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With a vibrant music scene and wealth of venues, it can be overwhelming to decide where to go to catch a show in Denver. Whether you feel like rocking out in the diviest of dives or sitting down for a bawdy brunch show, we’ve curated a list of our city’s best venues based on whatever kind of live music experience you’re looking for.
For a seamless concert experience:
Three-year-old Mission Ballroom was built to be a music venue, and that’s apparent to concertgoers who go to see acts like Manchester Orchestra, Phoenix, and King Princess in the 60,000 square-foot space. With a state-of-the-art sound system and professional lighting; plenty of room to dance; and strategically placed, full-service bars, you’re guaranteed to have a top-notch musical experience. “Built with intention, every detail was thought out,” says Aimee Giese, a Denver-based concert photographer of 17 years. For example, the main floor has three women’s restrooms and one men’s, she says, and the stage can move forward for more intimate shows. “[There are] great views and sound everywhere.” 4242 Wynkoop St.
Past Notable Acts: Lorde, Judas Priest, the Head and the Heart, the Flaming Lips, Flogging Molly, Lukas Nelson, Fleet Foxes, Lord Huron, Charley Crockett, Erykah Badu, Young The Giant, Sylvan Esso, Lil Wayne, Dwight Yoakam
For an affordable, family-friendly outing:
This Ruby Hill nonprofit offers 50 free outdoor concerts a year and is committed to accessible cultural experiences. With an expansive lawn and open seating, Levitt serves 375,000 potential patrons annually, and claims to pay local artists 40 percent more than other venues on the Front Range. To get the full experience, bring your own blankets, lawn chairs, and soft-sided coolers with the family, and be sure to RSVP online to guarantee entry. The 2022 season offered non-ticketed events such as the high-energy, bilingual rock group iZCALLi from Denver, Georgia-based Southern rockers Drive-By Truckers, and the Viva Southwest Mariachi Festival featuring the Grammy-nominated mariachi singer and songwriter, Lupita Infante. The 2023 schedule will be announced as early as the end of February, and the concert season begins in early May. 1380 W Florida Ave.
Capacity: 7,500 for paid shows and nearly 20,000 for free shows
Past Notable Acts: Calexico, Y La Bamba, the Band of Heathens, Pink Martini, Coheed and Cambria, Melissa Etheridge, Tower of Power, Esmé Patterson, Robert Earl Keen, UB40
For an intimate show in a historic building:
The jewel of East Colfax’s crown, the Bluebird theater was originally built in 1913 and served as both a theater and movie house until 1994, when Chris Swank (also responsible for the updates to Goosetown Tavern and Mezcal across the street) invested and re-opened the Bluebird as a music venue. Today, the Bluebird is so integral that there’s an entire business district named after it. “While the bright blue neon marquee may be the first image on our minds, the true measure of the Bluebird Theater’s success is the cultural impact that it has had on its surrounding neighborhoods,” says Lachlan Connors, marketing manager at AEG Presents. Inside, concertgoers can expect a straightforward experience at this intimate, 500-capacity venue. Artist merchandise is strategically placed in the lobby, and there’s easy access to the no-frills bar at the back. With three tiers of standing room (plus a balcony) within the listening space, you’ll be engrossed in the action regardless of your spot, such as in October, when singer-songwriter and fiddle player Amanda Shires disappeared backstage and re-emerged donning a pair of black angel wings during her encore—a testament to the artistic freedom afforded to performers who grace the Bluebird’s revered stage. 3317 E Colfax Ave.
Past Notable Acts: Amanda Shires, Mollie Tuttle & Golden Highway, Sierra Ferrell, Hiss Golden Messenger, Joshua Radin, Delta Rae, David Ramirez, the Lone Bellow, Yola, Theo Katzman
To support local bands in an authentic dive setting:
Lion’s Lair is legendary in Denver’s music scene for giving punk bands a platform since the mid-nineties in a perfect basement-like atmosphere, and is so beloved that hundreds of Denverites pitched in to raise $34,065 to save the bar and venue after it closed for eight months during the pandemic. The tiny space accommodates a PBR-slinging bar as well as a cozy stage tucked into a corner, and vibe-wise, it’s just the right amount of seedy to give concertgoers that quintessential dive experience. Music-wise, the venue hosts a variety of genres, from metal to alt-country, and alternative reggae to bluegrass. “The Lion’s Lair is a great place to break into the scene,” says Meghann5k, front woman of the Denver-based, alterna-rock band, Addie Tonic. “They are very supportive of independent, local artists.” A gig here is also a rite of passage for out-of-town bands working to make Denver a regular stop on their tour schedule. Be sure to take a photo in front of the colorful, iconic facade that’s hardly changed in several decades. 2022 E Colfax Ave.
Past Notable Acts: the Decemberists, the Black Keys, Samantha Crain, Graham Parker, John Doe, Reverend Horton Heat, Juliana Hatfield, Gil Scott-Heron, Jesse Dayton, Slim Cessna’s Auto Club
For dinner and world-class jazz:
This 25-year-old staple is not only the top jazz club in Denver, but has also been named one of DownBeat Magazine’s “Top 100 Jazz Clubs in the World” numerous times. Dazzle stands out amongst other jazz venues with its mission of being a “serious listening room,” according to marketing director Kelley Dawkins, encouraging guests to lend their full attention to the performers. Dazzle also strives for inclusivity, especially for younger patrons: Kids under 12 get in free for most events, and student groups from local high schools and colleges perform regularly. “Music is an experience for all, and all have their place in it,” says Nick Moulds, the music department manager at Dazzle. “We treat the listeners with the same reverence as the artists.” After five years at their current Cap Hill location, Dazzle will move to the Performing Arts Complex in early 2023 (a space at 1080 14th St., the formerly Onyx nightclub), introducing a new element to the theater- and concert hall-focused block. Dazzle fans should look forward to unobstructed sightlines and a modern new look featuring murals and installations by local visual artists. 1512 Curtis St.
