Face it: Denver is no Memphis. It's just not a blues town. But if you look around, you can find bars, restaurants, pool halls and more that host regular blues jams and showcase touring and local artists that are as good as anyone playing in the South. Here are ten of our favorite places to hear the blues.
1962 Market Street
Opened in 1933, the Mexican-restaurant-turned-venue is one of Denver’s oldest jazz bars, hosting its fair share of blues players on its quaint stage. The bar's menu includes authentic Mexican fare. If you really want to hate yourself, try the El Chapultepec shot, an elixir of green tequila complete with a candied cricket.
The Rusty Bucket
3355 South Wadsworth Boulevard, Lakewood
Tucked inside a shopping complex next to a Subway restaurant is the Rusty Bucket, a Pittsburgh-themed blues bar. The decorations are all black and gold, though you can find some Colorado Rockies and Denver Broncos logos sprinkled in there, too. The stage in the space’s rear hosts local blues acts, including the Wednesday night Big Blues Jam.
2057 Larimer Street
Herb’s doesn’t discriminate musically: The downtown dive bar showcases it all, including blues, funk, reggae and punk. Like El Chapultepec, Herb’s opened in 1933, welcoming jazz and blues musicians of all stripes. Beat author and jazz fanatic Jack Kerouac is said to have frequented Herb’s.
1201 South Pearl Street
A friendly New Orleans-themed biker bar, Lincoln’s Roadhouse hosts blues musicians as regularly as any place in town. An Eric Clapton Crossroads poster is situated next to the corner stage, in case performers need some extra motivation.
4923 West 38th Avenue
This sixty-year-old establishment is home to the longest-running blues jam session in the city and has been recognized as one of the best blues bars in Denver by Westword. Musicians of all skill levels and ages are welcome to play during the weekly blues jams. Ziggies is the closest thing to a Memphis Beale Street bar in town.
Read on for more of the best blues bars in Denver.
500 16th Street, #320
Live at Jack’s, indeed. The venue hosts live music six nights a week, and the lineup consistently includes blues artists. Jams spring up regularly. It's located on the third level of the Denver Pavilions, so the views of downtown are something to behold, as well.
2199 California Street
Surely, Mercury Cafe isn’t a blues bar; you’re talking about that legendary hippie restaurant that hosts tarot card readings and witch gatherings, right? Yep. The splendidly alternative live-music venue hosts weekly Tuesday night blues dance lessons, complete with a Delta-blues-spinning DJ. The inclusion of blues music among the restaurant's many other offerings adds to the spot’s one-of-a-kind charm.
11940 East Colfax Avenue
The Zephyr Lounge holds poker nights and karaoke; blues acts line the Christmas-light-studded stage every week. Oversized stuffed animals get cozy in the corners, while kitschy art hangs on the worn-out walls.
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Oskar Blues Brewery
1800 Pike Road, Unit B, Longmont
Beer and blues: The home of Dale’s Pale Ale originally started in Lyons but moved to Longmont in 2008 in search of a bigger space. The brewery hosts blues and rock acts Monday through Friday. Erik Boa’s Blues Mondays are a weekly staple, while the Mile High Blues Society regularly jams at the venue, too.
44th Avenue Grill
7605 West 44th Avenue, Wheat Ridge
This joint might not look like a typical blues bar, but blues crooners will play pretty much anywhere (ever see any of those old Chitlin’ Circuit spots?). The diner/pool hall hosts regular jams, including Rob Fiorino's Thursday night blues event.