Dazzle

Walk into Dazzle most nights of the week and you're apt catch a mix of Mile High jazz greats and world-renowned artists. Two years ago, the venue moved from its longtime home at 930 Lincoln Street to a much bigger space, in the Baur's building on Curtis Street downtown, where the club has upped its bookings by bringing in crowd-pleasing acts like the Bad Plus and taking chances on more fringe international artists like Jakob Bro and Nik Bärtsch. Along with live music, Dazzle serves up high-end comfort food and sells vintage and contemporary records at reasonable prices.

Readers' Choice: Nocturne

Denver has plenty of venues that book the occasional blues act, but Lincoln's Roadhouse shines a bright light on the genre, whether it's hosting some of the area's best players, like Austin Young or Johnny O., or the occasional national act. The joint can get rowdy and the tiny dance floor jam-packed on the weekends, but if you like your blues with a side of some of the best Cajun grub around, Lincoln's is the spot.

Readers' Choice: El Chapultepec

Ophelia's Electric Soapbox

Following the success of urban eateries Root Down and Linger, restaurateur Justin Cucci went on to open Ophelia's Electric Soapbox, dubbed a "gastro-brothel" in a nod to the building's history as a house of ill repute and peep-show parlor. These days, the super-hip spot, decked out in boudoir-style decor, serves a varied dinner menu that includes burgers, sliders, flatbreads, skillets and small plates. Downstairs, the music venue has gradually ramped up the quality of its bookings, bringing in such national acts as the Dandy Warhols, Son Volt and the North Mississippi Allstars while hosting local acts and wildly popular dance parties.

Globe Hall
Jeff Davis JWD Imagery

Since AEG talent buyer Scott Campbell, owner of the Larimer Lounge and Lost Lake Lounge, took over Globe Hall two years ago, the venue, dive bar and barbecue joint has steadily brought in a dazzling assortment of national acts that might normally be found playing bigger stages. Recent shows at the 250-person venue include Gang of Four and Helio Sequence; both had played the Gothic Theatre on previous stops in town. This no-frills intimate club is great for seeing bigger acts up close and catching lesser-known bands on the rise.

Readers' Choice: hi-dive

Fillmore Auditorium
Michael Emery Hecker

Celebrating its twentieth anniversary as a concert space under the Fillmore name, Live Nation's mid-sized Colfax Avenue auditorium — once a skating rink and an electric-car factory — received a stunning upgrade. The Fillmore's wide-open space was graced with three new elevated tiers of seating, creating vastly improved sightlines to the stage. Upgrades to the sound system deliver bright acoustics to every seat in the house, and added doors have created a smoother entrance and exit for the crowds. The most crucial improvement — which came after years of complaints about endless lines — is the addition of more restrooms, so concert-goers can spend less time doing the pee-pee dance and more time enjoying the show.

hi-dive

It's difficult to explain what makes the photo booth at the hi-dive so wondrous. It's sort of magical, in that it consistently spits out better photos of your face than you imagined anyone could take. It's a very straightforward, no-bullshit photographic endeavor: two strips, full color, no dumb frames to choose from. Plus it's intimate in a clown-car sort of way, spitting distance from the bar, and allows just enough time between shots for maximum spontaneous creativity. There's little you can't do in front of that camera's lens: Abandoned strips around the venue demonstrate patrons' love of getting a bit naked, pulling faces and — of course — making out inside. Say cheese.

ReCreative Denver
Courtesy ReCreative Denver Facebook page

The idea behind Head Room Sessions is simple: Local musicians perform live within an intimate gallery space, and the set is filmed. But these mini-concerts documenting the best of the local music scene are so much more, providing participating musicians with a video and audio recording of their work, professional photographs and a write-up — all components needed to pitch their work to booking agents. Curator Elle Naef is also set on bringing together Denver's many music scenes so that artists can meet, mingle, and maybe one day collaborate.

Theresa Mercado doesn't take horror movies lightly. The slasher-film guru has programmed the Scream Screen series for more than a decade, delighting and horrifying audiences along the way. But her cultural expertise goes beyond film, as Mercado brings Denver's best experimental musicians in for pre-show, mood-enhancing sets at the Sie FilmCenter. Acts like Blood Loss, Echo Beds, City Hunter and DJ Sara Splatter have set the tone for events like the Scream Screen Scream-A-Thon, when Mercado played all four Scream films back to back, or the weeks-long Birthday "Slash-ebration" series honoring Tobe Hooper, director and producer of such classics as Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Poltergeist, The Funhouse and more.

Best Free Local Music at a Surprising Location

BarFly

BarFly (at Alamo Drafthouse Denver)
Courtesy of Alamo Drafthouse

Some of the best venues pop up in unlikely places, and BarFly, at the Alamo Drafthouse Sloan's Lake, continues to be a nice surprise on West Colfax. The bar has built a fine reputation in a short time, creating a space for local musicians to play to both all-ages and 21-plus crowds. In addition, BarFly hosts live comedy, drag-queen bingo and a vaudeville-esque revival show, and it's the home stage for the Black Actors Guild's famed monthly "Show Ya Teef" improv showcase. The best part? The programming is free, complemented by a cordial bar staff, and the spot offers plenty of seating that includes ridiculously comfortable couches.

Syntax Physic Opera

Hosted by local singer-songwriter and musician Anthony Ruptak every Tuesday night, the Syntax Songwriter's Open Mic is both impressive and approachable — no small feat for a popular event at one of Denver's premier independent venues. The event allows musicians of all stripes to perform, backed by some of the sharpest sound engineers in town. Put yourself out there or join others in the supportive Syntax crowd while some of Denver's brightest musicians — both old and new — try out new material and take big risks.

Readers' Choice: Freak Train at the Bug Theatre

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