In a 2020 article for a series about "cities where live music has exploded," Rolling Stone turned the spotlight on Denver, proclaiming that our city is "in the midst of a huge live-music boom." Some would argue that the scene has been booming for years — and not only does Denver have its share of venues dedicated to live music, but a number of restaurants and bars around town offer live music, as well.
Keep reading for seventeen of the best Denver bars and eateries with live-music lineups:
535 16th Street Mall
Appaloosa Grill has been a staple on the 16th Street Mall for over two decades, but it’s also been one of the few spots in downtown Denver to offer live music every night of the week. These days, a good part of the bar and restaurant's live-music program is dedicated to weekly residencies, including rock band the Westway Bells on Mondays, jazz/hip-hop act Brant Williams on Tuesdays, jazz trumpeter Gabe Mervine on Wednesdays and power trio Mixed Apes on Sundays, with a variety of acts on Fridays and Saturdays. There is usually no cover charge.
2060 Champa Street
Technically, this beloved Denver dive's name is Carioca Cafe, but it's known simply as Bar Bar owing to the neon sign above the front door. While Bar Bar was long known for its punk shows, the city discovered it didn't have a cabaret license after an undercover cop was allowed entry with an under-21 ID and purchased alcohol. Bar Bar reached a settlement with the city and closed for two weeks, and now finally has its cabaret license — so it can host live music (legally) again. The bar has also added drag shows to its schedule; all are donation-based, and all proceeds go to the performers.
Bar 404 opened in December 2021 in the former home of Rory's Tavern (and Club 404 long before that). With its intimate atmosphere and delicious eats, Bar 404 is the place to be on Wednesdays, when the Ron LeGault Trio offers smooth jazz to soothe your mid-week blues. The weekly showcase won the spot a 2023 Best of Denver for It also books plenty of other live-music acts, which you can find on its calendar.
2854 Larimer Street
The Beacon celebrated its one-year anniversary in December; in just twelve months, it managed to become one of the most popular bars in RiNo. Known for its Burning Man atmosphere with immersive art installations by local artists in every room, Beacon prides itself on championing Denver-based creatives and DJs. Sip delicious cocktails under the woven-oak installation at the bar as you watch revelers on the dance floor under a cloud-like installation, dancing to beats from the best of Denver's DJs. Black Buzzard at Oskar Blues
1624 Market Street
Oskar Blues Grill & Brew opened just off the 16th Street Mall in January 2018, bringing with it a basement blues and rock venue called the Black Buzzard. It's been a big success, winning Westword's Best of Denver award for Best New Venue the year it opened; it continues to host both local and national bands, and has become a popular destination for local comics with its comedy nights, as well.
1618 East 17th Avenue
It's Halloween year-round at The Crypt, which opened in January 2022. Decorated with concert fliers and goth decor inspired by the book Death Scenes and the TV series Tales From the Crypt, this spooky nightlife destination will become your new favorite haunt with concerts that cater to punk, prog-rock, metal, grunge and hardcore fans. The Crypt won a well-deserved Best of Denver award for Best New Club in 2023, and its unique array of bar food and well-priced drinks only adds to its standing as a badass place to see live music.
3242 East Colfax Avenue
For many years, Goosetown Tavern was just a great neighborhood hang, but when Chris Swank (who owns the Bluebird Theater across the street and Mezcal next door) bought it from the Wynkoop Group in 2014, he had a new stage built and new sound and light systems installed. Since then, live music has become much more of a focus, with weekly karaoke and open-mic nights. Cover charges vary.
2057 Larimer Street
Located two blocks from Coors Field, Herb’s has long been a hot spot for jazz (it’s owned by jazz saxophonist Laura Newman, who leads Alive on Arrival) and other genres such as rock, blues and funk. Jazz pianist and organist Vlad Girshevich holds court on Mondays, trumpeter Gabe Mervine plays on Tuesdays, Diana Castro is there with a funk jam on Wednesdays, bassist Dave Randon is in the house on Thursdays, and a mix of acts show up on the weekends. There is usually no cover charge.
