By Zach Yanowitz
Denver is a city that contains multitudes. From access to the great outdoors to our thriving beer scene and cultural landmarks, you can truly find something for everyone here. As a major hub in the western U.S., that means we’re also a place that tons of touring musicians stop through on their way to or from California — and with that gorgeous I-70 drive through the mountains, who can blame them? The image of Red Rocks Amphitheater likely comes to mind when you think of Denver-area concert venues, and for good reason. It’s one of the most spectacular places to see live music on earth! However, the Mile High City is chock full of lesser-known locales to catch some live entertainment, from grimy little dive bars to shiny new concert halls. Read on to learn about some spots you may not have checked out yet!
Summit Music Hall
Located at 1902 Blake Street in LoDo just a block from Union Station, Summit Music Hall is owned by the same folks who run the Marquis Theater. This 12,500 sq-ft venue has a capacity of around 1,100 and regularly sells out for punk, metal, and hip-hop acts that cater to the younger set (but not exclusively so). Upcoming shows include world-famous meme rapper Soulja Boy, legendary Japanese noise band Boris, and — my personal highlight — iconic Massachusetts third-wave emo band The Hotelier. Grab a slice of ‘zza from the in-house pizzeria and get ready to mosh!
Lost Lake Lounge
This stretch of East Colfax is best known for the historic Bluebird Theater — in fact, another name for the neighborhood is “The Bluebird Historic District” — but you'll find Lost Lake Lounge just down the road. This tiny little dive is one of the city's best-kept secrets, hosting up-and-coming indie, folk, and punk performers both local and national. It can get a little cramped inside, but that's part of the fun — not to mention that the front wall of the venue slides up to create an open-air space on especially hot summer nights. Bands soon visiting include Portland's experimental metal duo The Body (the loudest band I have ever seen), musical comedian Whitmer Thomas, and rising indie stars Flamingos in the Tree.
Located just across the railroad tracks in RINO, Mission Ballroom is a state-of-the-art 4,000-capacity venue that opened in 2019. Although it doesn't have the historic appeal of The Fillmore or The Ogden, you can tell that the people who built the Mission knew exactly what they were doing. From the well-designed layout to the incredible acoustics and booking agents, this is becoming one of the must-attend spots in the city. Upcoming shows include the much-anticipated Death Cab For Cutie/Postal Service reunion tour, the newly-reunited bluegrass supergroup Nickel Creek, and a three-night stand from EDM superstar Pretty Lights. Protip: If you're hungry before the show, the food hall at Zeppelin Station is a short walk away!
Denver Botanic Gardens
You probably already know about the Denver Botanic Gardens — and if you don’t, you need to visit and walk around before the season ends! The DBG is one of the city’s true highlights, full of gorgeous blooming flora and manicured lawns (especially in the warmer months). But did you know that they actually host a summer night concert series? Neko Case, Mark Cohn, Rising Appalachia, Santigold, and Esperanza Spalding have already played — but you've still got time to see Fitz and the Tantrums, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Andy Grammer, Steep Canyon Rangers, Ozomatli, and more!
This one is technically cheating location-wise, but I couldn't write an article about my favorite Colorado concert venues without shouting out The Mish. Located about an hour and 45 minutes north of Denver in the Poudre Canyon west of Fort Collins, the Mishawaka Amphitheatre is (in my humble opinion) the only venue in the state that can hold a candle to Red Rocks. It's right up against the river with canyon walls soaring on all sides, providing a truly special experience for concertgoers. If you want to take a break away from the music, you can dip your toes in the river or grab some food at their full-service on-site restaurant. I actually attended a wedding here once and during the ceremony a bunch of whitewater rafters floated by and cheered, which I thought was very cute. Upcoming shows include indie icons Guster, electro-funkers Chromeo, and bluegrass stars The Infamous Stringdusters.
Five lesser-known Denver concert venues feels like a lot, but I didn’t even mention Fiddler's Green, the Gothic, the Oriental, the Black Box, Your Mom's House, the venue inside Meow Wolf, Black Buzzard.... we could keep going! We absolutely love living and working in Denver (and beyond) — and if you want to partner with a group of social media pros who get as deeply invested in their clients as they do in their recreational activities, get in touch with us ASAP.
Managing Editor Zach doesn’t go to as many shows as he did when he was a music writer in New Orleans, but he still does okay. The best concert he’s ever been to was LCD Soundsystem at Red Rocks in the pouring rain.