6 Great Denver Live Music Venues
Tune into the sounds of Denver's vibrant music scene at these great lounges, theaters and clubs.
"The live music scene in Denver is amazing to people." (Getty Images)
If you think Denver is only for outdoor adventurers, think again. Music lovers will feel just as at home in a city rumored to have more live music venues than Austin, Texas.
That comes as a surprise to many first-time visitors, says George Maresh, concierge at the JW Marriott Denver Cherry Creek. "The live music scene in Denver is amazing to people," he says. "There's so much every night of the week, and I think it's an understated offering."
The area's most famous venue is, of course, the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Located in the nearby town of Morrison, the amphitheater attracts international recording artists with its rugged beauty and superior acoustics. Although seeing a concert at Red Rocks should be on everyone's Colorado to-do list, most shows are scheduled only in the summer, and tickets tend to sell out fast. So local experts recommend you check out these other great Denver venues as well.
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Ophelia's Electric Soapbox
The posh Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox, a self-described "gastro brothel" in Five Points, hosts a variety of musical events most nights of the week. Dining tables are arranged in a U-shape around the dance floor and stage at this former bordello. The space hosts open mic nights, solo jazz musicians, and cover bands playing dance party hits from the 1980s, '90s and beyond.
It's a favorite brunch spot of Visit Denver Communications Manager Ashley Taufen. "Ophelia's is a great restaurant and live music venue with everything from burlesque to reggae to '80s shows," she says.
Although many concert venues serve food, few have such extensive dining options as Ophelia's. Walk-ins can sidle up to the bar for a cocktail and appetizer (Stout-teriyaki duck wings, anyone?) before the show, and those who plan ahead can reserve a table facing the stage to enjoy a full sit-down meal. The majority of dishes are locally and organically sourced.
Ophelia's offers ticketed shows most Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, and complimentary performances during Saturday and Sunday brunches. Weeknight events vary.
After its heyday in the 1940s and 1950s, the Denver jazz scene is now experiencing a resurgence. Indeed, "jazz clubs are the newest thing to hit the Denver nightlife scene," Taufen says. To enjoy some sultry sounds, grab a seat at El Chapultepec, arguably one of the best jazz bars in town. Founded in 1933 in Lower Downtown (a neighborhood known locally as LoDo), the "Pec" is still popular for its live jazz music, Mexican food and dive-y atmosphere.
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Tunes at the Pec start at around 9 p.m. most nights of the week, and food is served until 1 a.m., making this a popular late-night spot for everyone from hungry bar hoppers looking to end their night with one of the bar's famous burritos, to Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, who told U.S. News that El Chapultepec is one of his favorite jazz clubs.
With a prime downtown location on the 16th Street Mall and a full schedule of live music performances, the Appaloosa Grill is a favorite of locals and visitors alike. Founded by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, the saloon-style restaurant and bar is now employee-owned and hosts rock, bluegrass, hip-hop and reggae acts almost every night of the week.
Lunch and dinner menus feature Colorado comfort food specialties like bison meatballs, smoked pork green chili and an elk burger. A happy hour menu is offered twice daily with food and drink specials available late into the night.
The Ogden Theatre and Bluebird Theater
Built within a few years of each other on Colfax Avenue in the early 1900s, these revered historic landmarks have been recognized locally and nationally for their well-restored architectural details.
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"You can really catch some good acts at those theaters," says Jordan Chavez, concierge at the Hotel Teatro in downtown Denver.
The Ogden Theatre hosts around 150 performances per year by a wide variety of international artists, and early in its history, the great Harry Houdini even graced its stage. At Bluebird Theater, seating is general admission, so the venue recommends music lovers come early to grab a prime spot on the floor or in the balcony overlooking the stage.
Denver Performing Arts Complex
Denver Performing Arts Complex(Jordan Bishop for Denver Arts & Venues)
To see an award-winning show hot off Broadway, visit the Denver Performing Arts Complex, a massive facility that hosts a variety of top orchestral, jazz, rock and pop performances.
"It's huge, with several small theaters and an opera house, where I've even seen rock shows before," Chavez says. The complex includes Ellie Caulkins Opera House, Boettcher Concert Hall and Temple Hoyne Buell Theatre, and don't miss "The Dancers," two 50-foot statues in the adjacent Sculpture Park.
Zeyna Aouad, social media coordinator at the Grand Hyatt Denver, says, "The Boettcher Hall, home to the Colorado Symphony, is great."
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This retro-hip spot in Capitol Hill, recommended by Maresh for those looking to have a nice evening out on the town, has been heralded as among the top jazz clubs in the world. DazzleJazz's demure exterior gives way to a swanky art deco interior with dining tables, leather booths and an elevated stage. Menus resemble vinyl record covers, and dim lighting sets a mellow mood. Guests rave about the Sunday brunch, which is served buffet style. The bar is also known around town for having great cocktails, and live music is scheduled daily with a mix of regular local and one-off traveling acts.
To experience more of what Denver has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.
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