Best Small Music Festival 2017 | Rocky Mountain Low | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

Heavy Dose Records head Brian Castillo and Reed Bruemmer of the band Poison Rites came up in Denver's underground music scene, regularly catching shows at local dive bars and DIY venues. Eventually they joined forces to re-create that small-venue neighborhood vibe at a musical festival they'd both want to attend. Scheduled in the summer across four days at venues between Larimer Lounge and Meadowlark Bar, Rocky Mountain Low brings together legendary punk bands like DRI with exciting underground bands including Protomartyr, Echo Beds and Hide.

Steve "Faceman" Schnepel always puts on ambitious concerts. Even his bar shows involve some kind of elaborate costuming or set design — like when he turned the stage at Lost Lake Lounge into a giant shark's mouth a few years back. Last November, Schnepel helped organize Faceman's 100 Year Storm, which took inspiration from epic storms that dump tons of snow on a city. The festival presented live performances by a hundred bands at a single venue (the Oriental) over the course of two days. Somehow, the logistical nightmare all worked, and Schnepel is expected to put on the crazed event again this year.

Mutiny Information Cafe has always been a home for misfits and rebels, so it makes sense that it would host the annual Mile High Parley anti-music-festival festival. Located smack-dab in the middle of a certain other, larger, more well-known music gathering that takes place on South Broadway each summer, the Parley takes an accessible, all-ages, punk approach. Hosting local acts on stages indoors and out all weekend long, this counter-fest highlights the underground music scene and all its weirdos and freaks.

The tiny, picturesque city of Niwot, situated near Longmont and Erie in Boulder County, is as well known for Chief Niwot's Curse as for anything else: Legend has it that the chief puts a curse on any resident of the city who tries to relocate. Fortunately, those who stick around out of fear have a great little jazz festival to keep them occupied. Jazz on 2nd Avenue takes over the main strip in town, and last year's lineup included Liquid Soul and Jeff Coffin of the Dave Matthews Band. Sure, some local and school bands play, too, but the musical quality on display is still exemplary. Taking place in September, when the weather is nice but not stifling, Jazz on 2nd Ave is Niwot's crazy little secret.

Textures got off the ground at the now-defunct Gypsy House Cafe, where it happened semi-regularly for five years. Now held at Mutiny Information Cafe every last Sunday of the month, it showcases the breadth and depth of the area's ambient music scene. The brainchild of Wesley Davis of bios+a+ic, the series remains relevant by not sticking to a strict definition of the ambient genre, having included modular-synth wizards like Kuxaan Sum, musique concrète artists like Victoria Lundy, and internationally known visual-synthesis pioneer Mark Mosher.

Theresa Mercado has long organized unique film series, hosting events at the now-defunct Crash 45 and the Alamo Drafthouse. Most recently, Mercado has been hard at work on Scream Screen, a month-long event at the Sie FilmCenter that presents modern horror classics and performances from bands like Echo Beds, Vought and Denver Broncos UK. The mementos that Mercado hands out at the end of the night, whether small figurines she made herself or buttons with touches from the just-screened film, set these events apart. Not one to shy away from theatrics, Mercado likes to play the part, as well: For this year's showing of The Brood, for example, she dressed as Samantha Eggar's character and reenacted the scene in which Eggar licks the afterbirth off her mutant baby.

A parent's musical world can feel pretty grim at times; there are days when you'd almost kill for something even a little meatier than another rendition of "The Ants Go Marching." That's why the 45-minute Tiny Tots program from Inside the Orchestra is perfect for all ages. Accompanied by parents and other adults, children sit on the floor (at History Colorado, Boettcher Concert Hall or other fabulous locations) and are surrounded by Tiny Tots' thirty-piece-plus professional orchestra. As the music plays, the conductor talks directly to the little ones, asking them questions and walking them through the experience. Afterward, they have a chance to meet the musicians and get a little closer to the instruments. Even better? Admission is a mere suggested donation of $9.95.

Believe it or not, the Denver Public Library is an active player in the local music scene. It offers upwards of 200 local albums for download at, making current and rare records available to the public. Last year, librarian Dave Wilkinson, a longtime fan of Denver's music scene, proposed a limited-edition seven-inch record with local bands that promoted the library and local culture. The library higher-ups approved the idea, and in March 2016, 300 records were pressed, showcasing bands like Accordion Crimes and The Raven and the Writing Desk.

Kids can be a death sentence for parents who like to attend concerts. Fortunately, Denver Public Library's Cherry Creek branch has music-loving families covered, organizing a monthly concert the second Saturday of each month at 10 a.m. Stroll in, grab a Voodoo Doughnut treat, pour a cup of Dazbog coffee, make your way to the middle of the storytime room, put earplugs in your ears — and definitely in your kids' ears — and prepare to rock. The event has showcased the Milk Blossoms, SPELLS and the Pink Hawks, proving the Ross-Cherry Creek branch is about much more than books and boring lectures. These days, it might just be the punkest thing in Cherry Creek.

The first issue of Barf came out in September 2016 with comedian Ben Roy on the cover, looking mortified in a bubble bath. The issue had interviews with bands, a chat with Roy, and an article titled "How Many Hot Dogs Is Too Many Hot Dogs?" The candid and humorous interviews and the rest of the content fit the publication's motto: "Sex, Drugs, Barf." Barf founders Micah Morris and members of the band Dirty Few continue to improve the zine's content; the most recent cover had a semi-glossy finish. Barf offers irreverent material that's as glorious and intentionally dumb as a great Ramones song.

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