Best Place to See Vampires on a Night Out

Milk Bar

Milk
Aaron Thackeray

Even though Twilight came out nearly fifteen years ago, vampires are still all the rage. If you want to find one in Denver, Milk Bar is the place to go. Inside the cavern-like club, it's easy to trade your sense of direction for a sense of the supernatural. Goth Wednesdays and Techno Thursdays are free, while Fridays and Saturdays see a rotation of musical styles and performers for a $5 cover before 11 p.m. Neither milk nor garlic are on the menu, but costumes, dancing and fantasy can be found in abundance.

It sometimes seems like the people working at this vinyl listening bar were hired solely for their taste in music — though their serving skills aren't bad, either. Owners Mitchell Foster and Will Minter took inspiration from Japanese jazz kissas (a jazz tea of sorts; the two went on a ten-day trip to Tokyo to soak up the aesthetic) as well as other listening bars to create a unique spot in the heart of the Art District on Santa Fe. As Denver's first kissa-style record bar, ESP HiFi plays a variety of genres, from ambient and jazz to funk and soul, all through high-class Garrard 401 turntables, Line Magnetic 518ia tube amps, and Klipsch Cornwall and Klipschorn speakers. You'll be shazamming the whole time.

Robert Champion and Mario Nocifera wanted to create a Tulum/Burning Man-inspired immersive venue — and wow, did they succeed. They hired a core crew of twelve local artists to design immersive hubs throughout the venue, including a beehive-themed geodesic dome called "Enter the Hive Mind," by Aleesha Anderson. Even the bar is a work of art: Jon Medina's "The Willow Weave Bar" is enveloped in vines and forestry. The venue doesn't announce its DJs, in the hopes that people will come to experience the art and high-quality performances rather than solely to see a star. Meow Wolf is great, but this place purrs.

The Salt Lick Denver dates to the summer of 2020, when Andrea Hoang, Jason Edelstein and a group of their friends started filming band performances in the soggy basement of a house they were renting. The series of shows, aptly called Songs From the Pond, still broadcasts online and is produced totally in-house. From that start, the group launched a record label, and its five-artist roster — Bear and the Beasts, John Baldwin, mlady, Silver Screen Fantasy and Sponsored Content — often help with and appear in the collective's well-produced music videos, even venturing out into a burn scar for a good visual narrative. This year, the Salt Lick also opened a cozy, affordable recording studio to further nurture Denver's music scene.

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Founded by five ex-DIME (Detroit Institute of Music Education) students, Coastless Creatives had a rough start, launching its collective just as the pandemic hit. But these DIY creatives powered through and held their first events last year, including an interactive, immersive arts and music event called Organic Dystopia that included six local musical acts, visual-art displays, creators selling their wares, tarot card readings and nail painting, all in a forest-like setting inspired by Meow Wolf. The collective's goal is to advocate for musicians by creating concerts that save them time and money so they can focus on making music. The Coastless crew curates and promotes each show, and also records video of each act's set for free. Keep an eye out for more Coastless Creatives productions this year.

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Mission Ballroom

The Mission is essentially an indoor version of Red Rocks, with its wide, step-like seating and phenomenal acoustics. It checks off on everything an indoor venue should have: multiple bars with quick bartenders and a good selection of booze; plentiful bathrooms resulting in fewer lines; a top-notch lighting setup that can suit any band's needs; and a stunner disco ball. Outside, murals abound, showcasing the venue's taste in local art. The Mission has become a Denver staple in the three short years since it opened, with people coming from all over the country to see the national acts that swing through.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Yes, Red Rocks is a repeat winner, but come on! This venue is on the performance bucket list of almost any band you can think of, for many reasons. Its acoustics and its history are both legendary, and it's got natural beauty to spare. On a clear night, you can see the lights of Denver in the distance from your seat on the steps as you marvel at Ship Rock and Creation Rock to either side of you and get that feeling of being part of something larger than yourself. A Red Rocks show is one of the quintessential moments in the Colorado experience, and this venue deserves every award that could be heaped upon it — including, perhaps, Most Expensive Lemonade Outside a Ballpark.

Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom

Cervantes' really provides the best of both worlds with its art-splashed outdoor patio and two indoor spaces, the Masterpiece Ballroom and the more intimate Other Side. Bringing in funky acts both local and national, it's a cool place to see a wide variety of bands, especially jam, bluegrass, funk and DJ acts like GRiZ or CloZee. Cervantes' has held its own as an independent venue in Denver for nearly twenty years, and it's become an essential part of the city in that time.

Mission Ballroom

When the Mission Ballroom opened in 2019, everyone was impressed with the incredible acoustics, the incredible murals and the incredible disco ball...that failed to spin on opening night. Since then, though, we've been able to see the shimmering orb in all its glory. Emblazoned with a flower-of-life pattern, the colossal disco ball turns as LED lights illuminate it to the beat of the music. It's the cherry on top of an already sweet venue, and the Mission just wouldn't be the same without it.

Marquis Pizza

When we stumble out of a show at the Marquis Theater, sweaty, ears still ringing from the music and (probably) a little buzzed, there's only one thing we want: a hot slice. Fortunately, you don't have to look far. The literal hole in the wall that is the Marquis Pizza window is a beacon in the night, calling to all who crave a late-night fix of thin-crust, New York-style pizza. Slices are cheap, tasty and ready fast, and that's exactly what a post- (or even mid-) show bite should be.

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