Dylan Owens | The Know
The concert gold rush is on in Colorado.
Denver has fast become known as one of the country’s live music destinations.
You could just take it from the crush of fans who pack out every single one of your favorite concerts. But there are firm numbers behind that, too. According to Songkick data, Denver hosted about 3,542 concerts in the past year, making it the tenth top live-music destination in the United States.
Not bad … but it gets better. The area’s reputation is more impressive when you zoom out beyond the Mile High City. Consider that, when ranked by gigs per 1,000 people, Colorado towns — Frisco (4), Nederland (5), Snowmass Village (8) and Crested Butte (9) — account for four of the top 10 cities in the country.
With that in mind, our roundup of new music venues features almost as many venues from outside of Denver as ones in the city itself. Both Washington’s in Fort Collins and The Pavilion Amphitheater in Estes Park are well worth the drive, especially considering the caliber of shows they’re booking.
Here is more about those venues, and three other worthy newcomers in Denver.
Those who’ve been to Murder By Death’s shows at Estes Park’s Stanley Hotel (the indie rock band has played multiple nights there for the past four years) would tell you that a concert at the historic hotel is more intimate than your average club show.
That’s because, in a sense, the band is stuck up there. Tucked below Rocky Mountain National Park, the hotel often puts the bands that play there up for the night. That means that if the lead singer wants a night cap after the show or a bite before, they’re probably going to the same place as you. Then again, it’s a treat for musicians, too, to be one of what’s still a small group of musicians to perform at the famously gorgeous 100-plus-year-old inn.
In April, the Stanley will debuts a venue worthy of its gorgeous environs. The $10 million Pavilion Amphitheater at the Stanley was originally conceived as a wedding venue before the hotel decided to turn it into what it hopes to be a world-class music venue. The stage is set in front of a glass wall looking out onto a granite backdrop. It’s reminiscent of another famous Colorado amphitheater, albeit with better weather and seating: The cushions of its 300 chairs are appointed with Italian leather. For those who don’t want to walk down the hall to the Stanley’s famous whiskey bar, it has its own separate watering hole.
The venue dubs itself an indoor/outdoor amphitheater, a talking point it owes to that glass backdrop. With the flip of a switch, the 11,000-pound glass door cantilevers out over a small pool of water cradled by the granite. Its strong enough to hold the band or, if things get really crazy, the audience.
“We want it to be an architectural icon of Northern Colorado,” said one of the venue’s representatives. Find out if they pull that off at its public grand opening on April 20.
Capacity: 300 seats
Amenities: Floating stage, glass backdrop, adjacent to a barroom with 1,200 whiskeys
Can’t-miss shows: Stan Jam on Feb. 23 and 24 ($55-$120) and Jim Breuer on April 20 ($40-$65). The Stanley Hotel; 333 Wonderview Ave., Estes Park. 970-577-4000 or stanleylive.com
The fates of Broadway sports bar Stoneys and Denver cover band The Gin Doctors have been entwined for years. The beloved 1990s tribute outfit played the space regularly in years past, including what was to be its farewell show at the venue in 2017, an emotional concert in the wake of the death of Tyler Despres, the band’s frontman.
At Stoney’s South, the bar’s new music venue, they’ve made a full-fledged partnership. Andrew Aranow, the Gin Doctors’ drummer and a 10-year veteran of the Denver music scene, is the talent buyer for the brand-new music venue, which occupies a separate building adjacent to Stoney’s already cavernous barroom. Along with cover bands like the Gin Doctors, Aranow is focusing on booking blues bands and DJs but hopes to fold in hip-hop and rock shows once the venue gets established.
In true Stoney’s style, the venue is playful. Two lanes of string-pin bowling are set up opposite the stage. A game costs $3, and you can even bowl during shows. (Nothing says “great show” like the clatter of bowling pins.) For those summer yacht-rock shows, the venue has a sliding glass door that opens out onto the patio.
And it turns out, the bar isn’t done with the Gin Doctors yet: Aranow said the band is plotting a comeback show at Stoney’s on April 6.
Amenities: Full food menu; patio with cornhole and a fire pit; string-pin bowling
Can’t-miss shows: The Strange Parade (The Doors cover band) on March 17 ($5); Silent Disco Dance Party hosted by Downbeat on March 23 ($5); Float Like a Buffalo with CITRA on April 20 ($5)
Stoney’s South; 1109 Lincoln St. 303-830-6839 or stoneysbarandgrill.com
If you’ve been to Washington’s in the past 38 years, you might be shocked by what the Fort Collins haunt looks like in 2018. Gone are the days of the 25-cent beers, sticky floors and Jenna Jameson foam parties. That’s because the building was purchased by the Bohemian Foundation — billionaire Pat Stryker’s philanthropic arts and culture nonprofit — in 2016 for $2.7 million, according to The Coloradoan.
