Denver Bar Association
July 2003
© 2003 The Docket and Denver Bar Association. All Rights Reserved.
All material from The Docket provided via this World Wide Web server is copyrighted by the Denver Bar Association. Before accessing any specific article, click here for disclaimer information.

The Better Dives in Denver

by Greg Rawlings

In search of Denver’s hidden treasures

Another Saturday night at the Larimer Lounge. Band members wander about, sipping PBR or Diet Coke, lighting each other’s smokes. The guitar player for the Breezy Porticos is doing a one-man sound check on the small stage at the end of the bar. A bartender pours a Red Bull and hugs a regular. The jukebox is blasting a band that 99 percent of Denver will never know exists. Bit by bit, the members of Denver’s best band, Dressy Bessy, stroll in. Rob, the bass player, lights his everpresent pipe and smiles like someone who knows something so cool that it can never be put into words. The Larimer Lounge is slender and deep, high-ceilinged for a club, with okay acoustics. I like it. A girl with dark black eyes and a dime store tierra on her head bums change for the pinball machine.

Nearing showtime, former Docketeer Jen’s significant other Mike, from local sugar-pop/happy-pop band the Maybellines walks in. Friends crowd around eager for news of Jen’s trip abroad. Another Maybelline walks in and checks out the scene. He smiles and moves into the crowd. A recent tragedy has the band on hiatus but they will return. I order a Newcastle, which soon becomes de rigueur for the rest of the barflies, and just listen to the buzz. Poseurs approach the pool table—there can be poseurs without there being a scene, but there can never be a scene without poseurs. It’s one of the trade-offs you make for this kind of life. It is, all things considered, quite pleasant. The sort of pleasant that makes being alone at 43 almost bearable. Two months of bronchitis makes the smoky atmosphere tough—but if you love live music played in small places, you’d better have a killer set of lungs.

The bands are all good tonight, especially Dressy Bessy. The headliners, The Essex Green, an alt-country band from Brooklyn (go figure), seem tired but game. Far less talented bands are earning a fortune spewing out drivel. I buy two Dressy Bessy tee-shirts for my eight-year-old daughter. She loves them. Dressy Bessy had a song on the Powerpuff Girls Movie soundtrack, so to my 2nd grader they are demi-gods, if not quite as cool as Lizzie McGuire. I leave with a smile.

Sunday afternoon, the day after, drinking coffee with the "ex" at Pablo’s on 14th Street. There is new art on the walls, witty, colorful, thick-on-the-canvas oils that create an interesting contrast to the Velvet Underground cranking on the stereo. J has a scone and a latte while I go for the large cappuccino, because this one’s a freebie. Greta, behind the counter, wears a Pretty Girls Make Graves tee-shirt. It looks great. I show her the tee-shirts I bought for Hannah the night before and she grins widely. She sometimes looks so wise to be so very young. We gaze outside. Crowds swarm by in intermittent bursts of grey suits and crimson high heels as suburbanites head for the matinees at the DCPA.

Later that same day, I walk past the 15th Street Tavern. Some classic late-60s metal blasts through the door. An old drunk leans against the wall. I can see the question of the day forming in his sad, wasted brain: do I stumble down to the pawnshop and hang out, or do I crash on the convenient RTD bus bench? He is still resolving this existential dilemma when I turn the corner for home. The last time I was at 15th Street, Dressy Bessy was playing with the Breezy Porticos. Small world, eh? I remember asking the blonde girl beside me, after taking in the dancing kids in Swinging ’60s regalia in front of the bandstand, whether they got their invisible go-go boots on E-Bay. She laughed and asked me to come and see her boyfriend’s band the next night. I didn’t; some lawyers have to be at work bright and early on Monday mornings, me being one of them.

Zoom back to 1:30 a.m., Sunday morning, after driving home from Larimer Lounge. I sip green tea in my 7th floor apartment downtown, decompress to some live Thelonius Monk, and stare at the cross that shines at night from the western foothills. Sometimes this little cowtown is okay, I think. I’d been down on it lately, after spending a wild week in West Hollywood and environs with my music exec brother and his show biz gang. But as long as there are real places with real bands playing real music, maybe I can handle it. Anyway, it’s spring and soon it will be summer. The winter of my discontent is finally past. And Dressy Bessy has a new CD coming out. Yes, sometimes Denver is a pretty okay place: you just have to know where to wander.

Member Benefits DBA Governance Committees Public Interest The Docket Metro Volunteer Lawyers DBA Young Lawyers Division Legal Resource Directory DBA Staff The Docket