Conor O'Neill's: The Closest Thing Boulder Has to a Mid-Level Music Venue

By: Hannah Oreskovich

Boulder doesn't have a real mid-level venue and it's a problem.

Conor O’Neill’s Traditional Irish Pub and Restaurant, or “Conor’s” as it is more affectionately known, is a venue we’ve mentioned before. They have music every night of the week, their open mic night on Tuesdays is notable for hosting up-and-coming artists, and the talented Danny Shafer books the entertainment for the venue.

An Irish Pub is somehow one of Boulder's best music venues. Photo Credit: Westword.

An Irish Pub is somehow one of Boulder's best music venues. Photo Credit: Westword.

At first glance, Conor’s looks a little like your average college joint. There’s a big front room with booths and chairs, a bar wraps around the right corner, and the stage is in the back. And let’s be honest, the stage is small. With a lack of mid-level music venues in Boulder, if we’re ranking stages, The Lazy DogThe Biergarten and even The Riverside probably place ahead of Conor’s. Conor’s also stacks all of their floor furniture behind the performing band to make room for a dance floor, which makes it a bit cramped, even for something like a three-piece. And bands have to run their own sound. But Conor’s still holds a special place in Boulder’s music scene, and this is why:

As mentioned, Boulder lacks mid-level music venues. Oh how we crave a Larimer Lounge, a Hi-Dive, or a Cervantes. Alas, we have none (investors, please approach). Boulder bands start in coffee shops or small bars, advance to a place the size of Conor’s, and then go on to play the worshiped Fox or Boulder Theater. This is the Boulder ladder; this is often the standard progression for a band in the Boulder music scene. Thus Conor’s is, in some respects, all that we have to hope for when we pray for a mid-level club. And this makes Conor’s a pretty great stepping stone for local talent.

Local Band Whiskey Autumn at Conor's. Photo Credit: Hannah Oreskovich

Local Band Whiskey Autumn at Conor's. Photo Credit: Hannah Oreskovich

Conor’s has a winning combination with Danny Shafer's skilled ear approving shows, a fun atmosphere, and the fact that it is (almost) always really busy. The drinks are decent, the place attracts a lot of college kids + a twenty-something crowd interested in music, and because the stage room has no real seating during shows, people become more engaged with the performers. You have to stand (like you would at a rock club), you have to watch, you want to dance, and usually you do. It’s always a party; it’s always a good time. Even on slower nights, I’ve never walked out of Conor’s wishing I’d gone somewhere else.

Dr. Dog's Secret Show at CO. Photo Credit: Daily Camera

Dr. Dog's Secret Show at CO. Photo Credit: Daily Camera

Conor’s support and showcase of local music is our best shot of pushing performers into bigger Boulder venues, or into legitimate mid-sized Denver spots. Seriously- go catch a Conor’s show. You are guaranteed a good time, you’re supporting local music, you make it possible for Conor’s to support said local music, and your presence at a Conor’s show is living proof of what Boulder needs: mid-level music venues. So rock club entrepreneurs, where you at?

-Hannah

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All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.