Maybe one of Denver's best kept secrets is that it's a music city — which tends to get lost in the fact that it's nestled in the Rockies, it's a major tourist destination for all seasons with 300 days of sunlight and that whole weed legalization thing. Denver isn't just snow and dispensaries, though; we not only have top notch bands and artists in our fair city, but some world class venues. Here are a few:
Red Rocks Amphitheater
It's come a long way since its first official concert in 1906. Red Rocks Amphitheater is now a destination for music fans and artists from around the world, both because of its sound and stage, but also because of the views overlooking the city in the rocky, natural amphitheater. Red Rocks has hosted legends like The Beatles and Stevie Nicks, and still hosts local bands each year.
Favorite Show: Tank and the Bangas and Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats, 2018
Once a movie theater in the 1930s, the Paramount Theatre in downtown Denver is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The place feels older though, like it'd be part of Denver's Wild West days; it makes most shows just feel that much cooler.
Favorite Show: Sturgill Simpson, 2016
The thing I like most about Mission Ballroom is its attention to locals. All the murals within the building were painted by local artists, and the food and drink options are made here in the state as well. Oh, and the state-of-the-art sound and expanding stage and giant disco ball are kinda cool, too, I guess.
Favorite Show: Natalia Lafourcade, 2019
The Fillmore is a vibe and always much bigger than I remember. In fact, it held the title of largest indoor venue in the state until 2019. It started out as a roller rink in 1907 — it still occasionally hosts local roller derby bouts — and now hosts acts from all over the world, ranging from hip-hop to metal.
Favorite Show: The Replacements, 2015
The Gothic Theatre is a living art piece. Built in the 1920s, the Art Deco design makes every show just that much more special. Even during its 1988 remodel, it kept true to its original grandeur with a new wrap-around balcony. An intimate venue for dreamy acts, with maybe a few high energy punk shows thrown in.
Favorite Show: Chicano Batman and Khruangbin, 2017
In past times, Harry Houdini took the stage here. Then, you could see The Rocky Horror Picture Show every weekend. Nowadays, the Ogden is the place you will see acts right before they break. I can't tell you how many shows I've been thankful to see here before the artists skyrocketed to fame.
Favorite Show: Lizzo, 2019
Levitt Pavilion is one of a family of non-profit venues across the country, founded with the goal of bringing music to the people. Levitt is the largest in the country and it stays firm in its goal, offering 50 free concerts a year in the grassy hills of Ruby Park in addition to multiple other concerts from May through November.
Favorite Show: Flor de Toloache, 2018
Colorado gets over 300 days of sunshine per year, so we love outdoor music. In 1988, Fiddler's Green stepped up to the plate to ensure we never had to go without. With a capacity of 18,000 — which includes assigned seating and an open lawn — it's always ready for summer to roll around.
Favorite Show: Paul Simon Farewell, 2018
The smallest "big" venue in Denver. It's a local band's dream to headline (and sell out) the Bluebird, and it's been amazing to see those who do. Not to mention the other bands who roll through town and end up steeped in the legacy of the Bluebird. There's something magical about the venue and each show played there.
Favorite Show: Hurray For the Riff Raff and Making Movies, 2017
Summit Music Hall
The cool thing about Summit is that there are basically two venues in the building, with Moon Room, which hosts smaller shows, up front. Mostly a punk and metal bar, the venue does dip its toes into hip-hop, soul, and, ah, pizza. A haven in Denver's Lower Downtown.
Favorite Show: RIDE, 2017
Lost Lake Lounge
It's small. It's grungy. It's on Colfax — which didn't earn its title of the "the longest, wickedest street in America" for nothin' and which Lost Lake can embody on any given night. Lost Lake Lounge hosts many up-and-comers before you even know they're on the up, and if you need to get to know the local scene, well, this would be the place to do it.
Favorite Show: Colfax Speed Queen
Generally, if it's a show at the Larimer Lounge, you want to jump on it. Most shows played here are from artists on the brink of something big. Many that have taken over the stage in the back have gone on to sell out many of the larger venues listed here. And that's not even talking about the locals that make this place super special.
Favorite Show: Maggie Rogers and Overcoats
The first thing I mention to folks about Globe Hall is the green room: It's a cute, vintage Airstream parked in the back. The venue has always been a meeting hall and dive bar, and that's the way we like it, especially with the wide variety of shows booked there. The Texas-style barbecue is a huge plus, too.
Favorite Show: Alex Cameron, 2017
"S*** bar. S*** people." is an actual one-star review left on Yelp describing the dive bar and venue on Denver's South Broadway. In actuality, the Hi-Dive is where you'll see major up-and-coming acts before anyone else, you'll become pals with the staff and you'll get to know get to know Denver's music scene in just a visit or two.
Favorite Show: Los Mocochetes, Pink Hawks and Vic N' The Narwhals, 2018
The Mercury Cafe is something out of a dream, with space for ... well, you name it, but in the venue's own words: "music, dance, theater and poetry." On the music side, seeing a show in its upstairs room is so dreamy and instills such a sense of community, you can't help but fall for the Merc. Hard. Um. Also Radiohead played there in the '90s before that "Creep" song, and the owner Marilyn low-key runs this city.
Favorite Show: Natalie Tate and Porlolo, 2017