Best Punk Bands From Denver, Colorado to See Live | Westword

The Best Punk Bands From Denver and Beyond You Need to See Live

From mainstays such as King Rat to the Latin feminist punk of Soy Celesté, Denver has no shortage of fantastic punk bands.
Replica City (L-t-R  Corey Fruin, Nathan Rodriguez, Matt Dunne) play a set at Mutiny Information Cafe.
Replica City (L-t-R Corey Fruin, Nathan Rodriguez, Matt Dunne) play a set at Mutiny Information Cafe. Dave Gaslin
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Denver’s indie music scene is broad, diverse and absolutely thriving right now. With live music available across the city, including at hubs on South Broadway and along Colfax, Denver music fans are in a true oasis of sound. “It’s amazing how you can go out any night of the week and see five, six, even eight or more really great bands, all doing original music," says Felipe Patino, bassist and singer for Peruvian-punk band Bricheros and owner of Green Door Recordings.

Nearly every genre of music is well represented in Denver, but the punk scene has a long, rich history going back decades, though defining punk can be challenging, with so many derivative terms: punk, hardcore, post-punk, pop punk, melodic hardcore, Midwest emo, riot grrrl...the list goes on, all describing what is essentially raw, scaled-down rock music with high energy and attitude.
Cheap Perfume
With the seminal Riot Grrrl punk-rock outfit Bikini Kill hitting the road for a North American tour in August and lead singer and guitarist Kathleen Hanna releasing her best-selling memoir, Rebel Girl, any Denver punk-rock story would be remiss if it didn't mention Colorado’s premier fem-core band, Cheap Perfume. Cheap Perfume will open for Bikini Kill on August 25, when the tour stops in Salt Lake City ahead of its Denver stop at Mission Ballroom on August 27. The band has been tearing up the club scene between Denver and Colorado Springs since 2017 with a punk-rock aesthetic that is unapologetically political and in-your-face fierce. With hard-hitting, fast-paced screeds like “Yes, It’s Ok to Punch Nazis,” “Fauxminism” and “No Men,” Cheap Perfume songs pull no punches. And the band’s live shows are raucous, riotous celebrations of energy and attitude, especially when singer Stephanie Byrne charges into the crowd from the first chord.
Dead Pioneers
Since releasing its self-titled debut album in September 2023, Indigenous Denver punk band Dead Pioneers has been on a meteoric rise, garnering international attention. Led by acclaimed visual artist Gregg Deal, the band hit the Denver scene in January opening for Cheap Perfume at the Skylark in a show that was attended by punk icon Jello Biafra of Dead Kennedys fame. Since then, Dead Pioneers has signed a three-album deal with Hassle Records, a London label, and has secured a spot opening for punk-rock legends NOFX and Suicidal Tendencies at the 2024 Punk in Drublic festival on July 21. With a searing sound of raucous punk-rock chords and riffs from guitarists Josh Rivera and Abe Brennan over Deal’s scathing spoken-word lyrics about social justice and Native activism, Dead Pioneers represents punk rock’s new conscience. The band’s debut single and video, “Bad Indian,” has racked up thousands of views on YouTube and nearly a million streams. With heavy influences from Minutemen, Rage Against the Machine and Rollins Band, Dead Pioneers has crafted a unique and impressive sound that represents the best of the punk-rock ethos and the Denver indie scene. Dead Pioneers next plays the Punk Rock Saves Lives fest at Ratio Beerworks on July 7.
Flight Kamikazee
Jeff Howell started writing music in 2008, but while serving as a roadie for Six Shooter in 2014, his friend Micah Morris encouraged him to start a band. After recording songs with Bricheros bassist Felipe Patino at Green Door Recording, Flight Kamikazee officially formed with a new bass player, Krayon, and drummer Mike “Duder” Dillard to release the album Moxie in 2023. Howell says he’s heard the band’s sound called “power-pop punk,” with its influences driven by mid-’90s skate punk from such bands as Screeching Weasel, Dead Boys and SNFU. Musically, Howell says he likes to “keep it simple" with three-chord downstrokes, and most songs are around two minutes long and constructed to “make people want to bang their heads and have a good time.” Lyrics are about making a human connection and focusing on “trials and errors and the hardships in life,” Howell adds. Cody Templeton of Teenage Bottle Rockets provides backing vocals on Moxie and also connected FLight Kamikazee with the Dallas label Clearview Records. The band plays at Ratio Beerworks on August 2, with Sack and Billy Batts and the Made Men. In pure punk fashion, the band’s name reflects its “no-expectations” approach. “It’s a suicide mission,” Howell explains, “just going as hard and as far as we can.”
Horse Bitch
Describing the madcap sound of Denver band Horse Bitch defies nearly all genre limitations, but the band’s songwriting and live shows evoke the high energy and unapologetic authenticity of punk. The listening experience is festive, fast and often wildly irreverent. Attendees of the Horse Bitch show at the Aggie Theatre in Fort Collins during FoCoMX in April know the band’s live shows are nothing less than a raucous celebration of loud music. It may also be the best use of a punk-rock fiddle since the days of Camper Van Beethoven. The band's sound incorporates basic rock structure with guitar, bass and drums but then throws in a fiddle and steel guitar to create a sound with elements of emo, honky-tonk, rockabilly and more. From the mosh pit down front at the Aggie, this band is the best that punk-rock energy can offer. In fact, the band has so much fun on stage, it’s difficult to tell whether the pit or the stage is more frenzied. Horse Bitch released the single “Mountain Climbing” in March, its first new music in several years, and the song’s prominent fiddle riff evokes an Irish jig with punk cred in the vein of Flogging Molly or amped-up Waterboys. Horse Bitch recently played the Lyric in Fort Collins and will next appear at Denver’s Underground Music Showcase on July 27.
In the Teeth
Colorado Springs four-piece In the Teeth released its debut album, You’ve Done Enough, last summer. With a sound rooted in post-punk and ’90s grunge, In the Teeth creates hard-edge guitar rock with great hooks, riffs and melodies. “I don’t even know what to call the sound anymore,” laughs bassist Mike Nipp, who played in Salt of Sanguine with guitarist Jojo Johnson before they joined drummer Jeff Fuller and singer Aaron Bubeck in In the Teeth. The band’s influences include everything from Mountain Goats to the Smiths to Refused. "I'm a big fan of Sunny Day Real Estate,” Nipp adds, saying maybe the punk vibe is rooted in songs with “angsty shitty vibes.” The songs are simply about life and relationships, Nipp explains, “and we’re just having fun playing loud, fast music.”

