Concerts

Ten Great, Vanished Denver Music Venues — 2016 Edition

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.
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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.