No doubt about it: Denver (and Colorado) loves its music — especially its rock and roll. In summer, the Centennial State absolutely explodes with sound, from multi-day festivals to free street performances to sold-out shows at its most iconic outdoor ampitheatre. There are far too many concerts to count, but some of the best can be found on calendars from Visit Denver, Westword, and The Colorado Sound. Here are just a few of the great places to rock out around town (and beyond).
Red Rocks Amphitheater: The granddaddy of them all, Red Rocks is often considered the best outdoor music venue on the entire planet. Dinosaurs once roamed the naturally occurring amphitheater, where the massive sandstone pillars form an almost acoustically perfect environment. The modern seating and enhancements were the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps, and Red Rocks was dedicated in the summer of 1941, just before the onset of WWII. The legendary venue has played host to the Beatles, U2, Diana Ross and Bruce Springsteen. Red Rocks is also home to the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, and the site of Film on the Rocks, a popular outdoor movie series. Big acts coming up include Vance Joy, Duran Duran, and Young the Giant. View the entire season’s event calendar here.
Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox: “Gastrobrothel” isn’t a word you hear every day, but this Victorian brownstone in Denver’s Ballpark neighborhood once offered very different types of entertainment (first as a brothel, then as a sex shop and peep show) before becoming a chic restaurant that plays up its naughty past. Now in addition to tasty fare like Green Chili Goat Cheese Cornbread and Duck Meatballs, patrons can “peep a show” including live performances and DJ’d dance parties. Peep the events calendar here.
Levitt Pavilion: A newcomer to the Colorado music scene, Levitt Pavilion is the first and only free cultural venue in Denver. Opened in 2017 at Ruby Hill Park, it’s one of more than 50 Levitt sites across the country that provide free musical programming to build community, which is the mission of the Levitt Foundation. More than 50 free family-friendly concerts are put on each season, along with a number of ticket-required events. View the whole calendar here.
Lion’s Lair: On the gritty east end of Colfax Avenue, the Lion’s Lair Lounge is Denver’s oldest consistently operating independent music venue. It started as the Playboy Club in the 1930s, and its tiny stage (which has live shows seven nights a week) has seen the likes of Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys), John Doe of X, the Black Keys and local favorites Slim Cessna’s Auto Club. Catch a lineup of all the upcoming acts here.
Larimer Lounge: One of Denver’s original indie rock venues, this modest brick building in the heart of downtown has seen the likes of Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and then almost unknowns that now fill stadiums like Arcade Fire. There’s no food, but you can enjoy locally produced beer and craft cocktails inside or on their expansive patio. Upcoming show list is here.
The Mishawaka: Road trip and rock fans, rejoice: “the Mish” has survived both wildfires and floods and is still standing in Poudre Canyon, and the iconic riverfront amphitheatre 35 minutes from Fort Collins is going strong for yet another season of music and merriment. Offering “Classic Beats and River Eats,” the restaurant serves delicious food (get the bison burger) while the stage showcases acts like Chromeo, Toad the Wet Sprocket, G. Love & Special Sauce and Lotus. Check out the schedule here.
More, more, more: This roundup from 303 Magazine is slightly out of date (a few venues are gone), but offers a nice overview of many local music venues.