Past Notable Acts: Art Lande, Rico Jones, Samara Joy, Eliane Elias, Carmen Sandim, Yellowjackets, Raul Midón, the Four Freshman, Patricia Barber, Chuchito Valdés, Karrin Allyson, Ramakhandra
For a bawdy brunch and a show:
With restaurant venues, oftentimes either the food or music quality is overlooked. That is not the case with Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox. The two-story “gastrobrothel” features bars on both levels and is decorated in “boudoir-chic” art celebrating the historic building’s past life as a brothel and sex shop. Dining tables are arranged on the ground level and from a balcony to overlook the stage from above, but everything can be cleared for standing-room night shows. Speakers, screens, and projectors are strategically placed throughout the restaurant so that even patrons in the back can enjoy the music. Brunch entertainment is included with your meal, so you can focus your budget on delights like mission fig and imported Italian burrata with spiced apple butter on bitter greens, or the signature roasted green chile cornbread with green tomato marmalade and whipped honey butter. Local singer, trumpet player, and composer Wes Watkins holds down a monthly residency that’s simply electrifying, so keep an eye out and make your Saturday or Sunday reservations accordingly. 1215 20th St.
Capacity: 425 in the full show layout
Past Notable Acts: Eric Hutchinson, Neoma, Devotchka, the Band of Heathens, Bob Schneider, Pearl Charles, the Dandy Warhols, Los Lobos, Big Head Todd & the Monsters, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic
To catch music’s biggest acts:
For Denver, Ball Arena is the place to go to catch world-famous artists and bands like Lizzo, John Mayer, and Panic! at the Disco. Despite its 20,000-plus seating capacity for most concerts, even the nosebleeds offer a decent view; and clear signage helps ticket holders smoothly navigate to their assigned sections. Previously known as Pepsi Center, the arena hosts more than 250 sporting and music events per year, which all started with a sold-out show by Celine Dion in 1999. 1000 Chopper Cir.
Past Notable Acts: Elton John, Carrie Underwood, the Killers, Kendrick Lamar, Santana, Earth, Wind & Fire, Rod Stewart, Billie Eilish, Kacey Musgraves, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Andrea Bocelli
For a dreamy evening you’ll never forget:
The summer season at Red Rocks Amphitheatre has been referred to as the “greatest music festival in the world,” and for good reason. Watching the sun set over Denver while listening to your favorite band, surrounded by rust-colored stone formations taller than Niagara Falls is an unparalleled experience. Many Front Range residents have found ways to make themselves regular patrons, while bucket listers pilgrimage from around the world to see a once-in-a-lifetime show here. You have to work for it—when the Red Rocks website warns that you may have to hike to your seat, they mean it—but the tunes and views are well worth the extra effort. There’s a friendly, “we’re all in this together” vibe at most events, even in less-than-perfect weather, like the mist-enshrouded September evening earlier this year, when Brandi Carlile brought her set to a close with a solo rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Nary a dry eye—or blanket—could be found in the 9,545 seat audience. 18300 W Alameda Pkwy., Morrison
Past Notable Acts: Maren Morris, Wilco, Brandi Carlile, Nine Inch Nails, Alison Krauss, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Amos Lee, Bonnie Raitt, Mavis Staples, the Chicks, Father John Misty, Tedeschi Trucks Band, the String Cheese Incident, the Avett Brothers, Lyle Lovett, Blues Traveler, Iron & Wine, Gary Clark Jr.
More to Love
Can’t get enough? Add these beloved local venues to your Denver bucket list.
To save some cash: Box office happy hour at Globe Hall, Lost Lake, and Larimer Lounge
On Fridays from 4:30-6:30pm, visit the Globe Hall box office in-person for low- or no-fee tickets for Denver’s trifecta of go-to venues for boots-on-the-ground local bands and regionally touring artists. Bonus: you can enjoy a happy hour beverage while you’re at it.
To grab a slice and rock out: Marquis Theater
The Live Nation–operated Marquis Theater has garnered a reputation as downtown Denver’s favorite rock venue, due to its (mostly) all-ages shows and a strong lineup of punk, metal and rock bands. Access to great pizza within the venue is a definite highlight.
For a secret show in an unconventional setting: Sofar Sounds
Here’s how to impress your friends: Purchase tickets for your date and neighborhood of choice (such as Highlands, Five Points and RiNo, to name a few), and the Sofar Sounds team will take care of the rest. You’ll receive the address of the secret location a couple days before the listening room show (past venues have included Colorado Sake Co. and Archipelago, as well as private homes), but the music lineup will be a complete surprise.
To get your two-step on: Grizzly Rose
Country music lovers have plenty of space to practice their line dancing in this expansive music hall, complete with arcade games and pizza kitchen. If you need a break from two-stepping, show off your skills in a round of pool or a turn on the mechanical bull.
If you dig all things hip: Skylark Lounge
This checkerboard-adorned, South Broadway institution reopened last year under new ownership, and the effortlessly cool influence of its new part-owner and Americana powerhouse Nathaniel Rateliff is evident in Skylark’s well-curated calendar of events. Check out events like Western Wednesday, Dixie Krystals’ Drag Revue, and top-shelf music acts such as the Denver-based folk artist, Covenhoven.
For a healthy dose of high art: Boettcher Concert Hall
This symphony hall is home to the Colorado Symphony, which takes great strides to keep classical music approachable with modern audiences by mixing up its schedule of Beethoven and Tchaikovsky with modern interludes such as an ABBA tribute night, Bernadette Peters–fronted shows, and the holiday-favorite Home Alone in Concert.