It's impossible to talk about DIY venues in Denver without putting Rhinoceropolis front and center. One of the longest continuously running DIY spaces for live art and performance in the country, this space — lovingly referred to by regulars as Rhino — is the place to see the counterculture in action. From national acts such as Dan Deacon and Mykki Blanco to local icons like Pictureplane and Thug Entrancer, the show space and gallery has hosted hundreds of events in the past decade. The best part? Rhino runs on donations only, so no one is turned away for lack of funds. And the venue's slightly off-kilter atmosphere and vibrant community operation ensure a unique visitor experience.

If you're a fourteen-year-old (or just one at heart) who wants to ollie over a couch or grind a rail while listening to your favorite screamo band, Skatuary is your new home base. The youth center/skate park/music venue partnered with Narrows Productions to bring national and local bands right to the halfpipe. Nice trick.

With three rooms offering three very different experiences, the Mercury Cafe has been feeding and entertaining Coloradans for nearly four decades. Jazz standards and a piano-bar vibe inhabit the Rose dining room, while opera performances, poetry slams, open mikes and films can be experienced in the adjoining Jungle room. Things get wild on the second floor, where the dance hall hosts belly-dancing nights and swing classes, plays, concerts and every kind of performance imaginable. For a full Mercury experience, grab a cup of tea or a delicious plate of organic goodness from the kitchen — or even a tarot reading in the dining room — while you're there for a show.

Syntax Physic Opera

After a five-year stint as talent buyer at the Meadowlark, Jonathan Bitz knew he wanted to start a place of his own. A three-year hunt led him to the building at 554 South Broadway — formerly the Bar (and the Atrium before that) — where he did some major renovations and opened Syntax Physic Opera, a music venue/eatery/art bar, in the spring of 2014. While the bar half serves an outstanding selection of cocktails and beers, the venue side is where the true magic happens, as Bitz presents a steady stream of the town's finest acts as well as weekly singer-songwriter and comedy open-mike nights and jazz jams.

Mutiny Information Cafe
Courtesy Mutiny Information Cafe

Stuffed to the gills with new and used books, graphic novels, local-band CDs and vinyl, Mutiny Information Cafe is a place where you can sit at a table, sip coffee and flip through a book while a loud punk band plays on the floor just a few feet away. It's a rarely seen juxtaposition, but it's one that works alarmingly well. Rather than just keep Mutiny as a bookstore, the owners continue to cultivate the music community, opening up their doors to bands of all kinds and letting them play as loud as they want.

The Deer Pile

Anything goes at Deer Pile, whether it's weekly DIY comedy staple Too Much Fun, Occupy Denver meet-ups, experimental-film showings or ambient-noise concerts. Like a multi-purpose room for Denver's creative community, Deer Pile continues to be a space that welcomes performances and gatherings for all people, by all people; it's also donation-based, meaning audiences can get a taste of what's going on in Denver's counterculture for a nice price, and no one is turned away. Deer Pile proves that if you give them a room and an audience, performances will come.

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.

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