Denver has been home to many music venues that have had major impact on the local scene and, to some extent, the national music scene. A list of those noteworthy concert venues that are now gone could easily be five times as long. Below are ten clubs, studios and spaces that served critical purpose during certain eras of Colorado music — but in many cases, even the buildings no longer exist.
10. Dryer Plug Studios
Situated in the northeast corner of Denver near Commerce City, this DIY venue and recording studio was run by Chad Saxton, who was formerly affiliated with Unit E. Though relatively short-lived, Dryer Plug hosted numerous shows from local as well as national acts, including Colleen Green, Chastity Belt and All Dogs. Titwrench 2015 may have been the final show at Dryer Plug. Boasting high-quality sound and an all-ages show policy in a location off the beaten path but easy to access, Dryer Plug, winner of Westword's Best Recording Studio 2015, is sorely missed.
9. GNU: Experience Gallery
In the heart of old town Fort Collins, in the basement of one of the buildings in the town square, GNU was helmed by Brandton Manshel. With his finger keenly on the pulse of important local music across multiple genres, out-of-state bands and underground bands, not to mention the connections to bring in large national acts, like Third Eye Blind, that wanted to play a small-venue show while in Colorado, Manshel curated one of the best DIY venues and art-gallery collectives in Colorado. He proactively booked bands from across the Front Range, and his eclectic tastes informed the venue's rich offerings. He was also involved in the founding of Downtown Artery. Manshel now resides in Trinidad, where he also hosts shows.
8. Unit E
On the northwest corner of 12th and Santa Fe, Unit E followed in the grand Denver tradition of being part art gallery, part DIY music venue. Though it only lasted a couple of years, at its peak Unit E was truly a locus for a broad spectrum of music, and was the place that the late Ikey Owens played most often when he sat in with experimental rock band Rubedo. The quality sound system and unusual second-floor location gave the place a bit of mystique, because in many ways it shouldn't have been there. And by summer 2013, it no longer was.
7. The Wasteland
Tucked into a hidden neighborhood off of I-25 and 38th Avenue, The Wasteland was clearly once an automotive garage. Though also short-lived, in 2010 the Wasteland was an outlet for punk and garage-rock bands of various kinds that didn't always have another outlet for their music. Records were attached along one of the venue's walls like a tile pattern. Was it there before the Wasteland started up, or installed later to imbue the place with a rock-and-roll aesthetic? Hard to say, but it had that rough-around-the-edges but oddly charming vibe that many DIY spaces possess.
6. The Office
This place was in the old Denargo Market neighborhood, on the second floor of an old office building, the likes of which you see in 1940s noir films, with the name of a private investigator stenciled on a smoked-glass window on the door. Down the hall was the office of Modern Drunkard magazine. For several months two artists, including Mario Zoots, had art shows and music shows there with artists when other DIY spaces were overbooked or otherwise unsuitable. It was here that some of us got to see the great Philadelphia punk band Pony Pants as well as Pink Reason, the mostly solo project of Kevin Failure, who is known to have played with Psychedelic Horseshit. Long after the Office was gone, the entire Denargo Market neighborhood was flattened to be replaced by bland high-rise apartments that bear the market's name.
Read on for five more vanished Denver music venues.
5. Paris Wine Bar
Paris on the Platte went out of business in 2015, ending the run of an institution of a Denver coffeehouse going back to the late '80s. Its neighbor/sister business, Paris Wine Bar, occupied a space that once housed another part of Paris on the Platte and its old bookstore. As such, the place hosted shows, mostly acoustic, until the whole venture went under.
4. Breakdown Book Collective
After being ousted from its original location at Other Side Arts, across the street from Paris on the Platte, Breakdown Book Collective moved to 1408 Ogden Street. It was an anarchist book collective and community space that hosted several types of events, including meetings of the first Ladyfest Out West in 2003. Additionally, Breakdown hosted a wide variety of musical acts, often local, including Jason Anderson of Wolf Colonel fame, Yacht, Thanksgiving, Bad Weather California, Ancient Mith and riot grrrl group Three Lines of Blur.
3. Iliff Park Saloon
In a lot on the southeast corner of Iliff and Chambers in Aurora, Iliff Park Saloon had a name that sounded like a bar, but it regularly held all-ages shows. Mostly a home to the suburban metal and punk scene, Iliff Park was probably an early concert experience for Aurora youth who were into that style of music — because that's where their friends could play.
2. Monkey Mania
Monkey Mania was a legendary Denver DIY venue and the inspiration for Rhinoceropolis. Although it started in 1998 at 50 North Lipan Street, it moved to the former Arapahoe Warehouse (a place also once occupied by influential band Twice Wilted in the late '80s through the early '90s) space at 2126 Arapahoe Street in downtown Denver. For just over seven years, Monkey Mania was the destination venue for the DIY underground touring circuit when bands came through Denver, because the people who ran it were so disarmingly welcoming that it was difficult to ever fully feel out of place. HEALTH played here, the Get Hustle, Sonic Youth, Wolf Eyes, Caroliner Rainbow, Microphones on the tour for The Glow Part 2, the Coachwhips, as well as local acts like Friends Forever and others too numerous to list. Now that Josh Taylor, formerly of Friends Forever and one of the people who ran Monkey Mania, has moved back to Denver after a more than decade-long stint in Los Angeles working at Amoeba and helping with the Smell, maybe we'll see more of that Monkey Mania spirit injected back into the local music world.
1. 15th St. Tavern
Often called the CBGB of Denver, 15th St. Tavern replaced a country bar in the same location by 1997. Run by Scott Campbell, the Tavern sat to the northwest of the alley between Welton and California streets in downtown Denver. Before Campbell left to start the Larimer Lounge, in the fall of 2002, 15th St. Tavern was THE place to catch up-and-coming artists before they were able to headline a show at the Bluebird, for example. Early tours from the likes of the White Stripes, Queens of the Stone Age, Death Cab for Cutie and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club made stops there. Daniel Johnston played what was probably his first Denver show there in 2002, with Harvey Sid Fisher. But perhaps most important, it was a place you could see some of the best local bands perform some of their best shows. The booking was eclectic, and it was an early welcome spot for the Anticon Collective, in addition to punk, metal and experimental music. The album-release show for Neutral Milk Hotel's In An Aeroplane Over the Sea happened there. Before it closed its doors in the summer of 2007 and became a community garden after the building was leveled, 15th St. Tavern was a place where the Denver music scene began to come together coherently, even if it didn't always know it.
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