Best Jazz Club 2022 | Nocturne | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
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.

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.

Evan Semón

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.

Courtesy of the hi-dive

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.

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.

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