Denver is ripe with talent, something easily heard when delving into the music scene. But while there are plenty of large venues to visit such as Red Rocks, Ball Arena and even our own Boettcher Concert Hall where the Colorado Symphony plays, smaller, more intimate places fuel the soundtrack of the city as well. Think live jazz, smaller bands playing in unusual spots and dive bars with great tunes. With that in mind, these five places should be visited by any music lover for an eclectic and lively experience.
1512 Curtis St., 303-839-5100
Blues, jazz, gospel and all the types of music in between can be heard at the downtown venue most nights. The space proves intimate but full of vibrancy. Bonus, while there, music lovers can add on plate of fries, avocado-bacon burger, and four-cheese macaroni and call it the perfect evening.
Don’t miss the iconic Charlie Brown Christmas special featuring Annie Booth Trio, it runs December 19-24. Also, big news, Dazzle will be moving to the Arts Complex in the coming months, as soon as the new space is built out. Until then, visit the venue and see what makes this company sparkle.
1215 20th St., 303-993-8023
Constructed in what once housed a brothel, Ophelia’s Electric Soap Box brings out the eclectic side of the Denver music scene. Think acts such as the ethereal band CocoRosie, the psychedelic-soul group Melt, and Vince Herman from Leftover Salmon.
Because the downtown venue took over an 8,000-square-foot Victorian brownstone, the stage isn’t large, making the two stories feel intimate and exclusive. There’s no bad seat in the house. Bonus, the venue also acts as a bar and restaurant, and on many Sundays expect a free show with that mimosa and brunch.
2199 California St., 303-294-9258
For over three decades the Mercury Cafe has been an incubator of talent, hosting live tango bands, poetry slams and indie music. In fact, it was one of the places that embraced Denver’s darling band DeVotchka, which now plays venues all around the world. Even when the owner sold the space in 2021, the Mercury Cafe maintains the same funky, witchy vibe it always has and hosts a bevy of live shows all year long.
Check out the calendar to find out who is playing. It’s a great place to discover new bands and learn how to swing dance or do the tango while hearing live music.
7 South Broadway, 303-733-0230
Rock fans yearning for old school shows in a slightly seedy bar should absolutely make way to Hi-Dive on South Broadway. Most weekends there’s a show, and tickets are usually under $20. Expect goth bands, funky duos, hard core rock and airy indie acts. This venue is one of the few left that embraces un-tapped talent, and it’s a great place to find someone new to listen to.
1330 27th St., 303-295-3333
From the outside the RiNo space may not look like much, it’s more warehouse than underground jazz club. But when you walk into Nocturne, it’s like no place in Denver. The ceilings are tall, there’s plenty of seating around the stage, a bar stretches across the back, and, if you sit upstairs, you’ll get a view of it all.
Nocturne is open Wednesday through Sunday, and usually hosts two seatings and performances. Guests can choose to book a table for a set-menu dinner and a show, or bar seating where the seasonal fare can be ordered a la carte, as well as drinks. The lineup changes all the time, though often local bands perform the works. But it’s always jazz, and often, the music pairs beautifully with the food and wine.