EVERYONE KNOWS ABOUT RED ROCKS AMPHITHEATRE. The view, the sound, and the location make for an unforgettable concert experience. But scattered through the mountain towns and Main Street strips of Colorado are a collection of unique music venues that don’t get nearly the press coverage, which for concert goers means a more intimate experience (and cheaper drinks). Here are some of Colorado’s best live music venues that are off the beaten path.
1. Belly Up, Aspen
Belly Up is a special place — despite its small size the room hosts some of the world’s top talent. The artists you might normally see at a place like Red Rocks. The sound system is state-of-the-art and in true Aspen fashion, the venue has taken every part of the guest’s experience into consideration. They have an in-house chef, lounge-style seating options, and top-notch liquor. If you want to see a punk band like The Offspring or hip-hop star Wiz Khalifa in a high fashion, small club setting, the Belly Up is the place to be.
2. Phil’s Radiator, Pueblo
It’s a rare day when a former car shop in an often overlooked city makes a best-of list. Phil’s Radiator has earned it if for no other reason than they have provided a stop between Denver and Albuquerque for hundreds of small and mid-level touring bands to count on for a good show. Since coming under new ownership in 2014 the place has undergone a massive facelift and is now officially called Phil’s Bar and Music Venue. I have played and seen many shows at Phil’s over the years. The vibe is great and makes you feel like you’re at your local neighborhood dive. The large patio is a great place to enjoy a famed Pueblo Slopper while taking a moment away from the music inside.
3. Downtown Artery, Fort Collins
DIY music venues come in all shapes and sizes. The Artery is less of a venue and more of an experience. They boast an apartment for musicians to stay in after their show, art galleries, and a recording studio. Going to a concert at the Artery is like going to a house party and an art show at the same time.
4. Sabrosa, Grand Junction, 3 Kings Tavern, Denver, and Triple Nickel Tavern, Colorado Springs
Sometimes, nothing else will put your head straight except a night out at a good punk rock dive bar. Cheap booze, eye-opening show posters and stickers covering the walls, and a loud band playing on a makeshift stage in the corner all make for a night that will lift your spirits before sending you stumbling down the street in search of the closest all-night greasy spoon diner.
5. Animas City Theatre, Durango
Hands down the best venue in the four corners region. The place has a great sound system and Durango’s crowds are known for getting rowdy on the dance floor, meaning that when this 300-cap room is near capacity (and it usually is) both the bands and fans are guaranteed a memorable experience. Plus, the place is attached to Cuckoo’s Chicken House & Watering Hole. I’ve never had better wings, anywhere.
6. Schmiggity’s, Steamboat Springs
Schmiggity’s has revolutionized the live music scene in Steamboat. Having a legit venue and bar with great equipment has helped bring more of legion of musicians that tour through Colorado up north to the ‘Boat.
7. The Eldo, Crested Butte
Simply put, Crested Butte knows how to party. When live music meets this small, secluded mountain town, it’s like a switch is flipped and all of a sudden everyone on Elk Avenue is swinging from the rafters of The Eldo and jumping off pool tables onto dance floor covered in ¼ inch of beer and mud.