Carioca Cafe (Bar Bar)

If there is a sports-like farm system in the Denver music scene, Bar Bar (aka Carioca Cafe) represents a quality AAA baseball club. Bar Bar's inclusive and open mentality allows up-and-coming bands like Hellhound, Gravity Tapes, Gentleman Crow and Nixon's the One to hone their craft and play rowdy and well-attended shows any night of the week. The regulars may sometimes be a little rough around the edges, but the crowd at Bar Bar is still inviting and open to all Denver's bands, regardless of stature.

Lotus Clubs owner Francois Safieddine has had a long and successful history in Denver's nightlife, especially with more recent venues like Chloe and both ViewHouse locations. While Chloe is a stylish dance club/restaurant, Safieddine went a step further when he opened Vie in late 2014 at 1427 Larimer Street. Formerly Suite Two Hundred, the 7,000-square-foot space has been transformed into an ultra-chic dance club. Vie brings in local and national EDM talent and features state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems.

Readers' choice: Mile High Spirits

Beta

Beta has a downtown location and sizable dance floor, but that's not what makes it the best dance club in Denver. It's also got a slick, sleek layout and a large patio where smokers can congregate and watch the LoDo night unspool. Neither of those things turned our heads much this year, though. What really makes this club the best place to lose your mind to the sound of a beat are the Funktion-One sound system, widely regarded as one of the best systems on the planet, and a lineup of DJs and producers that increasingly showcases the top names in the entire business. So far this year, Beta has played host to Chris Liebing, Robag Wruhme, DJ Heidi and Claude Van Stroke, to name a few, and the club continues to feature local talent and offer side trips in the second room. (Don't forget to tip the bathroom attendants!)

Readers' choice: Beauty Bar

hi-dive

The hi-dive has brought in top-notch local and national acts for eleven years now — and while the lineup is a good part of its success (talent buyer Ben Desoto does a noble job), there's more to the venue's charms. Over the past two years, owners Matty Clark and Josh Terry, who bought the place from Matt LaBarge and Allison Housley, have made some upgrades (like raising the ceiling and hanging speakers from it) to give folks a better concert-going experience.

Readers' choice: hi-dive

Ziggies

Ziggies celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 2014, and while it's hailed as Denver's oldest blues bar, it's been updated over the years, giving the place a modern feel while preserving its heritage. One thing hasn't changed, though: The walls of Ziggies still bleed blue. There's music most nights of the week, with performances by the best local blues acts (and some touring bands) Thursdays through Saturdays, while the rest of week is dedicated to jam sessions, including the long-running blues jams on Sundays and Groovesday Jam on Tuesdays.

Readers' choice: El Chapultepec

Dazzle

Denver is home to a startling array of home-grown jazz clubs. Dazzle Restaurant & Lounge is not the one with the most history or the one with the most novelty, but it is without question the one with the best jazz. The stage at Dazzle is routinely occupied by the genre's contemporary stars as well as its established legends. But there's more to this internationally recognized club than touring acts. It's also a great ally of the local scene, hosting regular jam sessions and album-release shows. We also have Dazzle's staff to thank for bringing guitar god Bill Frisell back for a performance at East High School — his alma mater.

Readers choice: Dazzle Restaurant & Lounge

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.

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