The 2015 Best of Denver issue is on newsstands now! In our search for the most interesting places, people and events in Denver, we often struggled to pick just one winner in each category. So we're presenting a few runners-up here on Westword Music.
It's true. Denver has an obscenely wonderful amount of music venues within its metro area (though our own research suggests that the definition of "venue" itself is pliable). But the loose terms of what, exactly, a venue is are to a concert-goer's advantage; Denver really does have everything — from DIY warehouse institution Rhinoceropolis to the outdoor landmark Red Rocks, there is a performance space for everyone's taste. This includes subterranean venues, which are often quite literally the hidden gems of our city's many performance spaces. In honor of the existence of these unique show spaces, here are five of the best basement venues (in no particular order) that can be found right here in Denver.
Ubisububi Room inside The Thin Man, 2015 East 17th Avenue
The Thin Man's vintage lighting, brightly painted walls and the rampant Catholic imagery that seems to be stuck-to and stuffed-in every nook and cranny of this bar make it a magical place to grab a drink — and the tavern's basement venue carries on a similar atmospheric tradition. Much like the kitschy but cool upstairs, the Ubisububi Room down below is a cozy cove lined with tapestries and lit with christmas lights, offering plenty of places to recline and hear great music or watch a movie. Catch local stars like Porlolo and Natalie Tate in the intimate space, which offers couches and small tables for just a handful of music lovers to enjoy the show. Much like its bigger, rowdier themed parties that get thrown throughout the holiday season upstairs in the Thin Man, many Ubisububi Room shows also sell out, so check the The Thin Man's Facebook for information on events and tickets.
The Phoenix Room inside 3 Kings Tavern, 60 South Broadway
The newest venue space on this list, the Phoenix Room has already made its mark on the Broadway map of venues for being a room to see new, cool shit. The dank basement is really as no frills as it gets with a PA, some folding chairs and a lightbulb or two to keep the room from feeling totally shady. But that's also the great part about the Phoenix Room — it's like the secret lair hosting art shows, storytelling hours, improv events and late-night comedy. While 3 Kings may be known for its staple wild rock shows, regular burlesque acts and headliner comedy, the Phoenix Room is like an incubator for artists looking to try new things and audiences open to anything.
Gypsy House Cafe, 1279 Marion Street
Capitol Hill's vibe is changing rapidly as the city grows, but Gypsy House manages to keep it real as a reasonably priced cafe and hookah bar. While the upstairs is light, airy and draped with plant life, the downstairs room has its own speakeasy-like atmosphere, an urban sanctuary just off the hustle and bustle of 13th Avenue. The all ages space has low ceilings but lots of room to sit and relax, offering Gypsy House's full menu of hookah, turkish coffee and other treats to enjoy along with live entertainment. From poetry readings and live bands to gong bath sound healing sessions and dance parties, Gypsy House's regular schedule has something for everyone.
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Meadowlark, 2701 Larimer Street
The only autonomous subterranean venue on this list, Meadowlark has been a downstairs hit since it opened a decade ago on a then-nearly vacant block of Larimer Street. There isn't much the Meadowlark doesn't do, with a monthly calendar packed with comedy shows, well-attended open mic and jazz jam nights and of course, any and all types of music events (hip-hop, punk, funk, folk and all genres of rock n' roll get play in the form of live shows, DJ nights and dance parties.) The sound is good, the bartenders are nice and the room feels comfortable whether there are ten or a hundred people in attendance. Plus, if it gets too stuffy and sweaty within the bar's depths, Meadowlark offers a spacious above-ground patio with three-times the seating and heating in the winter.
Cafe Max, 2412 East Colfax Avenue
An Oasis on Colfax, Cafe Max is like a swanky but welcoming New York-style coffee house right in the heart of Denver. Its basement room is equally hip but also easily mutable; the long, fat hallway with exposed brick transforms according to whatever is happening in the space for that night. Fashion shows, movie screenings, pop-up dinner parties, live musical performances and group meditation can all place in this ambient and welcoming room. Plus, the cheeseboards, fresh juice, alcoholic beverages and coffee drinks made in the metropolitan-feeling cafe above can be brought down and enjoyed in Cafe Max's semi-secret and cozy venue/room below.