Charlie's Denver

The beer may be cheap at Charlie's, but the performances aren't. Every Sunday, a cast of local legends and new faces turns the floor at Charlie's into a Xanadu of drag perfection. Mama hen Shanida Lawya and company treat raucous crowds to three numbers, complete with costume and makeup changes, and immerse themselves in the crowd. Don't be surprised if you wake up Monday morning with a big red lipstick kiss on your cheek.

It's no secret that Denver burlesque has helped put this cowtown on the map: The notable names who take over intimate stages all over the city also headline major festivals and receive accolades on the global burlesque scene. A case in point is Midnite Martini (aka Kim Townsend), the reigning Miss Exotic World, who earned her title as the Burlesque Hall of Fame's 2014 Queen of Burlesque in Las Vegas last June. The lovely Miss M wowed the judges with a routine that combined burlesque, aerial fabric and a ladder.

With a recent renovation that included the addition of an expansive front deck, this watering hole at 629 East Colfax solidified itself as the perfect spot for meeting up with pals and dishing all the recent gossip. The drinks are fast and cheap, natch, and the background music stays at just the right volume, so you can take in all the juicy details.

Readers' choice: Tracks

Blush & Blu

A feminine mystique definitely runs through every inch of this Colfax bar, which describes itself as "a unique drinkery." But in fact, the bar is only a part of what Blush & Blu has to offer. The welcoming community establishment spends its daytime hours as a coffeehouse and fills the rest of its time with a variety of events, including game nights, poetry, standup comedy, dance parties, karaoke, comic sex advice and even capoeira lessons.

Readers' choice: Hamburger Mary's

Tracks
Keith Garcia

This mammoth gay club already has a sterling reputation for welcoming all comers, no matter their sexual orientation, but on Thursdays the place truly becomes the United Nations of dance parties, with every inch of space occupied by all manner of man, woman and teen. The sprawling landscape at Tracks makes for great fashion- and guy/gal-watching, and the club's roster of hot DJs, both regional and national, keeps the bodies moving and, for a brief time, our peaceful world spinning.

Nob Hill Inn

One of the city's few remaining true dives, the Nob Hill Inn has hosted its share of music royalty — including Bob Dylan and Motörhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister — in over a half-century of operation. And there's a good chance you'll find those legends' music on the bar's jukebox, which is just about as eclectic as its regulars. A bonus are the juke's mix CDs, which feature such expert and disparate pairings as Buck Owens and the Beau Brummels, the Hollies and Uriah Heep, and Parliament and Gene Autry.

Readers' choice: Sancho's Broken Arrow

Armida's

The folks at Armida's are serious about karaoke. They should be, after hosting it for the past two decades — first on a once-a-week basis, and now every night. It got so popular, in fact, that an upstairs karaoke room, which can fit about thirty people, was added two years ago to accommodate all the folks — from first-timers to old hands — who come down to sing.

Readers' choice: Armida's

100% de Agave

Belting out the Spice Girls' "Say You'll Be There" is always fun, but sometimes you just want to get in touch with your inner Selena and sing "Como La Flor" while a frozen margarita melts all over the microphone. When it comes to Spanish-language karaoke, 100% de Agave has a complete song list. Once the clock strikes 9 p.m. on Thursdays, the place fills up with people who want to chow down on happy-hour-priced munchies and salsa-dance to the amateur singing.

Strange Grounds Coffee

On the third Monday of each month, the experimental outfit ANIMAL/object holds an avant-garde open-mike night at Strange Grounds. Here, though, "avant-garde" just means that performers are prized for their imagination and willingness to throw themselves into the music. There's often time at the end of the night for impromptu collaborations — and last summer, the Violent Femmes' Gordon Gano (a recent Colorado transplant) decided to drop by with his violin and join the festivities.

Twist & Shout
Ken Hamblin III

It's not easy to get an in-store performance booked at Twist & Shout, and there's a good reason for that: These shows are almost invariably events you'll never forget. The store hosts cozy, living-room-style performances from big names (local and national) playing for shoulder-to-shoulder audiences full of excitement and focus. Check out Steve Earle's killer Twist & Shout performance of "Copperhead Road" on YouTube sometime, or just head down to see an in-store set yourself.

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