DU Field Notes: Best Places to Catch a Show
In this series, the DU Newsroom introduces readers to the world outside campus by exploring Denver and the near beyond.
Whether you’re a fan of rock, jazz, theater or comedy, Denver has no shortage of venues where you can catch a show most any night of the week.
Close to the DU campus, Quixote’s True Blue is a haven for Deadheads and jam-band fans, while the Gothic Theatre offers everything from alt-rock to hip-hop to comedy to live podcasts. Just up the road, Swallow Hill is a music school and concert hall for the acoustic folkie set.
A little farther north, three of Denver’s most popular concert halls sit near one another on a two-mile stretch of East Colfax Avenue: the Fillmore Auditorium, a wood-floored ballroom modeled after the famous Fillmore in San Francisco; the slightly smaller Ogden Theatre, a historic former movie palace whose fall concert lineup includes such acts as Stereolab, Sleater-Kinney and Pigeons Playing Ping Pong; and the intimate Bluebird Theater, another former movie house, which hosts local indie shows as well as smaller national touring acts.
A brand-new Denver rock hall that opened in August is already making a name for itself nationally: The 60,000-square-foot, 3,950-capacity Mission Ballroom is run by some of the city’s top concert promoters and already has seen performances by Trey Anastasio, the Steve Miller Band, Herbie Hancock and homegrown folk-rock sensation the Lumineers.
Thinking about starting a band or becoming part of the local music scene? Some of the Mile High City’s smallest rock clubs are also its most vibrant and welcoming: Check out the diverse show lineups at the hi-dive, Larimer Lounge, Lion’s Lair, Meadowlark and 3 Kings Tavern. Not far from campus, Herman’s Hideaway is an old-school roadhouse and tour stop for lots of down-and-dirty rockers.
For bigger shows, venues such as Fiddler’s Green and the world-famous Red Rocks host outdoor shows in the summer, while the Pepsi Center (also home to the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche) is the place to catch big-name touring acts during the cold-weather months. The Pepsi Center’s 2019 schedule includes the Black Keys (Sept. 23), the Who (Sept. 29), the Jonas Brothers (Oct. 1) and Phil Collins (Oct. 13).
Denver has a great jazz scene, and fans can catch a mix of local and national acts at the city’s respectable collection of jazz venues, including downtown club Dazzle (which also offers a killer Sunday brunch), supper club Nocturne (owned by a DU alumna and her husband and located in the trendy River North district) and the venerable El Chapultepec, a divy LoDo jazz joint reputedly visited by Jack Kerouac back in the day.
Live theater is a big part of Denver’s nightlife scene as well — ground zero is the massive Denver Center for the Performing Arts, which welcomes nationally touring Broadway musicals while staging its own diverse mix of plays, musicals, comedy shows and immersive art events. Other local theaters offering a mix of edgy and traditional fare include the Town Hall Arts Center in downtown Littleton, Curious Theater and Buntport Theater in downtown Denver and the ultra-hip Bug Theatre in the Highlands neighborhood.
While many of these venues offer the occasional comedy show, Denver has its own world-famous full-time comedy club that’s been around since 1981: Comedy Works, which brings in big-name talent and provides a training ground for up-and-coming locals. The club has two locations, one just off of Larimer Square in downtown Denver, and one in the Landmark shopping area just south of DU off of Belleview and I-25.