Best Gay Bar 2018 | Trade | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Courtesy Trade Facebook page

Looking for a stiff drink and a stiffer man? Located in the building that once housed the Barker Lounge, Trade offers an unpretentious spot for gay men to congregate. This isn't a bar for the buttoned-up set: Expect underwear and leather nights, pulsing house music and hairy men galore. While some bear bars in town have garnered nasty reputations for being transphobic and misogynistic, Trade has established itself as a queer-friendly bar that's as welcoming as it is delightfully cruisy. The bartenders are fast and friendly, the beats are good, and whether you're in the market for a beer or a bear, Trade is ready and willing to serve up both.

Readers' Choice: Charlie's

Karaoke at Armida's is special because of the potential for greatness that every night holds for wannabe singers. The drinks are good at this Best of Denver stronghold, and the food is tasty (hello, Macho Nachos), but the real draw is that absolutely anyone can walk onto the stage and become a star for three or four minutes. While karaoke in front of strangers can be intimidating for first-timers, Armida's crowds are almost always engaging and supportive. And if none of that helps, there's always tequila.

Readers' Choice: Armida's

Despite a flood of development, Denver has suffered from a lesbian-bar drought in recent years. While there are plenty of open spots where queer women in this town feel welcome to drink and dance, Blush & Blu is no longer just the best lesbian bar in town; it's practically the only one. But even if there were twenty more, Blush & Blu would likely top the pack. From poker nights and poetry readings to dance parties and comedy nights, the space has got something for people of all tastes. And unlike many gay bars in Denver, Blush & Blu is transgender-inclusive.

Readers' Choice: Blush & Blu

Yes, the Pepsi Center is home to the Colorado Avalanche and the Denver Nuggets, but the 18,000-seat arena is also the place to see music megastars — from legends who've been touring the globe for decades, like the Who and U2, as well as artists who've moved up in the ranks over the years, like Lady Gaga, who played the Gothic Theatre in 2009; Arcade Fire, whose first stop in Denver was the Larimer Lounge in 2004; and Lorde, who headlined the Fillmore four years ago. If you're looking for a big show with big production, you can't beat the Pepsi Center.

There are many excellent things about Red Rocks Amphitheatre, one of the most striking places in the world to see a concert outdoors. But the venue just keeps getting better, with an expanded concert season that gives music lovers even more opportunities to enjoy their favorite acts in a spectacular natural setting. While previous seasons have generally run from May until September, this year's Red Rocks calendar is jam-packed from the third week in April to late October, showcasing a wide range of talent that includes locals Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Gregory Alan Isakov and Big Gigantic.

Readers' Choice: Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Joel Rekiel

Part of Levitt Pavilion's mission is to build community through free music and education, and the outdoor amphitheater in Ruby Hill Park started doing exactly that when it opened last July with an inaugural concert from Slim Cessna's Auto Club. The venue will host fifty free family-friendly concerts this season, which means fifty chances to check out a variety of local and national acts in a gorgeous lawn setting with an awesome view of the Denver skyline. When not being used for Levitt's concert season, the amphitheater is available to schools, arts organizations and other nonprofits.

Denver has long been an incubator for musical talent, and venues like the Oriental Theater really facilitate the scene. A team of booking agents packs the Oriental's calendar with live music, comedy, burlesque, live podcast tapings, film festivals, fundraisers and more, with most events having a local tie-in or including local talent. The music- and business-savvy team running this vintage venue has its finger on the pulse of the local creative community and knows how important it is to support artists at every level, giving new and established acts a chance to perform. Artists can aspire to playing the Oriental's bigger stage without worrying about having the right connections to do so. As corporations control more of Denver's music scene, the Northside gem continues to work hard for the community by creating a welcoming space where arts and music can flourish.

Anthony Camera

Despite much ado from the city about its support of DIY spaces, most that were here before the 2016 Ghost Ship fire in Oakland remain shuttered, and the few that have reopened are operating on the down-low, preferring to stay out of the spotlight. In the face of such changes, Seventh Circle Music Collective maintains its reign as Denver's strongest and longest-running aboveground DIY space. Booking more shows than some of the city's major clubs (up to five a week), the west-side venue is housed in a garage run by a motley crew of punks. The 2018 Westword MasterMind winner provides a home for local acts looking for a break as well as major and utterly obscure touring bands that prefer to play outside the bar circuit.

Readers' Choice: Upstairs Circus

Oakland l. Childers

A great all-ages venue does more than set — or do away with — age parameters. It cultivates a space where people can engage in cultural offerings without being judged for being too young to drink or too old to be hip. No space in Denver maintains that kind of energy like Mutiny Information Cafe, which has hosted dozens of concerts from national and local bands, book readings, live podcast recordings and more. Metal, jazz, folk and hip-hop artists and fans have all found a home at Mutiny, where they can sip coffee, play pinball, and browse comics, vinyl and books between sets.

Readers' Choice: Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Best Place to Find the Future of the Music Business

Youth on Record

Brandon Marshall

For the past decade, Youth on Record has been changing the course of many Denver Public Schools students who are on the brink of dropping out by bringing music and activism together in the form of educational programming for school credit, taught in classrooms and at its own recording space, the Youth Media Studio. Recently, the organization has taken this approach to the next level with a ten-month fellowship program, which digs into music as a business while teaching financial literacy, marketing strategies and more to the next generation of the music industry. Emcee, poet, performer and scholar Molina Speaks guides and supports ambitious musicians and producers — with an emphasis on amplifying the voices of young people of color — as they learn the ins and outs of an often opaque industry. The students write and track their own goals, and at the end of the program receive a financial reward to put toward future professional goals. Youth on Record knows that in a growing city like Denver, cultivating homegrown talent is good for any business — and that includes music.

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