While it's easy to drop a bunch of money on tickets at venues around town, sometimes it's better to save a few bucks — or just spend your money on merch and records instead. We've put together a list of ten spots around Denver where you can see a variety of great Mile High music acts without having to pay a dime.
535 16th Street, Suite 110
While this 16th Street Mall spot is all about food and drinks during the day and into the night, live music starts at 10 p.m. and runs until 1:30 a.m. There’s a great assortment of acts, including bluegrass, funk, reggae, blues and soul, every night of the week. There's no cover to see the bands, but the doorman will happily accept donations for them.
554 South Broadway
While there is a cover for some shows at this venue and restaurant that opened last summer, many of the Broadway Roxy’s shows don’t cost a penny — particularly ones during the week. And there’s something going nearly every night except Mondays. The calendar boasts a variety of music, from rock and folk to soul, jazz and a lot in between.
City Park Jazz
When summer comes, City Park hosts City Park Jazz — an institution for many families, who head out on Sunday nights with lawn chairs and a picnic to listen to the best jazz bands Denver has to offer. This volunteer-run group puts on ten concerts each year.
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Denver Public Library
Denver Public Library — both the downtown Central location and branches citywide — offer free concerts (and even comedy) to the public. The shows are often intimate, early in the day and family-friendly — a perfect option for those whose eyes start drooping at dusk. We've seen rowdy punk shows, Afrobeat, rock, hip-hop and folk bands — and then headed off to browse books.
2057 Larimer Street
While saxophonist and Herb’s co-owner Laura Newman, a fixture on Denver’s jazz scene for decades, plays every Wednesday, Herb's also offers live jazz, with weekly residencies from Vlad Girshevich on Mondays, B3 Jazz Project (featuring Newman and Girshevich) on Tuesdays, and Dave Randon Trio on Thursdays. Rock bands occasionally take the stage on weekends.
1643 South Broadway
“We believe live jazz should be as accessible as possible,” states the jazz and art bar’s website. “As always, there is no cover charge.” Most nights of the week, you’ll find some of the city’s finest jazz musicians and singers performing at the intimate venue and restaurant on South Broadway.
Ruby Hill Park
You'll have to wait for the weather to warm up to check out more than fifty free shows at Levitt Pavilion, a gorgeous nonprofit venue in Ruby Hill Park. Each year, the stage hosts Denver bands — from old-timers like Slim Cessna's Auto Club to newer acts like the Midnight Club — as well as out-of-town artists such as Reverend Horton Heat and Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears. Best of all, even though most of the shows are free, bands are paid an industry-standard rate.
1201 South Pearl Street
Lincoln’s Roadhouse brings in some great Denver blues acts. Westword has recognized it three times as the city's best blues club. Bands play in a tiny space by the front door. Lincoln's, which also serves up some mean Cajun grub, can get rowdy on the weekends when the bands play, but that’s part of its charm.
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1575 Boulder Street
The coastal Mexican restaurant just relaunched its Live Music Sundays, which run from 3 to 5 p.m, when the spot serves up Baja bites, carefully crafted cocktails and dance-worthy tunes.
11940 East Colfax Avenue, Aurora
Now in its seventh decade, this old-school Aurora dive with a ’70s feel brings in a mix of blues, rock, R&B and soul bands on the weekends. Also, the neighborhood spot, within walking distance of the Anschutz Medical Campus, has three different daily happy hours.
What are your favorite free music venues and events in Denver? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.