Music is what makes downtown Colorado Springs go around, unless you count alcohol, which is more geared toward falling down, anyway. So let's start out with some venues that emphasize live music.
Although it's a bit east of the main drag, the Black Sheep (2106 E. Platte Ave., blacksheeprocks.com) is the club that books the biggest touring acts, bringing in the likes of Conor Oberst, Fitz & the Tantrums, Mr. Lif, Gaslight Anthem, and Ozomatli. Our readers continually vote it Best Local Venue for Live Music, possibly due to the influence of all those under-21 rugrats who are welcomed there.
Thanks in large part to the booking clout of Boulder-based Soda Jerk Presents, you'll also find lots of national emo, screamo and metal bands. Note, however, that the venue is closed on nights when bands aren't playing.
Downtown, the Triple Nickel Tavern (26 S. Wahsatch Ave., 555nickel.com) has become a major player in the more under-the-radar indie rock market. If you're looking to discover a motley crew of talented young road warriors from across this great country of ours, bands that sound absolutely brilliant after you've downed a bargain-priced pitcher of PBR, then this is the place. Also look for recurring larger acts like Tucson, Ariz., punk icons the Supersuckers and nonagenarian Mississippi Delta bluesman T-Model Ford.
Just a bit south of downtown, the old Rocket Room (R.I.P.) has come back to life as Zodiac (230 Pueblo Ave., 632-5059) — and, just as importantly, it's brought a few popular RR bartenders back with it. The newly remodeled venue hosts live bands as well as theme DJ nights, including an industrial/goth affair where you can swirl around in self-absorbed reverie to the dulcet tones of the Legendary Pink Dots and Dead Can Dance.
Boots and body shots
Need metal? Yes, you do. And you'll find it in great volume at Union Station (2419 N. Union Blvd., unionstationrox.com), where most of the bands are local and there's plenty of free body shots, too. Because everybody likes free body shots. Unless you're really creeped out by them. In which case, go for the metal.
Most everybody loves cowboy boots, too, and you'll get those at the "world-famous" Cowboys (25 N. Tejon St., worldfamouscowboys.com), which really is world-famous, because it's gotten a lot of press. That said, we have no idea why Bret Michaels, Winger and April Wine have played our nationally renowned citadel of foot-stomping, shit-kicking Tejon Street fun. But hat-acts ranging from the reverent Aaron Watson to original outlaw David Allan Coe exemplify the more typical fare.
Of course, even before Cowboys started dabbling in hirsute '80s rock, somebody had to be doing it. And that somebody would be SODO Night Club (527 S. Tejon St., sodonightlife.com), which has a marked tendency to shift maniacally between musical extremes, including hip-hop, country and hairspray. (If the bill says Dokken, don't come knockin'. Unless you really want to.) Tons of DJs, too.
Now, for a higher concentration of house music, and all kinds of events for the LGBTQ community (gladiator toga party, anyone?), you'll want to check out the Underground (110 N. Nevada Ave., undergroundbars.com). There, you'll find an incredible sound system in rooms that are acoustically perfect for the DJs that keeps the party rockin' 'til the break of dawn. Just as long as dawn breaks by 2 a.m.
And when it comes to covers, Colorado Springs' Tejon Street is a veritable mecca of inimitable imitation. We recommend Oscar's Tejon Street (333 S. Tejon St., oscarstejonstreet.com), if only because we get to write Tejon Street three times in just one sentence. So now let's try for four. Ready?
OK, then, you can also check out SouthSide Johnny's (528 S. Tejon St., southsidejohnnys.biz), the Mansion (20 N. Tejon St., mansioncs.com), Gasoline Alley (28 N. Tejon St., gasolinealleycs.com), the Thirsty Parrot (32 S. Tejon St., thirstyparrot.net), or pretty much anywhere you hear music from the sidewalk on a busy Saturday night.
While you can drink at all of the above — unless you're under 21, in which case we lost you at Triple Nickel — you can drink with less distraction in more sedate environs. Find martinis and tapas at the Paradox Lounge (528 S. Tejon St., in the SouthSide Johnny's building) and martinis, art and some good DJs at the V-Bar (19 E. Kiowa St., 471-8622). And don't miss the Lavender Blossom Martinis and late-night snacks at Shuga's (702 S. Cascade Ave., shugas.com).
Less martinis, more Irish? Try Jack Quinn Irish Alehouse & Pub (21 S. Tejon St., jackquinnspub.com) and/or McCabe's Tavern (520 S. Tejon St., mccabestavern.com). Less Irish, more overt displays of karaoke and creepy murals of the anthropomorphic characters from Disney's Robin Hood? That would be the Robin Hood Inn (2830 N. Nevada Ave., 520-0363).
Meanwhile, Saint Patrick and Robin Hood may be in relatively short supply at Tony's Downtown Bar (311 N. Tejon St., tonysdowntownbar.com), but fried cheese curds and frosty beers are most definitely plentiful. Turns out that this is a terrifically healthy combination, at least if you happen to wake up and find yourself in the Woody Allen movie, Sleeper.
Lastly, on the craft beer front, hit Bristol Brewing Company (1647 S. Tejon St., bristolbrewing.com), home also to Black Fox Brewing Company (blackfoxbrewing.com), which is the personal, Belgian-styled side project of Bristol head brewer John Schneider. The tasting room offers free pretzels — there is no restaurant component — and all the excellent flagship beers on tap, as well as superb seasonal specialties and a killer shuffleboard table.
At Phantom Canyon Brewing Co. (2 E. Pikes Peak Ave., phantomcanyon.com), you'll find about 10 of brewmaster Alan Stiles' house beers on tap any given night, including fine seasonal releases. They're best consumed over a game of pool upstairs or a Queen's Blonde Ale and smoked Gouda soup downstairs. Across the street in the Antlers Hilton, Judge Baldwin's Brewing Company (4 S. Cascade Ave., 473-5600) will please during weekday happy hours from 4 to 7, with $3 pints and 30 percent off select food.