Best Independent Venue for Local and Traveling Acts 2024 | hi-dive | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

Best Independent Venue for Local and Traveling Acts


Courtesy of the hi-dive

Musicians have a lot to thank the hi-dive for. Since it opened in 2003, the intimate music venue and bar has provided the stage where many bands cut their teeth before going mainstream, including Nathaniel Rateliff, MGMT, St. Vincent and the National, to name a few. It also hosts Indie 102.3's Local 303 Meetup each month, where you can catch quality local bands for free. The little blue building has a solid hold on the hearts of Denverites who love live music, cheap drinks and a friendly dive-bar atmosphere that consistently serves up memorable nights and lifelong relationships. We couldn't imagine the Mile High music scene without it.

Best Community Support for a Venue


HQ had some bad luck last August when an outside water pipe burst and flooded its basement spot, HQ Underground, which hosted drag and burlesque events. The damage was extensive, and HQ concerts were moved to other stages while co-owners Scott Happel and Peter Ore created a fundraiser to deal with the immediate repairs (which insurance wouldn't cover). The venue has been a beloved live-music haven for the community, which showed up in spades with benefit concerts and more fundraising events. While the basement is still closed, HQ was able to open its main-floor space within a few months of the disaster. Can you feel the love?

Jacqueline Collins

The local hip-hop scene has found a champion in River Bar, which has weekly events dedicated to the culture. There's the Wolf Wednesdays open mic, hosted by Yasmine Holtz, who performs her own hip-hop and R&B as Jhazzy Wolf; her event occasionally offers incentives for those with winning performances, from studio time to cash to even a halftime headliner slot at Blue Arena. There's also Beats Bodega on Thursdays, hosted by Face Defeat, which includes DJs spinning hip-hop beats and pass-the-mic cyphers. At either of these events, you're sure to catch some top-notch talent, but this art-filled wonderland is the perfect place to plant yourself on any given night.

Michael Emery Hecker

Mission Ballroom has only been in operation since 2019, but it quickly solidified itself as one of the best venues in the city. Not only does the Mission bring in must-see touring artists, but it has a premier layout. Inspired by Red Rocks Amphitheatre, the wide, stadium-style steps provide unobstructed views of the stage, and the bars located on each side of the venue, top and bottom, ensure that you never have a long wait to get a drink. The floor area itself is huge, so there's always room to dance, and the 4,000-capacity venue has pitch-perfect acoustics.

Best Venue to See Local Art With the Music

Fiddler's Green

Fiddler's Green opened in 1988 after it was commissioned by the Museum of Outdoor Arts as an expansive earth sculpture, even winning an award from the American Institute of Architecture. The venue is known for bringing in big names — upcoming shows this year include Billy Strings and the Dave Matthews Band — but it's also a big supporter of the local arts, with a mural program that adds new installations each year. At concerts, you can catch murals by David Swartz, Chad Bolsinger, Jason Graves, Jessica McMillan and more, with many depicting Colorado wildlife such as bison, wolves, owls, snakes and birds.


As spring rolls around and the snow begins to melt, our minds immediately turn to the Red Rocks concert season. The most well-known venue in the state, if not the country, Red Rocks Amphitheatre is more than a music venue — it's a landmark. The sprawling venue and park in Morrison is bursting with history, from the dinosaur fossils embedded in the rocks to the many musicians who have graced the stage. We couldn't envision a summer without attending a Red Rocks concert or Film on the Rocks, and it's the perfect place to take visiting friends or family for a taste of one of the many benefits of living in Denver.

Mark Payler

Dazzle has brought so much to the jazz scene since it opened its doors at 930 Lincoln Street in 1997, but the venue really showed its love for the city by deciding to spotlight another jazz club when it had its long-anticipated reopening in the Denver Performing Arts Complex last August. The El Chapultepec Piano Lounge honors the come-as-you-are spot that closed during the pandemic, in partnership with the El Chapultepec Legacy Project. Dedicated to maintaining the 'Pec's legacy, the lounge offers late-night sets from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays — and they're all free.

Courtesy of Nocturne

Want dinner and a show? Then head over to Nocturne, which has been blending live jazz with exceptional seasonal dishes since it opened ten years ago. With an intimate ambience and music-forward layout, this is where you can see local jazz icons up close and personal. The listening-room environment, with tables nestled around the stage, is dedicated to classic jazz and hosts resident artists monthly.

Molly Martin

Bar 404 started its music program with a free jazz night every Wednesday under Ron LeGault, and has since expanded its offerings to include live music from all genres (though the free jazz night is still a must-do). From rock and roll to country, blues, pop, bluegrass, indie and everything in between, you're sure to find something intriguing on the calendar. By implementing a larger stage area and reinforcing its sound system, Bar 404 is staking a bigger claim in the Mile High music scene, and we're all the better for it.

Best Place to Rub Elbows With Your Favorite Musicians

Globe Hall

Globe Hall, a small club nestled in the Globeville neighborhood, might be best known for great BBQ that pairs well with live music, but it's also got a secret: Thanks to its AEG-adjacent ownership, the business often hosts artists who are in town to play at one of Denver's mega-venues. Exclusive merch store pop-ups aren't uncommon, nor are last-minute bookings for someone who just sold out Red Rocks that week. You might also find some of your favorite Denver musicians here, enjoying one of many new country, folk or bluegrass acts that the venue typically books. So when you're done smashing that BBQ, be sure to clean your face in case you run into your music-celebrity crush.

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