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Denver Rock Atlas: 15th St Tavern

Our Denver Rock Atlas feature is precisely what it sounds like: A compendium of storied Denver venues, past and present, in which we pick a place and share our favorite memories of the joint. After you read our memories, please feel free to share some of your own. Where does one even begin with the 15th Street Tavern? It was a pit of despair by the end of its run, with the scent of sewage masking any flavor of rock trying to be held there.

Where 15th St Tavern once stood.

Ah, the dearly departed Tavern: It was covered in posters that appeared to be blocking holes in the wall. And who can forget the pinball table? Covered in beer most nights, it was a welcome retreat when an opening act failed to catch my interest. Then there was the graffiti green walls, which assaulted the senses as much as the smell of urine, but the floors, coated in vomit and booze offered the most tactile of feelings. It was like walking into a bubble gum factory after an explosion. In short, it was the epitome of a punk rock venue. Even the bartenders evoked the spirit of the place -- surly but polite, punk rock but capable.

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It was also host to some of the greatest "next-big-thing" shows we've ever seen, from Bright Eyes to the White Stripes to Queens of the Stone Age to the Murder City Devils. And while those shows kicked ass and helped those bands begin to build their following in Denver, one of my favorite memories involves a band of lesser renown: Shiner.

If memory serves correctly, the opening acts were Houston and Someday I, but it's possible those memories are a little shuffled. You see, I should probably pop in with a confession here: I've seen Shiner a half-dozen or so times. A Shiner T-shirt still sits in my closet, in fact. It's the only band shirt remaining from those years, and certainly the only one left that I obtained from a show at the Tavern. This was the first time I'd seen Shiner play in a real venue -- which is to say, not in front of a crowd of just me at a college.

They were loud as hell, which is a bit strange in retrospect, as their music was never particularly aggressive. Maybe it was just the sound of a crowded, tiny venue on relatively virgin ears, or maybe they just kicked it up a notch in reaction to a healthy crowd of people. Either way, they obviously left a lasting impression on at least one person. It's not exactly the most chaotic shows to happen there and probably not the most memorable for most people, but it's still one of my favorites.

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