Walking in downtown Denver, you’ll see young couples with dogs, old folks carrying Trader Joe’s grocery bags, and bicyclists racing down Broadway. You might not even be aware of the Gothic subculture living its best life in Denver.
In case you’re confused, we aren’t talking about the Goths, those Germanic people who started invading Europe around Medieval times. We mean the Gothic subculture characterized by black; be that clothes, hair, nail polish and/or lipstick. This group tends to have a penchant for bands such as The Cure, Depeche Mode, Nitzer Ebb and Bauhaus, and enjoy anything on the more morbid or macabre side of things. Dig into your moodiest self and discover these local institutions and haunts.
Buell Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
Any good goth knows what happens if you say “Beetlejuice” three times. If you don’t, worry not. Now goths and non-goths alike can relive the magic of Tim Burton’s 1988 film with the live musical production of Beetlejuice, playing at the Buell Theatre on September 5 through 17. Tap into your inner Lydia Deetz, that strange and unusual teenager who stars in the show alongside the ghost-with-the-most.
VIXENS AND ANGELS
1594 S. Broadway, Denver
Back before Hot Topic and the internet, goths, punks and other subculture-loving teens flocked to FashionNation on 13th Avenue in Capitol Hill. It was a small shop stocked with Manic Panic hair colors, vinyl pants, fishnet shirts and an array of chains, leather jewelry and tall steel-toed boots. The original shop opened in 1987, founded by Pam and Paul Italiano.
Today the shop runs under the brand Vixens and Angels and can be found at 1594 S. Broadway in Denver. There are still plenty of alternative clothing and accessories to look for including Anthony Wang Gundam boots, T-shirts commemorating the long-closed goth club Rock Island, and studded leather belts.
WAX TRAX RECORDS
638 E. 13th Ave., Denver
Back in the day, Wax Trax in Capitol Hill was one of the only places in Denver to get rare alternative music. We’re talking the B-sides, foreign releases and unknown bands of all calibers. While not solely just for the goth music fan, it was and is a place where like-minded music lovers got together to shop, talk and listen to tunes.
Founded in 1975 by Jim Nash and Dannie Flesher, Wax Trax changed hands three years later and was bought by Dave Stidman and Duane Davis. There are two sides to this shop: the new albums, located at 638 E. 13th Ave., and the used records and CDs next door. Just don’t get the store confused with the record label, which has an exclamation point at the end of the title.
DARK SIDE OF DENVER GHOST TOURS
1701 Wynkoop St., (in front of Union Station at the flagpole)
Nothing screams goth more than a ghost-themed tour. Of course, as it is with Beetlejuice, you don’t have to be a goth in order to enjoy the event. The two-hour tour covers both history and tales of hauntings, bringing guests to locations such as Union Station, bars in LoDo and sites of brothels past. For those looking for even more facts along with the stories, Denver native Phil Goodstein leads a handful of ghost tours with this company too. Tickets run $20 per person, take place at 8pm on Tuesdays and some Fridays and Saturdays. Check the website for more dates and details.
GOTHIC DANCE CLUBS
Back in the 1990s the goth clubs in Denver were mostly underground. There was The Temple downtown, which took place in a beat up old house on Walnut Street. Later, Millennium was a popular goth club hosted in a strip mall in Boulder. Next came Rock Island downtown, then The Church Nightclub at 1160 Lincoln St., which is still open today and occasionally hosts a goth-themed night, though not as often as it used too.
However, goths can still get down and dance to Siouxsie and the Banshees and Joy Division on Wednesday and Sunday nights at Milk Bar, located at 1037 Broadway, in the alleyway behind Bar Standard.
1618 E. 17th Ave., Denver
Why not be a goth and have your gothic cake too? At The Crypt, 1618 E. 17th Ave., the bar and restaurant has a gothic flare with dark red lights, a Tales From the Crypt pinball game, and skeletons hanging from the ceiling. But just because it looks spooky, that doesn’t mean the food is. Order plates of vegan beer cheese with potato chips, burgers laced with caramelized leek mayo, and curried cauliflower. Cocktails too fit the theme with names such as Levitated Corpse and Condensed Flesh.
430 S. Quebec St.
Tip toe among the fantastic grave stones in Denver’s Fairmont Cemetery, 430 S. Quebec St. The cemetery opened in 1890, now home to residents such as Denver Post co-founder Frederick Gilmer Bonfils, Elitch Gardens founders John Elitch and Mary Elitch Long, and author William MacLeod Raine. Designed by renowned landscape architect Reinhard Schuetze, not only are the historic tombstones notable, but so are the 7,500 plantings and winding paths that make up the grounds.
Because of the venue’s rich history and fabled gardens, don’t be surprised to find a gothic couple picnicking by the graves or simply enjoying a Sunday stroll. Now, while anyone is welcome to enter the grounds, make sure to follow basic etiquette, which means respect the graves, pick up any trash, speak softly and honor other visitors and those mourning.