In the Teeth's next show is on August 3, with Ultimate Fakebook and Jon Snodgrass at Vultures in Colorado Springs, and the band is working on a new EP this summer. Repping the Colorado Springs scene, its hard, fast punk-rock music definitely hits “In the Teeth.”
King Rat
“We were thrift store when thrift store wasn’t cool,” screams Luke Schmaltz on the 2017 single “Thrift Store Kids.” Celebrating thirty years in Denver’s indie scene, the working-class punk rockers of King Rat can lay claim to being all sorts of things before they were cool. And that makes King Rat one of the coolest punk bands in the Mile High City, which it's been rocking since the early ’90s. With all the energy of a full-blown mosh pit, King Rat is a longtime punk-rock mainstay that simply refuses to stop. With ten studio LPs and one live album, King Rat has a monstrous catalogue of gritty old-school punk rock that spotlights the vicissitudes of life, from joy to rage. Though most songs clock in at a hard, fast two-minute pace, King Rat’s incredible anthem and tribute to first responders “EMT – a Punk Rock Parable” is worth every second of its nearly four minutes. Putting the indie in Independence Day, King Rat has a rad thirtieth-anniversary show lined up on July 4 at East Fax Tap featuring Fort Collins favorites Black Dots, Denver bands These Kids Today and Anti-Formula, and an opening set from Las Vegas rockers Terror Attack.
Poor Me
Poor Me has been in the Denver scene since 2010. With loud, melodic arpeggio leads against some truly aggressive chords, the songs come at listeners hard and fast. The sound is pure power punk, and vocalist Brett Delaney says it has even been called “melodic hardcore.” The songs are energetic, and Delaney is not shy about screaming and yelling lyrics to match the strong leads and heavy beats. He finds a solid balance in the punk spectrum, noting the band’s sound is “not quite death metal, but not pop punk, either.” Influences include Bad Religion, which listeners will find in both the loud, fast guitar chords and the socially conscious lyrics. Other than a recent show with No Bueno at Moe’s Original Barbecue in Englewood, Poor Me hasn’t been playing live much lately while the band finishes its next and perhaps final LP, Nevermore. Not shy about emotive lyrics, deep sociological themes and bold political statements, Poor Me represents the best of loud, meaningful punk rock. The band can next be seen opening a Rapids game with a parking-lot tailgate on September 14 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. "We want to just play a lot of shows in 2025," Delaney says.
Reno Divorce
The sound of longtime Denver punk-rock band Reno Divorce is hard to ignore, but it easily makes you to want to get in the pit and dance it out to power chords, hard-driving bass and intricate lead runs. The 2023 release “Sweeten the Pot” represents a perfectly pleasing blend of old-school punk, classic rock and ’90s indie-alternative elements. Since releasing its debut album, Naysayers and Yesmen/ Laugh Now, Cry Later, the band has toured the world, playing everything from dive clubs to major stages, and released eight full-length albums plus numerous singles. Reno Divorce has always thrived in Denver, and has seen the highs and lows of the local scene. Nearly a quarter-century down the road, Reno Divorce continues to evolve musically and professionally. Continuing to play regularly around Colorado, the band recently helped EastFax Tap celebrate its fifth anniversary with a live show on June 1.
Replica City
Guitarist Cory Fruin and bassist Matt Dunne play together in Denver's stadium-emo band Broken Record, but Fruin says they "wanted to do something a little harder and edgier" with Replica City. The trio, which includes drummer Nathan Rodriguez, plays a blend of hard-edge noise rock with a dash of melodic ’80s post-punk. Replica City formed in the spring of 2022 and recently released the EP Gift of Knives, which has an incredible cover of the Violent Femmes’ “Kiss Off.” After seeing a live performance of the song, Fruin says he felt “the structure translated well to a post-hardcore sound” and then made it his own. The band's influences range from Mission to Burma to ’90s Midwest emo's Drive Like Jehu. Rodriguez has an ear for pop and hook-driven melodies complementing Dunne’s loud, riffy bass solos and Fruin’s vocals. Most songs are narrative-driven with a self-reflective tone, but “Crowd Work” is a satirical story of a comedian with a dark side as a serial killer. Replica City will play the Underground Music Showcase the last weekend of July, and Ghost Canyon Fest in August on a bill with Jaye Jayle and a lineup of edgy experimental music. 
