Marquis Theater
Michael Emery Hecker
Soda Jerk, Denver's premier promoter of punk and hardcore, had been dwelling comfortably in Rock Island for two years. At least it seemed like a cozy fit -- until February, when Soda Jerk's Mike Barsch abruptly yanked up roots and replanted his operation in the newly refurbished Marquis Theatre. His timing couldn't have been better; as Brendan's Pub and an earlier incarnation of the Marquis, the LoDo locale had its share of struggles over the years. But now, after massive reconstructive surgery and Barsch's aggressively adventurous calendar of events, the Marquis is well on its way to regaining its glory.
Old Curtis Street Bar
There's a venue in Denver to cover just about any taste, price range or neighborhood prejudice. But the stalwart Old Curtis Street Bar has its own vibe entirely. Sitting precisely between Monkey Mania and the Carioca Cafe in a little no-man's-land that yuppies rarely touch, Old Curtis is a downtown oasis. Cheap beer, a great jukebox, cool DJs and hipster trivia nights (Simpsons! Sci-fi!) are all pluses. What you might not expect, though, is how much fun the live shows are. You won't catch too many world-class acts at Old Curtis Street, but it's got great acoustics and an, um, egalitarian booking policy that makes for crazy, eclectic bills, the kind you just won't find at Denver's more decorated rock clubs. Oh, yes, and the green chile will kick your ass.
The Front Porch
The Front Porch has been hyped as a neighborhood bar downtown. And it kind of is -- if your idea of a neighborhood bar is tables dressed up with odd wheatgrass displays and dressed-down LoDo glitterati packed in like sardines. Apparently in LoDo, not having a VIP room qualifies you as "neighborhood quaint." But regardless of labels, or mis-labels, people flock to the Front Porch because it has two of the best drink specials in the city. In one, the bar assigns names to days of the month -- sometimes as many as three per day -- and if you're there on the day that your name is featured, you drink for free. It's kind of like a birthday except there are no assholes poisoning you with nasty shots. Drink what you want, all night, free. And on Wednesdays, the Front Porch really gets moving with the brilliant-in-its-simplicity Flip Night. Order some drinks, the bartender flips a coin, you call heads or tails, and if you call correctly, your drinks are free. This parlor trick holds as true for one drink as it does for fifteen. If you're lucky, you'll get hammered without paying a thing. Just remember to tip your flippin' bartender.

BEST WAY TO DRINK AND DRIVE WHILE INVOKING THE SPIRIT OF THE IRISH

Potcheen Folk Band's Booze Cruise

Last fall, the Potcheen Folk Band shelled out for a 1983 MCI Crusader 2 coach bus. Talk about a great investment -- not to mention a phenomenally brilliant marketing ploy. Several times a month, the magic bus -- outfitted with several video monitors, plentiful seating and a fully stocked cooler full of brews -- makes stops at numerous pre-determined locales across the Front Range like a gambling charter. The booze cruise then shuttles fans to whatever venue the Irish-centric act happens to be playing that night for several hours of drunken whiskey songs, rebel songs and general pirate debauchery, then deposits them back at their cars with (hopefully) plenty of time to sober up.
If ever there was a needed combination, it's martinis and manicures. And at five dollars for each, it's a pairing that can't be beat. Manicure Mondays at Club Evolution are the perfect down note for a hard-partying weekend: Come in, relax with an Absolut 007 martini, get floofed and put your feet up. You'll be refreshed and perky for Tuesday.
Stampede
www.stampedeclub.net
Ladies' night at Stampede is like nothing you've ever seen -- a cross between Urban Cowboy and a crowded frat party. The massive warehouse of a bar fills a Wal-Mart-sized parking lot with thirsty, sometimes desperate women and the men who've come to claim them. Once inside, there's no limit to the free booze on offer to the ladies -- which means their male companions rarely have a problem scoring freebies, either. When the country music starts to play, about every other song, the couples fly around the dance floor; other times, groups of girls grind to hip-hop. The spectacle is occasionally boosted by the sight of a gorgeous dame riding atop a mechanical bull; every now and then, the same bull will whip some lanky lad into the air and onto his ass. That's entertainment.

BEST PLACE TO BREAK A SWEAT ON THE DANCE FLOOR

Martini Ranch

Martini Ranch's entire bar is a dance floor, and after a few drinks, everyone in the place believes they possess mad dance skills. Whether it's a packed Saturday or a sparse Tuesday night, once the beat gets thumping, you start to see a shoulder drop here, a booty shake there. In no time, it's like MTV's Grind circa 1997. The music is old-school, and the moves aren't much better: There's always a guy in hiking boots and an intramural softball jacket trying to get down and dirty with every female leg in range. Still, for every Joe lacking rhythm, there's one who can really let loose, and at Martini Ranch, you'll find him sandwiched between two blondes singing Bon Jovi at a deafening decibel level. And after a couple of the Ranch's vodka-saturated drinks, the whole crowd is more than halfway there. Oh, oh, living on a prayer.
Charlie Brown's Bar & Grill
Mark Antonation
If you can squeeze in between the former and current thespians bellied up to the piano at Charlie Brown's Bar, lovable Paul Lopez will play nearly any song you can name, as long as it was written before 1980. But Paulie will also occasionally astound the truly lucky patron with telepathic feats both impressive and mundane. He may recount details of a stunned piano-side couple's recent trip to Leadville, or tell how many siblings they have. He will most certainly pinpoint the radio station they listened to growing up. Lopez wowed the Sunday cafeteria crowd for years down at Furr's, but his true calling is in knowing the extraordinarily ordinary.
The Ramada Inn Downtown Denver is like a rock-and-roll RV park on weekend nights, when tour buses crowd the parking lot and bleary-eyed musicians trickle through the lobby at all hours. The crash pad for artists and crews in town for shows at the Fillmore, Ogden and Bluebird theaters -- as well as an actual hotel for normal people in town for things like vacations and conventions -- the Ramada is a totally entertaining culture clash. On a single floor, you might find a cluster of cattlemen, a sweet family of four from Omaha, the Insane Clown Posse and a bunch of college kids tripping on acid after a killer String Cheese Incident show. This human mishmash creates some amusingly weird scenes inside the elevator, and the Ramada's rock-star element also makes for fun rounds of Who's Who in the Lobby: Is that Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips, or just a Capitol Hill hipster look-alike? Only the front-desk clerk knows for sure.

BEST PLACE TO RUN INTO A HIPPIE-TURNED-YUPPIE

The Fillmore

It's not really the Fillmore's fault. The venue hosts a wide range of musicians and holds a couple thousand people, so it's bound to attract some contradictory characters. Being right across Clarkson from Sancho's Broken Arrow probably doesn't help. And after all, Colorado is a red state. Whatever the reason, when the jam bands come out and play, the Fillmore is probably the only place on the planet where you can find dreadlocked, patchouli-smelling, pot-smokin', patchwork-wearing 'Heads who sincerely believe in the power of capitalism and who would have voted for Bush -- but they totally spaced that whole democratic-voice thing on election day. Look for a Republican hippie the next time the Fillmore opens its doors for a jam band; when you find one, enjoy the sheer absurdity of it all.

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