Top five indie music venues in DenverBetween legal weed, weather that generally promotes beard-growing, and one of the biggest craft beer scenes in the country, Denver has all the makings of the perfect place to catch an indie show. The following five Denver music venues offer the best lineups in the best surroundings to satisfy your live music cravings.
1. Larimer Lounge
Larimer Lounge was a beacon of hipsterness in Denver's exploding RiNo (River North) neighborhood before anyone called it RiNo. I remember going to shows here and basically assuming if I strayed more than a block in any direction I'd probably get shot.
Larimer Lounge offers a nice mid-size space with a small stage and easy-to-access bar. There's also a patio out back for smokers (and occasional summer barbecues) and the sound is always spot on. Add to that the consistently great acts that come through.
Totally unnecessary tip: There's free street parking, but since the neighborhood's blown up in popularity it's tougher to find. Lyft it.
Coming soon: Surfer Blood, White Reaper and Priests.
2. Summit Music HallDenver Post via Getty Images
Summit is the latest music venue from the people who have been running Soda Jerk Presents in the Denver area for 20 years — and they've been booking very good shows, stealing thunder from many of the other classic indie venues in town.
There's a very large oval bar, which keeps crowding down and remains easy to access during the show. The stage is nice and high, and in general, even for packed shows, there's always plenty of room to find a good viewing spot.
Totally unnecessary tip: Marquis Pizza has a window here, and it's delicious. Get a slice during the opener to fuel up your dancing.
Coming soon: The Vandals, Mix Master Mike, X.
3. Bluebird Theater
Denver Post via Getty Images
This former porn theater is my favorite overall venue in Denver. It's been restored to a classic-theater style, but it's not too big. The tiered sections and balcony make it possible to find a nice spot easily, and the general aesthetics and ambience are tough to beat. The sound is generally pretty loud, so remember those ear plugs, and the bar can get a little backed up so it's best to carry some cash.
Some of my all time favorite shows have taken place here, like Jeff Mangum playing Neutral Milk Hotel songs (!!!!) and Andrew W.K. on his first tour. You're guaranteed a good time at the Bluebird.
Totally unnecessary tip: If it's an all ages show, the under 21s are relegated to the balcony. Don't try to be sneaky — they'll shut the entire thing down if they think a minor has slipped through to the 21+ area.
Coming soon: Portugal. The Man, Carbon Leaf, Delta Rae.
4. Lion's Lair
Lion's Lair is a Colfax institution, and one of the last remaining places a new band can get a slot without having to pay off college kids to show up. It's the kind of place where the bartender is as likely to kick your ass as they are to become your therapist. Plus, they have Old Style on tap.
This venue wins "most likely place to see your friend's crappy punk band play," but it's also the place where every touring band ever has come through at some point. Recently even Mike Watt decided to stop through. As if you needed more reasons to check out Lion's Lair, it's walking distance from Voodoo Doughnut for after-show snacks.
Totally unnecessary tip: It's Colfax — lock your damn doors.
Coming soon: A bunch of local bands. It's $6 to get in, go check it out.
5. Gothic Theatre
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The Gothic Theatre is technically in Englewood, which is just far enough for you to question whether you've driven past it every time you go there. It's a grand, old-style theater with a tiered balcony that gives it an open, ethereal feeling. When it's packed, it's easily one of the best venues in the region.
There are bars upstairs and waaaay in the back of the balcony. If you get there early enough, grab a table or one of the balcony spots along the side of the stage. This is another loud venue, so remember that ear protection.
Totally unnecessary tip: Parking can be a pain in the arse here; grab the first decent looking spot and don't look back.
Coming soon: Black Lips, The Melvins, Dinosaur Jr.
James is a senior editor at MapQuest who has lived in the Denver area for 18 years.