We know you love live music, it’s probably included in your Tinder bio you love it so much. Fortunately, live music happens to be one of the things the Mile High City celebrates with pride. Most transplants upon arrival are only aware of Denver’s crown jewel, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, but Colfax alone establishes Denver as a hub for music with the sheer number of venues on the street, as well as many others scattered throughout town. Each venue has a distinct personality to go along with its appearance, and coming into so many venues can be intimidating even for those of us who have been here for years. So straight from the mouth of a Colorado native, we present our Transplant’s Guide to Denver Venues.
Your new favorite band will play here but you’ll likely find that out months later. The 550-capacity theater is a staple for up and coming talent that inevitably find themselves graduating to bigger Denver venues when they return. Situated across the street from Mezcal (where you’ll pre-game) and next door to Atomic Cowboy (where you’ll post-game), the Bluebird Theater is your chance to impress your fellow transplant friends with your incredible hipster taste. You can try and claim that you are not said hipster, but the Pitchfork review you discovered the band on would say otherwise. Rest assured, however, the Bluebird is one of the few remaining famous buildings that hipsters can feel alright in, and that’s a very good thing.
Down a couple blocks from the Bluebird is the Ogden Theatre. With a larger capacity and with usually more acts booked than the Bluebird on average, the Ogden Theatre is probably the venue your transplant self will end up most of the time, especially if you like “all music” like you claim to. The Ogden also happens to be the known as the significantly less sketchy venue next door to the Fillmore. Odds are if you go to a concert here you’ll end up either screaming “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” at Charlie’s across the street or binging on curly fries from Good Times for the umpteenth time. Don’t worry, we’ve been there too.
Wait a second? Isn’t that where the Nuggets play? Well, yes. Yes, it is. As well as the Avalanche, the Mammoths and most large-scale concerts from Kanye West, to Ariana Grande. Being Denver’s primary arena outside of the 1st Bank Center, you stand the chance to run the gamut of types of Coloradans at any given event. Whether it be the teenagers who drunkenly rode the light rail over to catch a concert they’ll inevitably be too drunk to see, or the parents who thought bringing a toddler to a Drake and Future concert would be a good idea. No matter who you came to see, you can guarantee the people watching alone will be a good precursor.
People always seem to be caught off guard by how far away the Gothic is from Downtown Denver. Nope, you haven’t passed it, it’s actually that far away. The Broadway offshoot is as close as you can be to the suburbs without being Fiddler’s Green. There’s certain to be a line, and transplants without much foresight willing to part with their kidney for a ticket to a show here for whatever reason (it’s actually extremely beautiful), but you can guarantee there will be a rowdy crowd in attendance. Being outside of the city center also means significantly less ratchetness, so there’s that…
All the former scene kids turned hipsters have a second home in Broadway’s Hi-Dive. The venue caters to everything from hard rock, to bluegrass and American Spirit smoking circles. Hi-Dive is the venue where your tattoos, trendy beard and rolled up raw denim jeans are celebrated in a show of 1800s masculinity. By no means is Hi-Dive chauvinistic, dudes just dig the place.
The Roxy Theatre
If you are under the impression that Five Points is “too urban,” good luck handling the Roxy. The 500 capacity Five Points mainstay is primarily focused on hip-hop and R&B, and has yet to respond to the demands of the rapidly gentrifying Five Points. So, if people playing dice on Welton Street is too much of a culture shock for you, then you should transplant yourself to another venue.
Part dive bar and full on established indie venue, Larimer Lounge is a Denver staple for up and coming talent both local and nationally. Growing alongside the developing River North Arts District and with a diverse array of talent, the venue maintaining its hole in the wall appearance is just as likely to attract millennial tastemakers as the ire of veterans who’ve been catching shows here since its inception and now think all music is dead.
For the southern transplants, Globe Hall may be a godsend. The combination BBQ joint and music venue will instantly remind many of you of your former watering holes in Texas, Arkansas, etc. without actually having to endure such awful places. You’re welcome.
Lost Lake Lounge
Larimer Lounge caters to indie tastes but Lost Lake, another Colfax venue, goes a step further by booking the absolute ripest talent to headline its dive aesthetic. Both Larimer Lounge, Globe Hall and Lost Lake are booked by Scott Campbell, so there’s bound to be a crossover in taste between all three of the venues. The only thing more obscure than some of the acts is your ability to articulate where Lost Lake is on Colfax.
