Milk
Aaron Thackeray

For eight years, TheUnderground has filled Milk Bar every Thursday night, bringing in quality local DJs and various touring acts that focus on forward-thinking dance music and keep fans expecting the unexpected. TheUnderground saw some changes during the pandemic, recently moving into the Red Room that connects Milk Bar to Bar Standard — but the move has only upped the ante, as dancers now include the migrating crowds that come down from Bar Standard's main room, as well as revelers that bubble up from the caverns of Milk Bar below.

The Black Box
@JVPhotography11

The Black Box boasts a well-curated mix of popular and underground talent, fed through one of the best sound systems in the city. Bass music might be its bread and butter, but that doesn't mean this club sleeps on other genres. Within the venue's walls, music seekers can hear styles ranging from main-stage EDM to a more refined palate of house, leftfield and drum-and-bass. While its mutant Basscouch Sound system is often touted as one of the best in the state, the Black Box's wooden floors are the real game-changer, allowing for a luxurious dance experience that doesn't wear on you physically, like concrete does.

Mr. Frick exploded out of the pandemic. Using the shutdown downtime to ramp up his original productions, he premiered two EPs of house- and techno-influenced booty breaks. Since then, he's played regular gigs across the city, with shows at Meow Wolf, Club Vinyl and, most recently, a headlining slot at Bar Standard during its STEAM event, which normally highlights international touring headliners. Frick's sound is uncompromising, especially for a city that has a strict love affair with bass music and tech-house.

soundcloud.com/mrfrick

Let's be clear: Denver is sorely lacking in bars and venues that are even hip-hop-friendly, let alone dedicated hip-hop clubs. The Venue hosts musical acts spanning many genres, but it takes the prize for welcoming local hip-hop stars and national acts alike. The northwest Denver spot, located in the corner of a strip mall, has brought underground favorites such as Westside Boogie, Kirko Bangz and Gangsta Boo (coming in July) to Denver's long-ignored hip-hop fans. But we love the Venue for giving some of Colorado's best rappers a stage to rock, including DNA Picasso, Forty $even and Rev. da IV. Keep an eye out for open mics and other talent showcases, where you just might find your new favorite MC.

Nocturne
Courtesy of Nocturne

When Scott and Nicole Mattson opened Nocturne in 2015, they wanted to create a space that made jazz more accessible while also offering a quality aesthetic experience and elevated dining options. With live music five nights a week, you can enjoy the best of local jazz talent (as well as nationally known musicians such as Jeff Hamilton) while sitting at the Art Deco-style bar or in the stage-side dining room. To further its hold on the jazz scene, Nocturne has started a record label called Nocturne Productions, and most recently produced the debut album of the David Bernot Quintet, Never Ending Cycle.

Larimer Lounge
Jeff Davis

If you doubt that the Larimer Lounge is a core part of Denver's impressive musical history, just consider this vastly abbreviated list of bands that have played here over the years: DeVotchKa, Glass Animals, Young the Giant, Portugal. The Man, the Von Bondies, Saint Motel, Tift Merritt, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, the Felice Brothers, Esmé Patterson, Arcade Fire, and lots more. Looking to catch an act so you can brag to your friends that you saw them before they hit it big? The Larimer is the place you will have seen them. Or say you did, anyway.

Lincoln's Roadhouse
Justin Criado

While Lincoln's Roadhouse is known for its Cajun grub, you can also catch some of Denver's best blues acts here on the weekends, including the likes of Johnny O and Michael Hornbuckle. On Fat Tuesday this year, Lincoln's threw down with a lively blues show starring Tony Trahan and the BlueKrewe, and you can expect an equally spirited time any Friday or Saturday night, when music fills the south Denver spot and the kitchen stays open until 11 p.m. Since there's no cover charge, remember to tip your bartender well.

hi-dive
Scott Lentz

In Denver, a city with a serious heavy-metal reputation, there is one undisputed house of metal: the hi-dive. And while the club hosts plenty of other genres, just one look at the iconic venue should be enough to convince you that this is the place to make metal magic, as it's essentially a modern-day CBGB. There's no fancy signage or flashing neon lights, just a small marquee occasionally sporting lines like "Till death do us party." And while metal bars might seem intimidating at first, you'll soon realize that the style's fans make up one big family — just like the hi-dive itself.

Grizzly Rose
Eric Gruneisen

If you want to live the life of the urban cowboy, John Travolta style, the Grizzly Rose is the place for you. You've passed it a million times on I-25, but you owe it to that boot-scootin' baby inside you to check it out. It's not just a country bar; it's also a nightclub, a smokehouse, a dance hall and even a way of life, at least for regulars of the Rose. And let's face it: You've always been curious about trying your luck on a mechanical bull. Mount up!

Mercury Cafe

Although it's gone through several names and even more locations since 1975, the Mercury Cafe remains a cultural hub — and the best all-ages venue in town. And we're not just talking under-21 events, though the Mercury certainly hosts its share of those, along with family-friendly activities. But it also attracts aging hippies and even hipsters, thanks to some programming brought in by new owners Danny Newman, Christy Kruzick and Austin Gayer, while retaining the old spirit and plenty of the old traditions (swing dancing! student concerts! witches' plays!). Founder Marilyn Megenity sold her place when the moon was right — and so far, the Merc remains a shining example of a gathering place with room for everyone.

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