Best Jazz Jam 2014 | The Meadowlark | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Evan Semón

There are a number of high-school and college jazz programs in the area, and they're turning out some incredibly talented young musicians. But while music theory, jazz standards and note transcription are important, sometimes just jamming with other folks is the best way to learn. Over the past few years, the Monday-night jazz jams at the Meadowlark have attracted some fiery and exciting players, on horns, guitar, keyboards and drums. Whether you're playing or listening, Mondays at the Meadowlark are the jam.

Mason Craig

It makes sense that the jukebox at the Skylark Lounge has plenty of rockabilly and classic country on it, with tunes from the likes of Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins and Patsy Cline; after all, that sound complements the overall vibe of the retro-centric bar, which is lined with vintage movie posters. What might be a better-kept secret, though, is that the Skylark's juke is also one of the most eclectic in town, offering everything from the punk of the Clash and the Sex Pistols to the jazz of Miles Davis, Django Reinhardt and Dave Brubeck — plus a whole lot in between. You'll even find a few discs by local bands that have played at the 'lark, like Halden Wofford and the Hi*Beams and the Dalhart Imperials. Mosey on down and give it a spin.

Karaoke is a curiosity: Alcohol, peer pressure and occasional untapped talent all combine in one extremely public display, making for entertaining and unpredictable results. Armida's draws a consistently big and diverse crowd, ensuring a night high in both drama and comedy. And while its popularity guarantees a considerable wait for the spotlight, there's plenty of free entertainment to enjoy in the meantime. Whether you're looking to have a few drinks, show off your pipes, make a fool of yourself, or all of the above, there are few places better than Armida's.

If you love the salty smell of leather and sweat on a beautiful man, wrap your hands around the phallic doorknob at the Eagle and walk into paradise. Despite a few burly men looking Hells Angels-scary (and most people who frequent the Eagle like that sort of thing), the bartenders are some of the sweetest guys in town. And like the patrons, they're as warm as they are hot. Tuesday through Sunday, the Eagle has an all-you-can-drink happy hour from 4 to 8 p.m.; it often sponsors themed events including leather, denim, sportswear and underwear parties with Denver's hottest guys of all shapes and sizes. And while this is definitely a male-oriented space, the Eagle welcomes everyone into the nest.

Jody Bouffard has had the corner on Denver's lesbian bar scene for years. While other venues and owners have come and gone, Bouffard has continued to create safe, comfortable spaces where lesbians and the broader LGBTQ community can drink, socialize and flirt. Her newest enterprise, Blush and Blu, is no exception; it's gained a reputation for friendly bartenders and a warm, inclusive environment. Located at the site of her former tHERe Coffee Bar and Lounge, right next to Voodoo Doughnut, this is a bar and coffee shop wrapped into one venue that promises everything from Texas Hold 'Em tournaments to drag-king performances, pool, standup comedy and even yoga.

Keith Garcia

If you want to get sweaty in a tight room with a bunch of hot women who like women, head to Tracks Nightclub on First Fridays for Babes Around Denver (BAD), which has been touted as the largest lesbian night in the country. The evening starts with line dancing and turns into a party that rages till the bar closes, with a mob of women — ranging in age from 21 to 75 — getting sweaty and shaking their booties into a frenzy.

Collin Parson's day job is as the visual-art director at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, but he moonlights — emphasis on lights — as an artist who uses light as a medium in his strikingly bare-bones wall sculptures. Last summer, Parson mounted a survey of sorts called Reworked: The Collin Parson Experience, which focused on his pierced boxes with internal light escaping through various slits and openings. These sculptures are strikingly simple, being merely boxes with lights in different colors. But their effects were great, even in the daytime, when the lines and bars of light in the boxes gently glimmered. But at night, with the gallery's lights out, it was out of this world, looking something like a minimalist disco.

Makers work in many fields, but they all have a few things in common, including an entrepreneurial spirit and the talent for something — be it brewing or crafting or cheese-making or canning homemade pickles or providing chemical-free beauty services — that people need and want but can't find just anywhere. That's why Colorado Makers was started: to give small, artisanal businesses the benefit of a like-minded community for networking, while also creating a stronger public face for members as a whole. A lot of what's happening at the grassroots level in cities like Denver begins with such local communities; Colorado Makers helps assure a bright future for small-business growth.

Danielle Lirette

Metal may sound like a frenzied assault of cruel screams and wicked drum-pounding made by what looks like a crowd of shabby, bearded misanthropes. But TRVE Brewing owner Nick Nunns is out to prove that it doesn't have to taste like cheap domestic garbage. TRVE has made metal palatable for Denver's music scene since 2012, creating beers named for bands like Absu (Eastern Candle), Darkthrone (Circle the Wagons) and Denver metal favorites Speedwolf (Death Ripper). Patrons sip Stout O))) with fellow metalheads at the brewery's long Viking-style table, while bands like stoner-metal legend Sleep replace the bubbly Top 40 hits one expects elsewhere. The occult-oriented work of local artist Sam Turner adorns the beer's labels and the brewery's walls. Denver's metal-and-beer scene has its first landmark.

Denver's metal kingdom has flourished in recent years, partly because of contributions from transplants like Sherwood Webber of the New York-based death-metal band Skinless. After his band broke up in 2011, Webber moved to Denver and worked behind the scenes producing concerts for AEG Live. Using his industry connections and a Skinless reunion as bait, Webber and AEG's Danny Sax worked with Denver's Black Sky Brewery last year to assemble a lineup headlined by Dying Fetus, Exhumed and Ghoul and featuring up-and-coming acts like Weekend Nachos, Power Trip and Iron Reagan. No band refused the invitation to join the fun. Speedwolf, Call of the Void, Primitive Man and Black Sleep of Kali were just a few of the local names that completed a nineteen-band, three-stage slate that took over the Gothic Theatre and Moe's BBQ. Plans for the 2014 edition are under way.

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