Best New Club 2023 | The Crypt | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Molly Martin

Just before the Crypt opened on January 13, 2022, co-owner Priscilla Jerez told us that the spot was "destined to be weird." And the uptown punk bar is determined to stay that way, becoming a nightlife destination for its gothic decor inspired by the book Death Scenes and TV series Tales From the Crypt, as well as live shows from punk, hardcore and prog-rock bands. It's a return to form for the building, which used to house a punk club back in the '80s. And while it serves bar food, most of it is vegan and gluten-free. Without a doubt, this death-themed club will become your favorite haunt.

We can't emphasize enough how much we love Mission Ballroom, which has showcased the best local acts along with national and international artists since it opened in 2019. The layout is impeccable, with amphitheater seating that mimics the wide steps of Red Rocks, an ample floor area, and bars on each side at both the top and the bottom, which makes grabbing a drink without missing out on music easy. The acoustics are also incredible, and who can forget the massive disco ball that lights up in a flower-of-life geometric pattern (and won its own Best of Denver award in 2022)? Playing the 4,000-capacity space, which is operated by AEG, is now on many musicians' bucket lists.

Joel Rekiel, @joelrekiel

When summer nights full of music are just around the corner, our thoughts immediately turn to Levitt Pavilion. The nonprofit, which celebrated its fifth year in Denver last year, has been one of the city's most treasured gifts, thanks to its Free Summer Concert Series, when families and music lovers gather on the lush green grass of Ruby Hill Park for free entertainment from local and national acts. Levitt has ticketed concerts as well, and this summer will welcome artists including CAKE, Yellowcard, Trombone Shorty and more. The nonprofit's mission is to build community through music, and the happy crowds that convene for evenings of music, dancing and mingling are evidence that the goal is being fulfilled.

Jack Gould

Considered a stepping stone for many musicians, Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom is where local acts cut their teeth before making their way to places like Red Rocks. Cervantes' — which contains two separate indoor options (the Ballroom and Other Side) as well as an outdoor patio with a stage — celebrated its twentieth anniversary in January with an amazing daily lineup of concerts. While Cervantes' often caters to jam bands and EDM, you'll also hear multiple genres there, as well as some surprise shows. For instance, last summer, Colorado DJ GRiZ announced a spur-of-the-moment set on the outdoor patio, and lines to get in wrapped around several blocks. Whether you're dancing to bluegrass on the patio or grooving to a jamtronic group inside, Cervantes' is a guaranteed good time.

Molly Martin

A bold turquoise-and-gold-striped exterior emblazoned with a lion heralds an intimate music lounge with dive-bar vibes, grungy music, cheap drinks and lip-smacking slices of pizza. The Lion's Lair is one of Denver's oldest independent music venues, first opening as the Playboy Club in the 1930s and then the Aladdin Club before reopening in the early '90s in its current iteration. The lounge has a varied calendar (including weekly open mics for both music and comedy) and books local bands almost every night. Most important, the drinks here are cheap: Well liquor, shots and beer range from $5 to $7, and during happy hour (Thursday to Sunday, 3 to 8 p.m.), all drinks are an additional $1 off.

Julianna Photography

Shows at the dark, divey Globe Hall run the genre gamut, but a big part of the venue's draw is that on concert nights, the kitchen sends out heaping plates of tender, top-notch Texas-style barbecue: brisket, pulled pork, sausage, chicken and even jackfruit, all lightly seasoned and smoked over post oak wood, which gives everything a slightly spicy and smoky taste. We also applaud the sides of mac and cheese, fried okra, loaded waffle fries, potato salad and apple slaw. Wash it all down with an inexpensive beer and finish with a banana pudding or, in season, peach cobbler. Not in the mood for music? As long as a band is playing, food is available for takeout, too.

There's no shortage of great queer bars and clubs in and around Denver, but X Bar remains our top pick. While many queer establishments cater to a certain niche, X Bar is where you're most likely to find every letter of the LGBTQ+ community represented. Open daily from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m., this spot has all kinds of crowd-pleasing entertainment, including Laugh Your Yas Off, the longest-running queer comedy showcase in Denver. X Bar has a different signature event for every weeknight, from Musical Mondays to rotating drag shows every Friday and Saturday hosted by some of Denver's best performers. The Buy One Get One Happy Hour lasts for five hours every Monday through Saturday, with Sundays dedicated to Beer Bust, when you can get four hours of unlimited beer for $13. With low or no cover charges and an expansive outdoor patio with plenty of seating, X Bar is our go-to for summer day drinking, wild nights and everything in between.

Brandon Marshall

With two decades of supporting local musicians and touring acts under its worn leather belt, the hi-dive has become an institution in Denver. Its smaller stage, elevated at just three feet, creates the perfect intimate setting for the rock and metal shows the club is known for. That's not to say it discriminates against other genres; you'll find plenty of singer-songwriter, indie and country acts here, too. But if you like cheap tickets, excellent music and a laid-back atmosphere, then the hi-dive should be your go-to spot for rocking out. As owner Matty Clark told us in November, "Even as Denver's been booming, the local scene has stayed tight-knit." And much of the credit for that goes to the hi-dive.

Jeff Davis

When the Larimer Lounge opened just over twenty years ago, there were hardly any businesses or storefronts on its stretch of Larimer Street. But as much as the neighborhood has changed, the Larimer's mission of bringing rock to RiNo has remained the same. The club, which just completed renovations on its bar, often books indie-rock bands on the brink of making it big: The Lumineers, Arcade Fire, Portugal. The Man and the Killers are just some of the big names that got started on its intimate stage. A quick perusal of the club's current schedule reads like an indie-rock bible; check it out, and maybe one day you, too, will be able to say you saw them when.

Broadway is home to some of the city's great live-music locales, but HQ is the best place to catch a metal show. The club moved into the former 3 Kings Tavern space after the pandemic, when Oriental Theater owners Peter Ore and Scott Happel took over the beloved dive bar with the intention of keeping its independent music legacy alive. And metal bands are taking the stage nearly every night: This year's lineup includes Misfits guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein, hardcore legends Madball and new wave of British heavy-metal mainstays Satan and Max Cavalera's Soulfly. Those acts alone give HQ more than enough heavy-metal cred, but the space also regularly books local bands and events, including drag and burlesque shows. That type of diversity and welcoming attitude is pretty metal, too. Horns, HQ!

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