This month, the organization finally unveiled the Fort Collins institution’s second act: a distinguished music venue. An expensive renovation helmed by The Neenan Company turned the space from a college haunt into a veritable place of worship for music lovers. (That austerity is echoed by the heavy, church-like doors of reclaimed wood that lead to the stage area, or what one rep called “the listening room.”) The venue hired acousticians and sound engineers to ensure the music is the deserved centerpiece.
Other facets of the building were perfect as they were. Built in 1890, the building’s six-inch sandstone walls aren’t just fireproof, as they were once touted, but practically soundproof, too. It also still has the stained-glass portrait of George Washington on the front of the building — not as useful per se, but still beautiful. The bar, which is separate from the venue’s stage area, is set under the roof of an old trolley car. The acts — booked by former Hi-Dive talent buyer Ben Desoto — are nearly as impressive, funneling a gig from Shovels & Rope and Lucius in one upcoming weekend alone.
Amenities: 90-seat balcony, full bar, ADA compliant
Can’t-miss shows: Blitzen Trapper on March 1 ($15-$18); SHEL on March 24 ($10); Antibalas on March 29 ($17-$20)
Washington’s; 132 Laporte Ave., Fort Collins, 970-232-9525; washingtonsfoco.com
Similar to its Lyons taproom, Oskar Blues’ home in downtown Denver has a taproom and kitchen on its main floor and a 48-tap bar/music venue in its basement that it calls The Black Buzzard. If it doesn’t sound like a concert venue, take a look around: Exposed brick mingles with guitar-and-microphone-patterned wallpaper, and the bar top is inset with picks.
Before the brewery bought it last year, it was Brendans, a low-frills bar that Oskar Blues founder Dale Katechis frequented. The aim of The Black Buzzard was to keep a similar relaxed atmosphere, so it booked blues bands and keeps its lighting relaxed. Even a support beam from the room’s original 1800s construction that had to be removed was repurposed as a footrest at the bar.
It doesn’t just do music, either. Though it just opened last month, the bar has earned a reputation as a low-key comedy hot spot, hosting stand-up on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. (It even saw a surprise Sexpot Comedy party pop up there one night last week after a handful of comedians drove down from DIA during a layover.) On Feb. 19, it hosted its first trivia night, care of Geeks Who Drink.
And lest we forget: Almost every show is free, or just $5.
Amenities: Comedy, a dizzying array of beer taps, cheap or free shows
Can’t-miss shows: Pussy Bros. feat. Jules Posner and Timmi Lasley on Feb. 24 ($5) and The Federalists on March 2 ($5).
The Black Buzzard; 1624 Market St., 720-502-3535 or theblackbuzzard.com
Despite Rolling Stone giving Beta the nod for the best nightclub in America, Denver isn’t known as a club city (club sandwiches notwithstanding). But in Temple, San Francisco nightlife entrepreneur Paul Hemming might have hit on the perfect concept for the city’s mindful dance mavens: a state-of-the-art party palace that’s as creative as it is conscientious.
Hemming, a former film student, said the $3 million space was inspired by Ridley Scott’s neo-noir classic “Blade Runner.” No, there aren’t actual androids roaming the halls but there are android-themed gogo dancers, floor-to-ceiling LED lights, and a spaceship that employees ride to deliver champagne to bubble-thirsty patrons on the floor.
That sounds absurd, and it is. But the club isn’t just futuristic in its laser-and-fog sensibilities; it’s also forward-thinking in its insistence on cutting-edge green technologies. As Hemming admitted, nightclubs themselves are inherently wasteful, hoovering up an immense amount of energy in the few days they’re open per week. Temple is trying to battle back that energy suck. Later this year, for example, the club will install a self-sustained dance floor. Designed by Energy Floors, a consumption-conscious club designer based in Rotterdam, the floor’s lights are powered by the kinetic energy of the people dancing on it. Hemming said he also plans to outfit Temple with solar and wind energy generators in the future.
Temple also plans to get more out of its space by opening it up during what are typically off-hours for nightclubs. Soon, it will host Ecosystm, a coffee shop/co-working space, and Mirus, an art gallery. Those will open in its third room — its main room plays EDM and Top 40 while its secondary room, called LVL, focuses on house and bass — this summer.
Amenities: Space-ship champagne delivery, plus self-powered dance floor lights coming in late 2018
Can’t-miss shows: A-Trak on Feb. 23 ($20) and Will Sparks on March 16 ($10-$20).
Temple Denver; 1136 Broadway, 303-309-2144 or templedenver.com