacobson and Tim Cook, aka the Denver 3, Lipgloss has grown from a once-a-month Monday-night shindig into the best club night in town. Since relocating from 60 South to La Rumba last Spring, Lipgloss draws the crowds with a laid-back, unpretentious vibe, an expansive playlist and guest DJs; Carlos D from Interpol was among the luminaries who took over the tables last year. These days, it's not uncommon to see a line down the block on Friday nights. For a measly five-dollar cover, it's well worth the wait.

Off the Wall is a glorious celebration of all things '80s, without the shlocky retreads that get played ad nauseam. The hump-day affair is helmed by Westword's own Jason Heller and DJ Al from the Maybellines. The pair's deep old-school cuts will have you cabbage-patching before you can say OMD. So whether you came of age during Reaganomics or just witnessed it through the lens of John Hughes, Off the Wall is just that -- especially when it comes to unearthing the best and (worst) music of that era.

Club Vinyl
The space at 60 S. Broadway has weathered many incarnations recently, including 60 South and the short-lived Southpark Tavern. Viable as neither a lesbian club nor a sports bar, it was transformed last year into the Cherry Pit. The format this time? Rock venue. Strangely, the room finally feels like it's found its true identity. While all manner of homegrown punk and metal acts have crossed the Pit stage recently, the dance floor is still intact and hosts Disintegration, a goth/industrial soiree, every Saturday. The layout is cozy and the sound impeccable. Whether or not the Cherry Pit can stick it out, for now it's a pretty sweet place.

Club Vinyl
Not to be undone by some 31.8 inches of snow that collapsed its roof during the blizzard of 2003, Vinyl came back bigger and badder than ever last fall. Now boasting what is arguably the best sound system in Colorado, Vinyl is a four-story behemoth of a dance club, with three floors all featuring different music and an uber-swanky lounge for those who just want to chill and have a drink. Saturday nights feature international guest DJs in the main room along with hip-hop in the basement and '80's retro/electro upstairs on the sunset lounge. Since its reopening, the Broadway hot spot has retained its place as the best dance venue in an always-crowded field -- and the flagship in a part of town now brimming with club culture.

With Ted Nugent on the jukebox and silicon-injected blondes peddling trays of Red Bull and Jäger, Brewski's is the place to let loose your inner Swayze and grab one for the roadhouse. Damn, even the drunk jackass at the bar wearing fake snakeskin boots is getting' play! When the house gets packed, hit the dance floor with a Bud Light and an open mind. Because come 2 a.m., someone is going home with someone uglier than they are -- which leaves hope for all of us.

hi-dive
What began as a humble new dive in November 2003 has quickly blossomed into the best room in town. Occupying the space once held by Quixote's True Blue and the legendary 7 South, the hi-dive offers everything: karaoke, movie screenings, some of the most imaginative DJ nights in town -- and, of course, live music pumped through a top-notch system and killer acoustics. While owners Matt and Allison LaBarge are still building their stable of touring acts, local bands (and their fans) know that the combination of great sound, cheap drinks and anything-goes atmosphere just can't be beat. In a town saturated with outstanding venues, the hi-dive towers.

Dazzle
Combining elegance and hep, Dazzle Restaurant & Lounge refracts the elusive quality of Mingus, Monk or maybe even Parker in a soothing atmosphere. From classic to experimental, the joint swings seven days a week. Sheryl Renee pays tribute to the legends on Sunday nights, while Ralph Sharon recalls Ellington, Carmichael and Berlin on Wednesdays. Up-and-coming young bands take the stage as well. The comfortable dining room provides an intimate, non-smoking setting where you can take in some cocktail crooning and still retain the ability to breathe. Dazzle offers a colorful and festive lounge with a happy-hour food menu and drink specials, and serves dinner seven nights a week. The Sunday Jazz Brunch is a nifty new addition. Just be prepared to scat on command.

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