Best Live Music With a Horror Film 2019 | Sie FilmCenter's Scream Screen | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

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


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.

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

Swallow Hill Music

The folks at Swallow Hill Music, which celebrates its fortieth anniversary this year, cannot get enough of the ukulele. For the past decade, they've hosted Denver Ukefest, a three-day festival showcasing all things uke, including workshops, master classes and performances from some of the country's top players. While the annual shindig is a top-notch gathering of uke players, Swallow Hill's music program celebrates the instrument year-round, with classes and workshops that teach everything from basic chords to improvisation. On the third and fifth Saturdays of every month, Swallow Hill also hosts Denver Uke Community, a gathering open to all levels of players.

Wildwood Guitars in downtown Louisville is relatively small, particularly compared to a big-box retailer like Guitar Center. While there's a decent selection of guitars, amps and effects in the main shop, a good portion of the store's stock is in its warehouse next door. The shop boasts the world's largest inventory of Fender Custom Shop handcrafted guitars, including ones made specifically for the store, like the Dealer Select Wildwood "10." Peruse the website to see the dozens of new, used and vintage guitars Wildwood carries before going into the store to try them out.

The last time Tom Waits played Denver was twenty years ago, and the last time he toured was more than a decade ago. The chances of the man actually performing here again seem pretty slim. But fans can see the Waits tribute band Lost Dog Ensemble on a regular basis around Denver. Lost Dog frontman Dave Dinsmore gets pretty damned close to the gravel and grit of Waits's signature vocals while channeling the legend's mannerisms, and the rest of the band does justice to Waits's vast catalogue, particularly songs from Rain Dogs, Mule Variations and Bone Machine.

As a musician, sound engineer and talent buyer, Randall Frazier has always been about taking local venues to the next level. Over the past few years the booker ha s elevated the profile of Ophelia's Electric Soapbox, filling the venue's calendar with hip-hop, jazz, rock and some of the most experimental sounds you'll find at any bar in LoDo. But Frazier is also part of the reason that concerts at Ophelia's sound so good: He not only set up the sound system before the venue opened, but he currently runs the soundboard alongside fellow engineer Elisa Canali.

By now, the Brothers of Brass — a group of musicians from across the country who've found a home in Denver — have been making beautiful noise for several years, becoming a staple of the Mile High City experience. Led by the booming tuba of Khalil Simon, this traveling horn and percussion party weaves together the music of everyone from Beethoven to Aaliyah to Gary Glitter. Get caught up in their wandering soirée in the heart of LoDo as a Rockies game lets out, dance along to their mesmerizing music on the steps of the Denver Performing Arts Complex or see them live at Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom. The Brothers' signature Southern sound has permeated central Denver and found a way to charm crowds on stages and in the streets.

Melz Staccz wants to be known as the top female rapper in Colorado, and she's actually one of the best rappers in the state — which is a real accomplishment for a recent transplant from Chicago who's only been making music for a few years. While she's based in Colorado Springs and has built a following there, she's started making waves up and down the Front Range, including in Denver. With an eye toward collaboration and a mix of turnt-up dance hits and introspective songs, Staccz is winning fans across the hip-hop spectrum.

Standing out in this area's crowded rock scene is a tough thing to do. But in just a couple of years, Oxeye Daisy has won over a glut of fans and is poised to be Denver's next breakout act, if the young rockers were to ever hit the road. Led by Lela Roy, whose wild vocal range is put to use on the band's self-titled 2018 debut, Oxeye Daisy writes and plays fun, danceable pop that covers the emotional spectrum. The band, which has been performing at small venues throughout town, recently dropped a stunning cover of the Cranberries "Dreams" with fellow rockers Tyto Alba. We can't wait to see what's next.

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