While there are many venues that are in the family of South Broadway nightclubs, Club Vinyl is perhaps the most consistently booked with every shade of electronic music under the sun. If you’re a transplant with more discerning taste regarding your electronic music, you constantly scour SoundCloud to impress your friends, and you’ve danced to the point of near heat stroke at Burning Man, you should have been at Club Vinyl months ago.
The Grizzly Rose
If you’ve moved to Colorado there must be at least a little bit of country in you. Fortunately, the Grizzly Rose is the authority on country concerts. With big names like Blake Shelton popping in for surprise performances, as well as guaranteed live performances every Friday from an assortment of country music stars, you’d best be advised to learn to step dance at the bare minimum before you even think about telling people you’re “basically a native.”
Summit Music Hall
Hard rock and punk transplants rejoice! Summit Music Hall is the opportunity to express your angst with locals and transplants alike. Hosting both the newest of the genres as well as occasionally resurrecting the cringe-worthy acts of your Myspace days, if you listen to music with even the slightest semblance of a scream in it, Summit Music Hall is probably for you.
Big name EDM often finds a home at Beta Nightclub. Being on Blake Street, one of the biggest bar streets in Denver, you may not remember much of your night at Beta but you can guarantee you’ll remember the lineup going in.
The Fillmore Auditorium
The Fillmore Auditorium, another Colfax staple, is surprisingly huge. The venue feels like an extended ballroom and plays hosts to artists who can borderline sell out Red Rocks. Just based on the way the Fillmore is set up, it can either look really empty since it’s so long or absolutely jam-packed depending on whom you are seeing and the crowd you’re viewing with. Also, for some reason, the Fillmore has a penchant for attracting overzealous teenagers at times who for whatever reason cannot figure out how a concert works as well as vagrants who have nothing better to do on a Saturday night than loitering in front. If you can make it past all of that, you deserve your spot inside.
From drag shows, to amateur pole dancing competitions, music, stand-up comedy and everything in between, The Oriental Theatre is a pretty much a glorified sideshow for whatever alternative taste you may have. However, you’ve got to commend the Oriental for being one of the few independently booked theater’s left in Denver. Because one thing is for sure, with all the yuppies and gentrification happening across the street on Tennyson, it’s only a matter of time before they try to take advantage of it.
Odds are if you are a transplant that knows what #throwbackthursday is, the music featured at downtown’s Paramount Theatre won’t appeal to you. The Paramount Theatre mostly caters the throwback acts like the Beach Boys, Bush and Alice Cooper to appeal to your transplant parents, and is probably Denver’s only actually fancy venue.
Cervantes Ballroom & The Other Side
At first thought, it may seem like Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom and The Other Side are the venues that someone’s kid brother would be playing with their band that you’d find yourself supporting. However, the Five Points mainstay is ripe with burgeoning electronic music and jam bands catering to the inner weirdo in all of us. Likewise, its entirely possible that you could find yourself getting weird until the wee hours of the morning here. Committed still to supporting local music, your friend’s kid brother’s band would still probably play the venue, but you can guarantee they’d be really good.
Red Rocks Amphitheatre
The most beautiful and Instagramable venue on Earth, Red Rocks is also a reminder that you should probably get into better shape as you make the hike into the incredible venue. Seeing one concert here gives you bragging rights over all your transplant friends, forever. Words don’t do justice to how amazing this place is. If you don’t know by now, you better ask somebody.
1st Bank Center
Almost like a miniature version of the Pepsi Center, the 1st Bank Center is a suburban mecca for mid to large-scale bands to play to transplants who can’t afford to live in Denver. If it seems to you like 1st Bank Center attracts a lot of families, you wouldn’t be incorrect. With an outdoor shopping center and apartments completely surrounding the venue, the 1st Bank Center manages to feel like a wholesome retreat for whoever you happen to see, even the filthiest of acts.
Knee deep in the Denver Tech Center, aka the suburban city ripe with soccer moms and endless amounts of teenagers, is Fiddlers Green. The city amphitheater feels like the poor man’s Red Rocks. Hosting numerous lineups geared towards very niche groups of people, from heavy metal showcases, to this year’s Yacht Rock on the Green showcase featuring Kenny Loggins and other yacht rock staples, you’ve got to have a little bit of self-deprecating humor to appreciate this fine venue.