Boulder takes music seriously. From Townes Van Zandt back in the day to Gregory Alan Isakov now, this town has been home to a surprising number of outrageously talented singer/songwriters over the years, and they’ve established a tradition in that scene that holds strong even now. On any given night of the week, you can seek out great music, either through the busy open mic scene or at a number of local venues.
To get you started, here’s a night-by-night guide to the best places to check out for some local songsmith flavor.
In most towns, Monday night is completely dead. In Boulder, there are options. For an open mic, the best place to go is License No. 1. This downstairs speakeasy-style cocktail spot, located under the Hotel Boulderado, has just the right Prohibition-style décor to go with a delicious Manhattan, and the open mic is run by members of the local band Foxfeather, who frequently open the show with a few stripped-down versions of their own take on Americana. For more of a band setting, try music night at Mountain Sun; tasty local beers plus a leaning toward local bluegrass and folk can’t be beat.
Following the local brew theme, Twisted Pine Brewing has an open mic every Tuesday hosted by Jim Herlihy of local band Augustus. As you might expect from events run by local musicians, each draws their own circle of local players along with first-timers and visitors. For something more upbeat on a Tuesday, try Swing Night at No Name Bar (no kidding, that’s really the name) up by campus for some great retro jazz.
Jim Herlihy also runs the open mic at Sanitas Brewing, which, aside from the tunes and brews, has one of the best patios around. The outdoor setting east of downtown provides much-needed shade and a laid-back vibe during busy summer months — and the permanent McDevitt Taco Supply Shack doesn’t hurt either.
Another great Wednesday night option in the summer is Bands on the Bricks, which runs local music acts every Wednesday evening right on the pedestrian mall on Pearl Street. Additionally, if it happens to be the first Wednesday of the month, head to eTown just a block from Pearl Street for Boulder in the Round, a monthly songwriter showcase hosted in their downstairs space — with live painting to accompany the music.
For weeknight music in the Boulder area, Thursdays are incredible. For an open mic option, there’s an unusual option up in Longmont, where you can take the main stage at the Dickens Opera House. Hosted by local songwriter Brian Rezac, this is a rare chance for non-gigging musicians to play on a real stage for what’s usually a pretty full room. Sign-ups open at 6:45 p.m., and it’s best to get there early because the slots fill up fast.
For a laid-back option in Boulder, Caffé Sole hosts jazz and world music nights Thursday through Saturday, garnering a talented and eclectic collection of local jazzbos.
If you need help finding music in Boulder on the weekend, then you’ve got bigger problems than scheduling. A walk down Pearl Street or up on The Hill can find any number of restaurants and bars with local bands — not to mention the legendary Fox and Boulder theaters.
But for a taste of the local singer/songwriter scene, your best bet is the Laughing Goat coffee house. A popular work spot during the day, the Laughing Goat also serves beer and wine for the evening crowd. It hosts music or poetry just about every night, but on Fridays, there’s always a great crowd. Especially check it out on the first or third Fridays of the month, which hold residencies by Ramaya & the Troubadours and The Constellation Collective, respectively. Featuring local musicians including Ramaya Soskin, Andrew Sturtz and Katie Farmer, among others, it’s always a rotating glimpse of local talent and beautiful harmonies.
Now we’ve reached the weekend, and you’re on your own — a short walk around downtown Boulder can always lead you somewhere interesting, and there are always fun bands playing on Saturday night all around town. Don’t forget to check our events calendar and sign up for our newsletter to find your next spot to check out.