X Bar

X Bar consistently beats out its competitors by offering a wide variety of entertainment options along with a welcoming, inclusive environment and a low cover fee — even when national performers headline. The huge patio is a perfect place to grab happy hour drinks, and since happy hour goes from 3 to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, there's really no excuse to miss it. When the sun goes down, X Bar becomes a neon-lit party, and there's usually a drag show, theme night or other event to spice things up. The bar is managed by a leading drag queen in the community, Kelela C, so the drag here is not just an afterthought, but a key part of the business. Don't worry, though: The shows always include plenty of dance breaks.

Best Drag Show
Courtesy of the Marijuana Mansion

The Marijuana Mansion hosted its first-ever drag show, Chronic High on Heels, in January, a mix of burlesque, comedy and drag. The event was hosted by Samora Kash, who'd done a photo shoot at the venue and decided it was the perfect spot for a drag show. Performers Coco Bardot, Jessica L'Whor, Lulu Alnight and Lala filled the night with outstanding performances and some cannabis-themed numbers, as well as a funny history of the mansion's haunted past. The show was such a hit that Kash turned it into a monthly fixture at the mansion. Let's hear it for the girls!

mjmansion.com

Who doesn't love disco? Okay, maybe the rockers who protested it back when it first hit clubs decades ago. But as COVID cases started dropping, people were ready to get out and dance like never before, and Josh Schmitz decided that there weren't enough places to go in Denver for dancing. That's when his company, the Handsome Boys, decided to tap into the market with its latest venture, Disco Pig. DJs are now spinning at the Larimer Square spot every night, delivering disco with a little house music mixed in. Predicts Schmitz: "For people who just want to dance, I think you're going to find yourself at Disco Pig."

Michael Trundle has been running the DJ dance party Lipgloss for over twenty years. Like any good host, he knows that it takes at least two things to make a party: people and good music. Trundle just moved the party to 60 South Broadway (now home to HQ), the same address where it began in 2001. With DJ sets that focus primarily on indie and new-wave music, it's the perfect place to meet others with the same taste — and hear songs that you never thought you would hear played in a club. While Lipgloss relies on its spontaneity, you can always expect to meet good people on the floor.

lipglossdenver.com
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.

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