Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery: 1535 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-546-0886. The words "fresh-faced" and "bright" apply to both Mountain Sun and the Boulderites who frequent the large, friendly brewhouse, where well-spaced tables leave plenty of room for entertainment, including upstart locals and larger regional acts that make occasional stops here.
Mozart Lounge: 1417 Krameria St., 303-388-0701. A self-proclaimed dive and proud of it, the Mozart Lounge is a biker-friendly billiards hall in the Mayfair neighborhood. Regulars put down their pool sticks and pick up microphones on nights when karaoke gets the surly crowd singing or when a DJ gets things moving.
Mynt Lounge: 1424 Market St., 303-825-6968. Public lounging is a nightly pastime at Mynt, where comfy couches cushion the well-tailored hides of LoDo loyalists and live DJs spin the body electric all week long. Decorated to suit its name -- the place is greener than Kermit -- Mynt is mojitos-and-martini heaven. Several beer choices also augment a small food menu.
Nectar: 3000 E. 3rd Ave., 303-321-2121. While food is the focus at Cherry Creek's Nectar, having Chris Dunphy, formerly of the Soiled Dove, as one of the owners means there must be music.
No Excuses: 9262 W. 58th Ave., Arvada, 303-421-2986. Cover bands rule the weekends at No Excuses, where homages to heavy-metal acts like Metallica keep the vibe in perpetual retrograde. Hidden in an Arvada strip mall, the venue feels like"a bar in a strip mall, with a large stage, plenty of room for drinking and dancing, and very little to distinguish it from similar spots.
Ogden Theatre: 935 E. Colfax Ave., 303-831-9448. The Ogden Theatre has never cultivated the aesthetic appeal of its movie-theater-turned-music-venue counterparts; a lack of atmosphere may be its most defining characteristic. But the large venue hosts some of the finest touring acts on the highway, so all is forgiven. Local heavy metal and hip-hop acts are also showcased in the Capitol Hill club.
Oriental Theatre: 4335 West 44th Ave., 303-433-3786. This previously underutilized but ever-so-grand historic venue is now leased by MOD Productions, whose mission is to showcase local artists of all types. During concert breaks, attendees can goggle in awe at the featured paintings, multi-tiered stage or tactfully placed rope lights.
Oskar Blues: 303 Main St., Lyons, 303-823-6685. The long, angled bar -- fashioned from ruddy Colorado sandstone -- makes the trip to Oskar Blues worthwhile. The mellow Lyons spot also serves the first-ever canned Colorado microbrew, Dale's Pale Ale (6.5 percent!), and features a dark, cavernous corner stage that hosts some fine blues music on the weekends.
Palm Tree: 1042 S. Peoria St., Aurora, 303-363-6737. Aurora's best kept -- and oddest -- little secret, the Palm Tree is a generously sized lounge with a show-club area for rock and dance acts. Favored by the locals in a largely black neighborhood. Comedy nights take place Thursday through Saturday.
Paradox Lounge: 3467 S. Broadway, Englewood, 303-789-9777. Another derelict shelter for those who like their brew without embellishments, the Paradox Lounge invites struggling or bored musicians to come down for an open-stage session. Much bigger than the outside facade suggests, the South Broadway tavern is filled with smoke and local folk the rest of the week.
The Patriot and the Loyalist: 3435 S. Inca St., Englewood, 303-761-5399. Resplendent in light wood -- from bar to window seats to enormous entertainment center -- with puffy couches arranged around the corner piano, the Patriot and the Loyalist doesn't make you choose sides. The pub's near-miss replication of authentic early-American decor won't keep you from enjoying the mostly acoustic music offered on weekends.
Penny Lane: 1795 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-443-9516. Hippies, yuppies, trust-fund babies and actual students angle for position at Penny Lane, where a sign on the door warns of a two-hour limit on table time. It can be difficult to hear acoustic sets by local troubadours above the din of tarot readings, card games and WTO debates in this busy and storied Boulder coffeehouse; occasionally, folk music and singer-songwriter fare breaks the noise barrier.
Pink E's: 6080 W. 92nd Ave., Westminster, 303-429-9173. Formerly a nationwide chain, Pink E's is down to this location in northern suburbia and the original in Las Vegas. Famous for neon decor, big-screen TVs, pool tables and porno-plastered bathrooms, Pink E's brings in bands every weekend to entertain the late-night crowd and is undergoing renovations to attract touring acts.
Polly Esther's: 2301 Blake St., 303-382-1976. Three clubs in one, the Polly Esther's multiplex allows a dance-world crowd to choose its decade: The ´70s, ´80s and Top 40 tunes are represented equally within its walls. While this diversity can present a fashion dilemma -- what era to dress for? -- the club is also a defense against stylistic burnout.