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.

Originally more of a jazz-oriented setup, Dulcinea's 100th Monkey has hopped branches and now embraces the jam nation with equal enthusiasm. Though images of Miles Davis and John Coltrane have been replaced by shots of Warren Haynes and Bob Weir, the overall vibe remains the same: mellow, welcoming and dedicated to the making of music. Where else in town can you find ten musicians crammed onto a small stage, blissfully noodling to the retro undulations of vintage lava lamps? Don't miss Monday-night open jams hosted by John Tipton of Electric Side Dish, or Grateful Dead Tuesdays, which features local Dead-inspired acts. The rest of the week, the house hosts some of the best national and local jam, bluegrass and roots acts.

Club Evolution opened last year in the building that was once home to Muddy's but looked wrecking-ball-worthy in recent years. Fresh from a floor-to-ceiling overhaul, the place is now a gorgeous, two-story jewel of a club with an intriguing split personality. During the day, the upper level welcomes a wi-fi crowd for coffee; by night, the brick-walled room serves as a comfortable cocktail lounge with great drink specials. (Look out for the rolling chairs, however: After the crowd has a few drinks, the place turns into chair-derby.) Downtairs is a bumpin' dance club where the city's chicest assortment of family, and friends, come to be seen. No wonder there's a line out the door on Fridays and Saturdays: Evolution is the smartest combination of elements we've seen in Denver nightlife.

Fox Theatre
Brandon Marshall
Sure, it's pain a for Denver dwellers to drive to Boulder to see a show. But the Fox Theatre makes it impossible not to. Over the past year, the venue has begun snagging a ridiculous amount of noteworthy acts from nearly every sliver of the spectrum: jam, soul, reggae, blues, jazz, metal, punk, country, world music and indie rock, not to mention the best hip-hop around. The Fox has always boasted the state's most breathtaking sound; now it's bringing some of the greatest bands in the country while remaining radically diverse enough to draw just about any audience -- even xenophobic Denverites.

Larimer Lounge
Jeff Davis
There's no doubt about it: When it comes to booking the best national acts, the Larimer Lounge consistently beats every venue in town. Sometimes, though, the club's intimacy has worked against it -- especially when bands are way too big, in terms of both popularity and sheer size, to fit comfortably on the stage. But recently, co-owner Scott Campbell expanded the cramped platform and upgraded the P.A., and the change has been remarkable. With improved sound and visibility, the Larimer remains the best spot to catch hot new bands before they break through to the next level -- or to just watch your buddies jam on a Monday night.

All-ages venues have had a spotty history in Denver -- mostly due to outmoded liquor laws that make it prohibitive for clubs to admit teens and still serve that rent-paying alcohol. Though Rock Island has long hosted sixteen-and-up dance nights, the club's kiddie offerings got a boost when Mike Barsch of Soda Jerk Presents moved his concert-promotion company into the hallowed LoDo hall. Since then, it's housed some of the best punk, hardcore and metal shows in recent memory, attracting youth-friendly national acts that might otherwise fall through the cracks -- or worse, be thrown into a 21-plus joint. Thanks to Rock Island, the kids are alright.

Bender's Tavern
Before an enormous black-and-white mural of Johnny Cash graced the east-facing facade of Bender's 13th Avenue Tavern, the run-down, windowless structure was home to a string of short-lived hip-hop and goth-oriented night spots: Tongues Untied, Club Onyx and Club 314. Enter Tyson Murray, upright-bassist for local country powerhouse the Railbenders, and an entrepreneur with a vision beyond mere turntables and gossamer. In addition to hosting a weekly movie series, karaoke nights and outdoor patio service, Bender's now boasts a wide range of live local bands -- everything from the Denver Gentlemen to Cephalic Carnage. As further testament to the club's eclectic spirit, Murray and company have lured top national acts like Rex Hobart, Jolie Holland, Slim Cessna's Auto Club and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. Even the Man in Black wouldn't argue with that.

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