Robot Tennis Club
If rowdy good fun is a hallmark of punk-rock shows, then Robot Tennis Club has it down. The three-piece punk band puts on an energy-filled live set with catchy but heavy songs. Led by talented guitarist-singer-bassist Laura Steadman alongside drummer Nina Dorighi, the Fort Collins band has been rocking since 2021 with guitar provided by Erich Albrecht and Eli Schulz. Steadman and Dorighi first connected through a music teacher in Denver and released the full-length LP, If These Walls Could Talk, You Wouldn’t Listen, in 2023. Thematically, the songs run the spectrum from crappy relationships to random camping trip adventures. The best part of an RTC show is how much fun the band has, as it demonstrated to a packed house at the Coast during FoCoMX. Steadman is genuinely thrilled to be in front of a crowd, kindly, even gently thanking those in the audience before throttling them with a sonic blast. She moves around the stage like a kid running across a playground, and she might even do an inadvertent stage dive (check YouTube for the replay). Robot Tennis Club plays regularly around Denver and Fort Collins, so fans should watch the band’s Insta stories for news and announcements.
Soy Celesté
Started by Celesté Martinez in 2022, Soy Celesté has been rocking the Front Range with the powerful sounds of Latin feminist punk. Originally a solo project, Martinez curated a diverse lineup of queer and Black musicians, with Stevie Gunter on bass and Saladin Thomas on drums, reflecting her belief in the vital importance of BIPOC and queer communities seeing themselves represented in music and on the stage. The band’s sound draws from classic punk with quick beats and chord-driven rock, while the songwriting is influenced by the Mexican genre of son jarocho, with Spanish and African elements. The result is a simple yet full sound that Martinez says “cracked open a rigidity instilled from classical music education.” Using music to tell Martinez’s story as a queer Chicana, Soy Celesté draws inspiration from such influences as Alice Bag, FEA, Mercedes Sosa, Lido Pimienta, Le Dame Blanche, San Cha and Selena. Feminista Manifestó, Soy Celesté’s first full-length album, drops on August 2, and showcases Martinez's personal journeys and intersectional feminist politics. With such songs as “Feminism Is Intersectional” and “End All Genocide,” Soy Celesté's music is unapologetically political and explicitly feminist. Experience it at Mutiny Information Cafe on July 6.
Tuff Bluff
Friends for many years from seeing each other’s bands in Denver’s indie scene, Ryan Heller, Sara Fischer and Tom Dodd were destined to come together in the power-punk trio Tuff Bluff. The band grew out of pandemic boredom, playing experimental music to fill the time, and officially formed in 2021 after Heller’s label Motorcycle Potluck released an album for Dodd’s band the Yellnats. With its fast, melodic, three-chord punk rock, Tuff Bluff’s EP Poppies was co-released by Snappy Little Numbers, and the band’s self-titled LP dropped in May. Tuff Bluff has many overlapping influences, but acknowledges a sound rooted in the late-’90s East Bay scene. With sharp, three-chord downstroke rhythms alongside heavy bass riffs, fast arpeggio-driven leads and clever transitions, the songs beg for dancing. After all, Fischer says when she's writing the songs, she's thinking about music that “makes [her] wanna move.” Thematically, the songs cover “how we collectively deal with the political stuff while at the same time have a little joy,” Fischer says — and, of course, still dance.

Tuff Bluff's next show is on the back patio of the Matchbox on July 6, with Dreaded Laramie and Pink Squeeze.
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