Best Sound System 2022 | Funktion-One at Sugarkube | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

Sugarkube is a private, members-only arts collective that stays open European late. It also boasts the only Funktion-One Vero VX system in the United States. Funktion-One is commonly used as a marketing term to get people to come out to shows, despite the system often being a mutant combination of other sound systems. But this is the real deal, engineered by one of the only teams in the world licensed to use the rare piece of technology.

Brandon Marshall

Every summer, the Denver Botanic Gardens hosts its Summer Concert Series, which includes shows in the grassy amphitheater at the center of the York Street facility; this year will see performances by DeVotchKa, Corinne Bailey Rae and the Keb' Mo' Band, among others. The DBG will also host the return of Evenings al Fresco, a pandemic innovation that allows you to spend a warm summer evening listening to small ensembles perform while you stroll the stunning grounds. Heighten an already heartwarming experience with a bit (families come here, too) of psilocybin and enjoy the company of friends and music in the midst of lush greenery and exotic plants.

When you want some shisha, you really want two things: a variety of flavors and a clean, comfortable environment in which to enjoy them. You're covered on both counts at Aria, which specializes in hookah and only hookah. The laid-back surroundings are definitely welcoming — you can bring in food if you like, and there are a number of non-alcoholic drinks available — but the big draw is the shisha, with plenty of blends to keep people coming back. Hands down, Aria smokes the competition.

When 3 Kings Tavern announced that it was closing, an owner of the Oriental Theater jumped at the opportunity to create HQ at its South Broadway location. While the club faced the challenges of opening during a worldwide pandemic, HQ has thrived, bringing in both local and touring bands and DJs. But it also hosts karaoke nights, dance parties, drag shows and more; every Friday, it’s now home to indie dance party Lipgloss, which is back at the address where it started more than twenty years ago.

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.

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!

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.
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 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.

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