1201 South Pearl Street
Lincoln’s Roadhouse is known for its Cajun grub, but on Friday and Saturday nights, live bands play in a small space next to the front door. Lincoln’s is big on the blues (Westword has named it Best Blues Club multiple times), and it brings in some of the area’s finest blues acts, such as Johnny O and Michael Hornbuckle, along with the occasional national act and local rock and rockabilly bands. There’s no cover charge.
2022 East Colfax Avenue
Decades before it became the punk and rock haven it is today, the Lion's Lair was a jazz club where legends like Billie Holiday and Dexter Gordon played. It's also got one of the oldest liquor licenses in Denver. While the storied dive bar is perfect for downing a beer or four, you can also see local bands here. Every so often, the Lair hosts big names in punk, such as John Doe or Mike Watt, and former Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra occasionally puts on his own DJ dance party.
2701 Larimer Street
Nearly sixteen years ago, the Meadowlark opened as an underground bar with the intimate feel of a log cabin. Since then, the bar’s weekly jazz nights have cultivated a certain reputation for nurturing up-and-coming musicians: For starters, the Lumineers played at the Meadowlark's open-mic nights long before headlining arenas around the globe, and Nathaniel Rateliff and the Wheel played intimate sets there back in the day. These days, you can catch live bands and DJs on the weekends on the outdoor patio stage. Cover charge varies.
Number Thirty Eight
3560 Chestnut Place
Number Thirty Eight has a taproom with rotating brews and serves food, but the spot’s most impressive element might be its massive outdoor patio area that boasts a huge stage, with plenty of room for music indoors, as well. In accordance with city guidelines, for the time being, only acoustic music can be offered outside. But Number Thirty Eight continues to host live music through the week, and most of its concerts are free. Another location is slated to open in Littleton in summer 2024.
Ophelia's Electric Soapbox
1215 20th Street
Ophelia's reopened in April 2022 after undergoing renovations during the pandemic. The three-story Airedale Building has a storied history, with many of its years spent as a brothel, sex shop and peep-show venue before it became Ophelia's, which pokes fun at that past with this tagline: "If these walls could talk, they would moan." Aside from a variety of unique dishes and cocktails, it's a fantastic live-music venue, with the stage on the basement level with the ceiling cut out above, so restaurant patrons on that floor can watch the action.
1448 Market Street
The Orchid opened in April as an upscale supper club devoted to jazz, blues, DJs and more live music that you can watch from a reserved table. The intimate setting includes two seated rooms, one in which the band plays on stage, and the other with a projection setup that livestreams the action from the other room. This summer, the Orchid will open its rooftop, which will have an additional stage for even more live music.
Roxy on Broadway
554 South Broadway
Roxy on Broadway opened in August 2019 and was starting to hit its stride before the pandemic shut down bars, restaurants and music venues. But owner Paula Vrakas, who also owns a Roxy in California, was persistent and kept the spot going; at one point, she had musicians play from the patio to the patrons inside. There's live music most nights of the week, as well as DJs spinning at weekend brunches. Cover varies.
Wash Park Grille
1096 South Gaylord Street
Although best known as a restaurant and bar, Wash Park Grille has long hosted live music, both bands and solo artists. There's live music Thursdays through Saturdays starting at 8 p.m., with local jam musicians such as Eric Martinez and Bill McKay. Seating is limited in the bar area, but you can hear the music from the dining room (and the patio, when the weather is good). While there’s no cover, a $10 tip for the musicians is highly recommended.
Your Mom’s House
608 East 13th Avenue
Open nightly from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m., Your Mom’s House is a small, low-key, divey club with a bit of a stoner vibe in the space that used to be Beauty Bar. There’s a main bar, a music room with a screen for light effects, high-top seating and just enough space in between for dancing, as well as a small bar in the back. The music is a mix of local and regional bands from all genres, plus DJs, open jams and the occasional cover band, and if no one is booked, patrons can pick their own on the Spotify connection. If you get there early, snag the C-shaped booth for the best people-watching, and check out the local art all over the walls.