Playing cornhole on the patio of a local Denver brewery while some local musician strums his guitar in the background is all good and fun — it’s a casual environment that’s conducive to meeting new people and even attracting a summer fling. But the sun’s light, which only weeks ago gave us endlessly bright summer evenings, now casts the sky in bold, dramatic shadow. As it dips under the horizon, it enshrouds us in mystery, prompting the wish for a cozier night indoors. That’s right — it’s autumn, and the atmosphere is set for romance.
Denver is full of intimate live music venues that exude sultry romantic atmospheres. We’ve compiled a list of our favorite of these spots below.
When: For when you want to experience an elegant reimagination of a bygone era
Where: 1403 Larimer St., Denver
The Lowdown: Epitomized by its glossy red door, The Crimson Room provides a relaxed yet sophisticated alternative to the overwhelming nightclub milieu. Fulfilling a need for live music on Larimer Square, the venue hosts sizzling jazz sessions and intimate acoustic sets every Tuesday through Saturday beginning at 9 p.m. It is also dimly lit and never too loud — a perfect environment to exchange whispered words with someone while sharing a (reasonably priced) board of charcuterie.
When: For when you want to impress with your music taste (rather than the size of your wallet)
Where: 3602 E. Colfax Ave., Denver
The Lowdown: The Lost Lake Lounge is a traditional music venue in the sense that it’s largely standing room only, yet their exceptionally warm and attentive bar staff are delightfully untraditional when it comes to concert concessions. This unpretentious hole-in-the-wall entertains a variety of music — you don’t have to pretend to like jazz in order to be romantic — and they consistently bring in cutting-edge local and national talent. The Lost Lake Lounge keeps the intimacy but spares the elitism, and for that we are thankful.
When: For when you want to experience a Parisian jazz club but would rather pass on the plane ride
Where: 1643 S. Broadway, Denver
The Lowdown: La Cour is a French restaurant, art gallery, wine bar, and music venue rolled into one. Live jazz acts play every night from 7 to 10 p.m. — except Monday, when it’s closed — and there’s never a cover charge. At the guests’ convenience, the venue posts samples of the upcoming music on their website, so you can judge beforehand if it’s your cup of tea (er, glass of wine?). The European-style service is relaxed — yes, we’re saying it’s sometimes slow — but the hands-off approach is frankly welcome in this context — we want our attention on the music, not on the server who’s checking in on us again.
When: For when you want to bond with other friendly, folksy individuals in a cozy sit-down theatre
Where: 71 E. Yale Ave., Denver
The Lowdown: The Swallow Hill Music organization operates a number of different live music spots right out of the same building. However, people commonly use the name “Swallow Hill” in reference to their most popular venue, the Daniels Music Hall. This setting is very down-to-earth, in terms of both the people it attracts and the type of music it promotes. Get to know other members of the Denver music community while virtuosic folk and bluegrass music plays only a few feet away. Swallow Hill Music also puts on the concerts at the Denver Botanic Gardens — keep that in mind for future romantic summer dates.
When: For when you want the night to last forever
Where: 2701 Larimer St., Denver
The Lowdown: The vibrant Meadowlark Bar has a lot of momentum right now, and for good reason. Up-and-coming musical acts of all kinds drop by this location. Don’t be surprised if punk bands, country crooners, hip-hop DJs and jazz virtuosos all get their own stage time in the span of one week. Live music sets typically last more than four hours here, and the revelry lasts up until the 2 a.m. closing time, even on weekdays. Clearly, people come here to have fun, but don’t let that intimidate you — the social environment is comfortable enough to meet new people. Their charming upstairs patio is also a great spot to converse and catch some air.
When: For when you want to hear trendy music in a dignified historic atmosphere
Where: 3317 E. Colfax Ave., Denver
The Lowdown: Because the Bluebird Theater is more than 100 years old — and listed on the National Register of Historic Places — folks flock to this venue with high expectations. We find it lives up to its lore for several reasons. Firstly, there’s not a bad spot in the 600-person house. The tiered flooring provides unobstructed viewing angles for even those of us who are vertically challenged. Furthermore, the venue’s interior is beautiful, and music bounces off the ceilings and walls to produce killer sound quality. The professional staff — who quickly and quietly extinguish all minor scenes — will ensure your rapturous night out runs smoothly.
When: For when you crave a venue with a little personality
Where: 321 E. 45th Ave., Denver
The Lowdown: Don’t let the Budweiser sign out front fool you — this place is swanky. A constellation of red paper flowers drapes from the ceiling, and the eclectic antique furniture will charm you from the top of your top hat to the bottom of your Oxford-clad toes. The layout of the space vaguely resembles a house, and it certainly feels homey. Local DJs play at this little neighborhood bar a few times a week — check out their list of upcoming events here.
When: For when you want to surround yourself with unpretentious beauty and warmth
Where: 3263 S. Broadway, Englewood
The Lowdown: The Gothic Theatre’s old interior paint job is dated and a little quirky — can you call it retro if it’s from that era? — but it’s also part of the charm. The faint red glow emanating from the lofty ceiling gives warmth to the concert experience, no matter who’s playing. We recommend arriving for the opening act so you can get a spot on one of the raised platforms on the floor level. (These platforms are also right by the sound booth, which means you’re hearing what the sound engineers hear — a definite advantage.) The Gothic can get crowded, but it’s the good kind of crowded that requires you and your companion to share each other’s space. Fellow audience members are always engaged yet never too riotous.
When: For when you want to feel connected
Where: 18300 W. Alameda Pkwy., Morrison
The Lowdown: Alright, so Red Rocks is somewhat out of season at the time of this article’s release, and some would say the most romantic thing about the amphitheater is its idealized reputation. But there’s a case to be made for larger venues with GA seating such as this — grabbing your date and maneuvering through the crowd to get the perfect spot is chivalrous behavior if you ask me. And look at that — now you’re already holding their hand. Red Rocks is proof that a venue can be intimate without being small.
When: For when you want to feel like a Great Gatsby character
Where: 1330 27th St., Denver
The Lowdown: Nocturne is undoubtedly a high-end venue — it’s the ritziest on our list — but sometimes you’ve got to pull out all the stops and live out your dreams. Musicians of national renown play live jazz here every Tuesday through Saturday, beginning at dinnertime. The bonus late-night sets run to the early hours of the morning, and the exceptionally accommodating staff will help you pick out a dessert to fuel you through it. This place is a fun and fancy little gem with art deco-inspired interiors, and cream-of-the-crop entertainment. Do yourself a favor and take someone special here — and you bet that someone can be yourself.