Best Jazz Club 2023 | Nocturne | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Linnea Covington

One of the sweetest aspects of Nocturne is its supper-club atmosphere, something owners Scott and Nicole Mattson wanted to create when they opened the club in 2015. But the live music — exclusively jazz and showcasing the best local talent Wednesday through Sunday — is the real star here. The club also has an artist-in-residence program, with musicians typically honing their craft for six to eight weeks, giving them a distinct introduction to Denver jazz fans and helping to establish flourishing careers. Nocturne is serious about its artists, and your prepaid "dinner and a show" tab includes a percentage that goes directly to the musicians.0x2029

Molly Martin

When Bar 404 opened in December 2021 in the former home of Rory's Tavern, owners Kerry O'Brien and Marty Varela were eager to start a music program. Enter jazz veteran Ron LeGault, who had played in the building before and had experience in curating programs. After a test run of a weekly jazz series that consistently filled the room, every Wednesday since has been dedicated to free jazz performances from 7 to 9 p.m. You'll find some of the same musicians you'd see at dedicated jazz clubs around town, but for free and in a neighborhood-bar atmosphere, with cheap but delicious bar food and drinks.

The Bluebird stands out for its diverse booking practices, multi-level layout, excellent acoustics and support for local talent. But another great attribute is its location, which provides concert-goers with lots to do before and after a show. A Bluebird concert can turn into a day of East Colfax adventuring: Fill up on brunch at Denver Biscuit Company, get some spur-of-the-moment ink at Certified Tattoo Studios, then grab a pre-show drink across the street at Goosetown Tavern. And after a night of dancing to top-notch music, you'll be grateful for the late-night dining options within walking distance of the venue.

Riley Cowing

You already know the Ogden as one of Denver's top music venues, but if you're a Gen Xer, you probably remember it as the place you went on Saturday nights to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show. And if you're a Boomer — or even older — you might recall its first-run-flicks heyday, which the Ogden enjoyed from its opening day in 1917 through most of the twentieth century. It's only been a music destination since the mid-'90s, so the next time you're listening to your favorite new band there, take a moment to think about the kids who once gathered for the Saturday serials, the lovers coming to see Cleopatra on the silver screen, even the proto-goth Rocky Horror fanatics with their lingerie and bags of uncooked rice. You're in good company.

Eric Gruneisen

Considering that Taylor Swift is embarking on a tour that stops at the 76,000-capacity Empower Field, it's all the more impressive that the Grizzly Rose provided her a platform years ago, when she was less pop and more country. The venue has been Denver's country-music stalwart since it opened in 1989, and consistently hosts five boot-stomping events a week, including concerts from both local and national country bands, with Denver-based acts allotted several nights a week to allow for a residency of sorts. The Grizzly Rose is pure honky-tonk, with not one, but two mechanical bulls, a 2,500-square-foot raised dance floor, a pool room with five tables, an indoor smoking area and line-dancing classes — so pull on your dancing boots and mosey on down.

Best Venue for Music, Comedy, Circus and More

Oriental Theater

Barry Brecheisen

The Oriental was erected in 1927 and has remained a cultural hub for the Tennyson corridor ever since. While the location attracts badass bands like itchy-O, Alestorm, the Reverend Horton Heat, Black Flag and more, it's also known for a swath of other entertainment, regularly hosting film screenings and comedy acts, both local and touring, as well as more eclectic offerings such as lucha libre wrestling. It's also home to the annual Carnivale de Sensuale variety show, and welcomes similar events that showcase burlesque, circus arts, aerial performers, magicians and more.

With its rock-and-roll memorabilia and psychedelic paraphernalia, So Many Roads is dedicated to keeping the spirit of the Grateful Dead alive. Deadheads gather here weekly to check out Dead cover bands, Phish cover bands and Jerry Garcia Band cover bands, and to listen to original jam bands during its open-mic nights. So Many Roads is also a brewery, and its beers are all named after Dead tunes, such as the Iko Iko IPA, the Midnight Moonlight Porter and the Nut Fade Away Nut Brown Ale. The venue had to close for a spell last year because of city code violations, but it reopened in December with a concert featuring the Cosmic Charlies that even attracted fans from out of state, showing how important Deadhead bars are to the psychedelic community.

At this time last year, Denverites were eagerly awaiting the second coming of Ophelia's Electric Soapbox, which was making use of the pandemic downtime to renovate. The revamped Ophelia's opened at the beginning of April 2022, welcoming the public back into the unique spot, where musicians play on a stage on the lower level while diners on the restaurant level watch from above. But Ophelia's is known for more than its music and its food, as good as they both are: For many years, the Victorian brownstone Airedale Building was home to a hotel, brothel, peep show and sex shop. Owner Justin Cucci described the spot as a "gastro-brothel" upon opening Ophelia's there in 2015, and the slogan says it all: "If these walls could talk, they'd moan!"


The Gothic Theatre has been a Denver landmark for nearly a century. It debuted in the 1920s as a movie theater and hosted community gatherings like Easter egg hunts during the Great Depression. It ended its film career for good in the '80s after a stint as a porn theater, but that's when its musical history began, with scattered rock shows from bands like Nirvana, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Beastie Boys, Soundgarden and more. The Gothic officially became a music mecca in 1998 when it was bought by Steve Schalk and his business partner for $175,000. And in November 2022, Schalk sold the Gothic to AEG, which had already been managing its bookings for a decade, for $2 million — which was clearly money well spent. Here's to another century of music at the Gothic!

Molly Martin

Lauren Beno and Denise Day have been best friends for a decade, and in May 2022 they put all their love into Town Hall Collaborative, an event space at the heart of the Santa Fe Art District. The gathering space, which includes a full bar and food trucks, is also a venue for live music, the arts and more. Pop-up markets, DIY workshops, community-oriented learning events, book clubs, open-mic nights, creative writing classes, speed dating and even Shabbat dinners are options on Town Hall Collaborative's calendar, which is filled with events that the whole family can enjoy.

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