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.

Gabor's
Nothing sucks more than getting drunk to crappy music. But at Capitol Hill mainstay Gabor's, there are no worries: The bar's jukebox is stocked with a passel of discs that make the firewater slide down all the easier. From the twang of Patsy Cline and Neil Young to the shiver of Joy Division and Massive Attack, the selection is as varied in time as it is in tone, with Muddy Waters rubbing elbows with hip new stuff like the Arcade Fire. There's even a handful of homemade mixed CDs to spice things up. Regardless of your taste in tunes and booze, Gabor's provides the perfect soundtrack to souse yourself senseless.

Best Of Denver®

Best Of