A two-mile stretch of East Colfax Avenue includes three of Denver's busiest venues — the Fillmore Auditorium, Ogden Theatre and Bluebird Theater — where about 6,450 people can see live music on any given night. These venues, along with more than 30 others in the Denver/Boulder area, are a testament to the health of the city's live music scene.
And that number is already growing.
Having been born into the Denver scene within the past few months, the Sidewinder, the Armoury and the Exdo Event Center are the city's newest spots to catch live music. Located in or just around the growing River North Art District, these venues are trying to carve a niche that other bars and clubs haven't reached.
"I'm always excited to welcome new venues into the fold, especially when they are near the Larimer because it brings people to that part of town," said Larimer Lounge owner Scott Campbell, whose venue lands within a 10-minute (or less) bike ride from these new live music digs. "There are more options and different environments. It's reflective of a growing scene."
So get out there for a show:
4485 Logan St.
Ticket prices: $5-$10
First show: February
When Kyle Ramirez-Fry purchased Sidewinder from its former owner, she had no idea a live-music venue was in the cards.
A little, nondescript building in the Globeville neighborhood just south of Interstate 70 sits among the modest houses on Logan Street. Inside is a living room-sized bar with some '70s-wood paneled walls and a few chairs filled with friends and locals. There's no room for a stage let alone the enormous TV standing in a corner. That is, until you walk through the unmarked door on the wall.
On the other side of this door is a hall that rivals the size of the Larimer Lounge. It's complete with a stage big enough for a four-piece band, PA, soundboard and dance floor.
"We were just looking for a little bar," Ramirez-Fry said. "When we opened the door, we were like, 'Oh my God.' "
After purchasing the bar in December, Ramirez-Fry had Sidewinder's first show in February, with the help of local musicians playing and running the soundboard. Now, even though Sidewinder is still in the process of being set up, it maintains a busy schedule on the weekends.
"If all the ingredients are right, it's a viable venue," said Crawford Philleo, who handles the booking of Sidewinder. "It's like a blank canvas for artists."
So far, national indie acts such as Ttotals have broken in the new venue along with local acts Vitamins (Philleo's band) and Accordion Crimes. Going forward, Sidewinder's owners are looking to book mostly local acts and smaller national musicians of every type and genre, ranging from jazz to Latin, indie to punk.
The only hurdle for the Sidewinder is persuading people to venture north of the city, Ramirez-Fry and Philleo said.
"It's a challenge," Philleo said. "Sidewinder is definitely off the beaten path."
2048 Larimer St.
Ticket prices: Free-$10
First show: April
Sports and music, jocks and artists — they don't always mix, as any piece of American pop culture will tell you. But in Europe that stereotype doesn't exist, said Kristian Baehre, who owns the new live-music and futbol pub the Armoury.
"In Europe music and football culture intersects with bands like the Clash and Joy Division," said Baehre, who opened the Armoury in February as a place for both music and soccer (he calls it football) fans. "These bands that I grew up with were into soccer, like the Stone Roses, who stopped what they were doing and followed Manchester City around."
Nestled among the sports bars that cater to baseball and hockey fans (Coors Field is a short walk, and Pepsi Center is just beyond that) is the Armoury. Decked out in Rapids scarves, European soccer shields and paintings of Joan Jet, Joe Strummer and Blondie, this neighborhood pub also includes a full stage and sound booth.
The Armoury has hosted about three shows a week since opening, including Clash cover band the Nuns of Brixton, Congress and an impromptu visit from reggae act Soja before two nearly sold-out nights at the Ogden Theatre.
While Baehre is into punk rock, indie and underground acts, he doesn't want to pigeonhole the Armoury into one scene. The way he puts it, his pub is a viable rock bar, but with good food, clean bathrooms and beer in nice glasses.
Exdo Event Center
1399 35th St.
Ticket prices: $25-$30
First show: June
Capacity: Up to 2,000
On the afternoon of May 7, employees at the Exdo Event Center were working to strip down a dance floor to turn the warehouse into a formal dinner destination. It will then be transformed into the locale for the Colorado Firefighter Calendar judging in the same week.
The 22,000-square-foot facility in RiNo hosts everything from weddings to ping-pong dance parties and, in April, the 10,000-person Cannabis World Cup.
In 2008, Exdo hosted a Kanye West show during the Democratic National Convention. This show prompted the purchase of a massive sound system and lighting rig for the rapper, which has since been used for only a handful of other acts, including Pretty Lights and Matisyahu.
Other than private events, though, no outside promoter has booked concerts at Exdo. But that just changed as local promoter Soda Jerk Presents has partnered with Exdo to bring in national acts for concerts that can accommodate up to 2,000 fans.
The partnership kicked off on June 4 with Alkaline Trio, and the Dirty Heads will play on July 12 — so far the only two concerts announced.
"We're not trying to have unrealistic expectations," said Soda Jerk Presents' Peter Ore, who added that the original plan is to do five to six shows a year at Exdo.
This partnership makes Exdo the largest venue Soda Jerk books. Its other halls include the Summit Music Hall (1,100 capacity) and the Marquis Theater (500 capacity). At 2,000 capacity, Exdo is bigger than the AEG-operated Ogden Theatre.
With the goal of artist development in mind, Soda Jerk can start bands at the smaller venues and move them up the capacity hierarchy. But once bands get too big, Ore said he loses them to the Fillmore Auditorium and beyond.
Matt Miller: 303-954-1785, email@example.com