Denver Art Society

Even from the outside, with its large windows and spacious interior, the Denver Art Society feels like a welcoming place. As a nonprofit, DAS is driven by its publicly stated mission to engage the local and global community in the arts. To that end, it provides studios, art workshops and a place to display art, as well as live music, with performers ranging from electronic-dance artists to punk and avant-garde bands. DAS is quickly becoming a hub for creative pursuits of all types — and creative types of all ages.

Tucked away just off Colfax, Hyperspace is easy to miss. Whereas most arcades have a gaudy exterior and flashing lights to catch the attention of passersby, Xyla DuVal opened Hyperspace last June with a different vision: that of a low-key hangout where people can play vintage video games and occasionally see live music. DuVal also repairs and maintains video games, and this arcade, open here and there for special events, shows all the hallmarks of serious care and restoration. This place perfectly captures the vibe of early-'80s arcades, including the limited number of snacks and drinks available at the register. There are other fine arcades in the Denver area, but Hyperspace feels like a place that goths and rivetheads of a bygone era might have frequented before discovering Sisters of Mercy and Skinny Puppy.

The Thin Man
Danielle Lirette

It's been almost five years since twin brothers Greg and Garrett Hilpipre of Mountain to Sound started presenting shows at the unique, 35-seat Ubisububi Room in the basement of the Thin Man Tavern. If you think MTV Unplugged — where performers stand metaphorically naked and vulnerable to imperfections — is intimate, you haven't seen a show at this underground nook in City Park West. Most performances feature notable Colorado songwriters, and every gig has a face-to-face feeling you'll never forget.

Young Colorado natives Tom Abraham and Colin Wilcox operated Dead Leaf Arts in north Boulder for just under a year. They gained a lot of respect in that short time, putting on a slew of great shows featuring lineups ranging from David Dondero and Paleo to Inner Oceans and Male Blonding. Because of Dead Leaf, young people (and people who wanted to capture a DIY spirit) in Boulder were, for a short while, able to hear live music that offered something other than jam bands, bluegrass, EDM or coffee-shop banality. But Dead Leaf also hosted intriguing, informative silent-film nights, poetry and art installations. Those lucky enough to have seen a show at Dead Leaf, and thus become a part of it, won't soon forget trudging through snow to an unmarked warehouse next to a strip club to see, among other truly surprising things, punk rock in Boulder.

Bluebird Theater

Opened in 1913 as the Thompson Theater, the Bluebird is grimy, old-fashioned and awesome. One of its highlights is the cramped green room downstairs, which is pretty much directly below the stage. There's barely enough room for a band to hang out, and it doesn't always smell wonderful, but the distanced, almost secret vibe in the air is one that says, "Friends, family and hangers-on not allowed; we're getting ready to play a show."

Summit
Michael Emery Hecker

Summit Music Hall owner Mike Barsch says he spent three years shopping for sound systems, "trying to set us apart from the rest," before going with an Italian GTO C-12, the Ferrari of rock-venue sound systems, last fall. The Summit often hosts well-known '80s and '90s punk, metal and new-wave bands that need massive, loud and clear sound that fits their style but doesn't send fans at the relatively intimate 1,000-seat hall running for the doors. Becoming the first venue in America to install a GTO C-12, which is popular in Europe, was a no-brainer for Barsch. "The feedback has been great," he says. "People are like, 'I've seen this band 100 times and never heard them sound this good.' They're all blown away. Word is spreading."

Lost Lake

If you had stepped into Lost Lake Lounge before last year, you might have thought you had accidentally wandered into the 1970s. The interior looked and felt like a repurposed American Legion hall (the bar area still does). But last year, the ramshackle sound system of old was replaced with a setup that can handle rock shows and electronic artists alike. Whereas before it felt quaint amd homey, the Lost Lake performance room now feels professional and capable.

Fiddler's Green Amphitheatre

In its first year of operation by AEG Rocky Mountains, Fiddler's Green (which took back its original name last year after years as Comfort Dental Amphitheater) has gone from being a serviceable spot for watching your favorite mega-star from the lawn to downright pleasant. That change came thanks to better traffic flow, upgraded sound and artful decoration.

Most door guys and gals take tickets, check IDs and run guest lists with a somewhat thorny attitude — perking up only when a friend passes through. And a few are too gregarious for the job, meaning the lines last forever. Trevor Thon is different. He manages to take his job seriously while still finding time to converse with artists and concert-goers — ideally about his beloved comic books, which he reads with one eye on the door.

By day he makes your spicy-tofu banh mi sandwiches; by night he spins your favorite dance beats. For the past seven years, Peter Schroeder, aka DJ Gatsby, has been building a name for himself in the metro-Denver area, most notably spinning hip-hop records at the Pour House, Crimson Hilt Tattoo and elsewhere. While the sun is still up, though, you can catch him at Vinh Xuong Bakery in the Alameda Square Shopping Center, putting together some of the best Vietnamese sandwiches around.

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