Akio, the uni-monikered general manager of Tabu, is unmistakable with his trimmed eyebrows, slicked-skyward black hair and impeccably pressed suits. He can frequently be found making rounds throughout the club, all politician-like, shaking hands and beaming affably at patrons. His hospitality is infectious, and the rest of the staff is just as accommodating. Need a light? You got it. Need to freshen your drink? It's covered. Need an exotic dancer for your VIP table? Done. From the dance-friendly DJ selections to the top-shelf drinks to the community hookah, Tabu is an all-around crowd-pleaser. Oh, and the half-naked women bumping and grinding below at the Diamond Cabaret ain't too shabby of an added amenity, either.
As Club Evolution, the two-story building on the corner of 22nd and Champa streets seemed to be in a constant Darwinian struggle, first embracing the GLBT community and then later attempting to adapt to the hetero set. Both endeavors were for naught, as Evo eventually went under and later emerged with new owners, an immaculate interior facelift and open-to-all-party-people programming. Now dubbed the Loft, the space is decked out with way-slick lighting, lavish, roomy booths and ultra-modern flooring. Nightly DJs round out the calendar, and kitschy weekly events like Manicure Mondays and Headbangin' Sundays make this hot spot at the edge of Five Points a hip alternative to the otherwise oversaturated nightlife scene.
Soiled Dove Underground
Eric Gruneisen
A huge improvement on its previous LoDo location, the newer, classier Soiled Dove was built from the ground up, with music as the focal point. Its crescent-shaped seating area was designed so that anyone seated in the 300-person-plus room would have a good line of sight. And while the sound in the LoDo Dove was great, the new Dove's system is damn near impeccable. Give these guys a standing ovation for building what might be the most comfortable place to see a show. Definitely reason enough to make the trek out to Lowry and hear this Dove sing.
El Chapultepec Too
Anybody who's ever been to El Chapultepec on the weekend knows that the tiny place fills up mighty fast. Sometimes it gets so boisterous that it's hard to hear the jazzers on the tiny stage. Many times we've wished the club was about four times bigger -- you know, the kind of joint where you can actually find a place to sit, have a beer and take in some of our city's finest musicians. Enter El Chapultepec Too. Housed in the former Blue Corn Lounge location, right down the street from the old Elitch's, it's a jazz lover's oasis -- with plenty of room to move. Here, Tony Black, Pat Bianchi and Freddy Rodriguez hold court on the weekends, and on Monday nights, the eighteen-piece Denver Jazz Orchestra is in the house.
Old Curtis Street Bar
It doesn't have a line down the block or a slate of superstar celebrity guest DJs. It's not the place to see or be seen. Nor is it filled with fickle hipsters who instantly think everything is so ten minutes ago. What Chit Chat is, is the city's best house party -- er, make that club night. Helmed by Jason Heller and Big Al, the dynamic duo who created the wildly popular and now-defunct Off the Wall series at the hi-dive, Chit Chat has a casual, unassuming vibe unlike any other night in town. Every Saturday, the DJs keep the Old Curtis St.'s dance floor jumping as they take turns behind the decks, spinning 45s (you know, those old-fashioned black plastic things with the holes in the middle?) from their personal collections, including the deepest classic soul cuts you've never heard. You think you know vintage soul? You don't know Chit.
Bender's Tavern
Thursdays at Bender's is like a salmon migration. In a sea of dyed black locks and thick mascara, sweaty hormones bubble to the surface as twenty-somethings shamelessly grope each other on the dance floor. Every week, the two-room club is packed, with Balls Deep Karaoke hosted by Jermaine Smith on one side and Night of the Living Shred holding its own on the other. Shred, however, is where the rocker boys and the girls who like rocker boys come together under the sweet tunes of DJs Wesley Wayne and Parris. The two trade off spinning duties and create danceable playlists of old-school hip-hop, '80s hits and modern rock. But only half the crowd is paying attention; most of the young party-hoppers are here to drink up or hook up.
After three years in action, the Tuesday night open-mike night at the Squire Lounge continues to draw both legions and lesions. A veritable test lab for different types of humans -- from hipster to hep C, transient to tranny -- the Squire is the type of bar that welcomes all with open arms, provided you're not openly toting arms. Add to this mix a healthy crop of some of Denver's best comics ready and able to pounce on an unruly crowd, and the shows are always entertaining. Host and MC Greg Baumhauer guides this raucous comedy ship with a sharp wit and an even sharper tongue, and the booze is cheap and bountiful. With a handful of D-town's best jokesmiths bound for La La Land soon, there's never been a better time to hit up the Squire. Just try not to get hit up at the Squire.
Ben Kronberg is the shit. No, really. He calls himself the Poop Joke Ninja. At the Gong Show last fall, he rolled out on stage in full ninja-style costume and told, yep, poop jokes. He was gonged. But that's okay, because the experimental performer scored a spot at the invitation-only HBO U.S. Comedy Arts Festival held in Aspen last month. Now the man better known as the creator of the "McRap" video is getting wooed by agents and other big-timers. You'll remember us when, won't you, Ben?
Charlie's Denver
Bring your competitive edge and those succulent lungs down to Charlie's on Mondays and Tuesdays to battle it out mano-a-limp-wrist with some of the town's fiercest amateur vocalists. The nightly sign-up sheet doesn't care about your sexual orientation -- but if you suck, then you'll be outing yourself in front of the entire beer-swilling community. Because at Charlie's, under the gleam of the cowboy-boot-shaped disco ball and in the eyes of the uber-sassy, karaoke isn't a choice; it's a way of life.
Carioca Cafe (Bar Bar)
Everyone has a little disc jockey inside of them, and once a month (or so), Carioca Cafe -- better known to scene kids everywhere as Bar Bar -- hosts a coming-out party for all the wicky-wicky wannabes. The concept is simple: Bring your records, play your records. Be sure to arrive early because the sign-up sheet fills up quickly. The free-for-all makes for interesting mixes of everything from soul and hip-hop to grindcore and psychedelic folk. It's a commune of music that welcomes all genres, no matter how obscure or badly mainstream. Plus, showing off your record collection is totally addictive, because, really, who has better taste in music than you do?

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