10 Bygone Alternative Spaces That Shaped Denver Underground Music

Future Single Mom at Dryer Plug Studio, September 2015.
Future Single Mom at Dryer Plug Studio, September 2015. Tom Murphy
Last week we brought you a list of twelve defunct DIY spaces that shaped Denver's music scene; this week we're focusing on alternative venues. Though the distinction between the two is blurry, what distinguishes an alternative space is that it has another function entirely: Perhaps it's a coffee shop, an art gallery or a bike-repair shop, but it also hosts occasional concerts. Here are ten alternative venues, listed in alphabetical order, that had an impact on the local scene during their years of operation.
click to enlarge Reality Show at The Bike Pit, December 2014. - TOM MURPHY
Reality Show at The Bike Pit, December 2014.
Tom Murphy
1. Bike Pit
A nonprofit bike shop/collective near the Baker neighborhood, the Bike Pit was mostly a volunteer-run effort where people in the community could go to get their bikes repaired and even learn how to repair the bikes themselves. This place also held workshops at which attendees could learn how to build their own bicycles. Additionally, this space hosted shows that might not happen elsewhere, including folk and crust punk alongside experimental music. It closed at the end of 2014.
click to enlarge The Don'ts and Be Carefuls at Brass Tree House, March 2011. - TOM MURPHY
The Don'ts and Be Carefuls at Brass Tree House, March 2011.
Tom Murphy
2. Brass Tree House
At this house in the Baker neighborhood, an art collective filmed live concerts it released as online television shows. The lineups were curated, but the audience not so much, resulting in some unpredictable moments during filming. Though short-lived, the completely DIY “Brass Tree Sessions” presented a high-quality slice of the Denver scene around 2011.
click to enlarge Catatonic Lydia at Breakdown Book Collective, November 2002. - TOM MURPHY
Catatonic Lydia at Breakdown Book Collective, November 2002.
Tom Murphy
3. Breakdown Book Collective
Breakdown Books was an anarchist collective and community space that actually didn't come off like it was run by some misguided ne'er do wells. It seemed genuinely open and welcoming and as if it took its principles seriously in a more inclusive sense. Of course the usual anarchist and anti-imperialist literature and media could be found there, but various community groups held their meetings in the space, including the first incarnation of Lady Fest Out West in 2002 and 2003. Initially housed in the Other Side Arts building near Highland, Breakdown had moved to its final location on the west side of Ogden Street between 14th Avenue and Colfax. At both locations, the space hosted shows of all stripes. Pictured above is the basement of the Ogden location and the place where most of the louder shows were held. Breakdown folded by 2007.
click to enlarge Mount Eerie at Brooks Center Arts, September 2008. - TOM MURPHY
Mount Eerie at Brooks Center Arts, September 2008.
Tom Murphy
4. Brooks Center Arts
The Brooks Center for Spirituality opened its basement space, the Underground Tea House, to events booked and organized by Laura Goldhamer, until that run ended in 2009. But while it was alive, Brooks Center Arts hosted shows from local musicians like BDRMPPL, Married in Berdichev and Joe Sampson, as well as touring acts like Mount Eerie and Karl Blau.
click to enlarge Calvin Johnson at Chielle, October 2006. - TOM MURPHY
Calvin Johnson at Chielle, October 2006.
Tom Murphy
5. Chielle
When Chielle first opened on South Broadway, the store was a clothing shop that carried local literature and music. It hosted an occasional concert, but it did much more so when business owners Sara Thurston, Wendy Marlow and Alisa Dowell relocated the shop to a space two doors east of the Bluebird Theater. Between 2006 and 2007, K Records founder Calvin Johnson performed there, as did folk legend Michael Hurley, Amy Annelle, and indie-pop band Dear Nora.

Read on to discover more alternative venues that shaped Denver's music scene.

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.