Best Country Venue 2022 | Grizzly Rose | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
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!

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.

Although Sugarkube is secretive and doesn't like press, this award is well deserved. Located in an industrial neighborhood, the warehouse venue holds Berlin-style DJ parties that can go until the break of dawn, supplemented by heavy bass from Funktion-One speakers. Live painters and flow artists abound, and it's BYOB, so you don't have to worry about crazy drink prices. But as the award states, it's members-only...and they don't let just anyone through those warehouse doors.

The Comedy Works has kept Denver laughing through some very rough times, and there's a bright schedule ahead: Brian Posehn, George Lopez, Craig Robinson, Jeff Ross, Jon Lovitz and some dude named Adam Cayton-Holland, who once wrote for this very publication, are all slated to perform there in the coming months. The downtown location continues to be one of the major arteries of the city's blood flow, constricted somewhat by the pandemic these last couple of years but still feeding the city's funny bone. Denver has already lost too many of its LoDo stalwarts; we're grateful that the Comedy Works is still bringing the funny, night after night.

A student-centric signal affiliated with the University of Colorado Boulder, Radio 1190 is among the oddest spots on the dial — and that's a good thing. Rather than programming the same tunes heard on commercial outlets, the independent, nonprofit station, located at 1190 AM, offers up a wide range of specialty shows, including Hypnotic Turtle Radio, which describes itself as a "mind-meld of the beautiful and the bizarre," and Local Shakedown, which gives artists from these parts a platform to reach ears across the greater metro area. Predictable, it's not.

Margot Chobanian, who goes by her first name on the air, is the program director of the Colorado Sound, and hosts the five-hour weekday block from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. But in addition to serving as a first-rate host of regular programming, she delivers a feature called "Music 101" that's pure bliss for anyone who likes to find common ground between widely varied artists and songs. She loves to highlight tracks from an assortment of genres — cover versions of the same composition by seemingly dissimilar performers, cuts linked by shared personnel and so on — in ways that demonstrate the connectedness of all musical things. Her explanations balance nerdy ephemera with pure love.

Denver has a blossoming scene of Latin roots music, with bands that add their own twists to the traditional sounds. And one of the most innovative champions of the genre is Los Mocochetes, a Chicanx six-piece act that layers traditional Mexican sounds with funk, always guaranteeing a high-energy, unforgettable show. The bandmates honor and share their pride in their culture's music while also using it to express and educate about issues that affect Latinx people. Don't miss out on this group.

He's best known as the banjo player for bluegrass band Leftover Salmon, a 2021 Colorado Music Hall of Fame inductee. But Andy Thorn has recently gone viral as a solo act, after YouTube videos of him playing tunes for a friendly fox he named Foxy in his Boulder back yard were shared millions of times. One video, which shows Foxy calmly perched on a rock while being serenaded, has now been played almost 4 million times. Thorn even made an album, Fox Songs and Other Tales During the Pandemic, that was inspired by their encounters.

You've probably seen these up-and-comers playing at venues such as Cervantes' and breweries in and around Denver as Deer Creek Sharpshooters grow their way into the city's bluegrass scene. With Luke Hinder on mandolin, Harrison Gaeng on banjo, Zach Hudson on fiddle, Fritz Boniface on Dobro, Daniel Putrino on bass and Josh Bergmann on guitar, this bluegrass group is now in the midst of mastering its debut album.

Yonder Mountain String Band, Colorado's favorite bluegrass band, started 2022 with a bang, releasing a long-anticipated album and celebrating it with a sold-out concert at Meow Wolf. Even though the Nederland-based act had to work on Get Yourself Outside during the height of the pandemic, guitarist Adam Aijala says the musicians had never been more prepared in the band's twenty-year-long career. They took a completely new approach and pre-produced the album, knowing where every solo and arrangement would go before hitting the studio. And the practice paid off.

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