The best concerts to see in Denver this week

ZZ WARD, ALICE IN WINTERLAND at SUMMIT MUSIC HALL | 12/12/13 Zsuzsanna Ward got her start singing classic blues and R&B in her father's band at age twelve. The experience instilled in her a keen sense of melody and vocal expressiveness that served her well when she moved to Los Angeles from Oregon. While writing and re-cording her debut EP, Criminal, Ward recorded a mixtape of recent songs by hip-hop artists including Tyler, the Creator and Kendrick Lamar, with whom she later worked. She also sampled Freddie Gibbs's "Oil Money," and the rapper was so taken with her treatment that he asked to guest on the official version. No stranger to downbeat music, Ward brings energy and charisma to her singing and performances that imbue even the darker material with a spirit of hopefulness. Catch ZZ Ward at the Summit with the Fray and A Great Big World.

See also: All upcoming shows in our constantly updated Denver concert calendar

MON | MIDLAKE at LARIMER LOUNGE | 12/9/13 The members of Midlake met as jazz students at University of North Texas College of Music. Considering its collective chops, the quintet could easily have gone a different musical route, but the music that actually garnered the band attention had much more in common with the Moody Blues than Mahavishnu Orchestra. As the act developed its sound over the course of the following decade, it incorporated more electronic elements, and by the time of 2010's The Courage of Others, Midlake was making music that resembled the contemplative, even mystical, sound of bands like Fairport Convention. In 2012, primary songwriter Tim Smith left the band while it was still recording its next album; the remaining members of the outfit ended up ditching the recordings, but still managed to maintain the gently urgent, dreamlike vibe of their past songwriting for Midlake's latest effort, 2013's Antiphon.

FRI & SAT | PATTERSON HOOD at LARIMER LOUNGE | 12/13-12/14 Once upon a time, Patterson Hood performed with the Drive-By Truckers at a burrito shop/dive bar in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Near the end of the set, someone in the audience bought tequila shots for the Truckers, and then another fan followed suit, and another, and another. This is the world that Hood's band inhabited circa 1999: Southern, fucked up, down for whatever. The Truckers released many damn-fine Southern-rock albums in the 2000s, and their profile increased considerably. But Hood apparently had something to say that he couldn't with his band -- hence the solo stuff. With lyrics dark enough for black metal and melodies that recall the Allman Brothers on a good day, Hood's non-Truckers output holds up exceedingly well on its own. His latest album, Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance, is about as complicated and literary as the name implies.

THURS & FRI | THE HEAD & THE HEART | 12/12-12/13 The members of the Head and the Heart met while playing open-mic nights at a pub in the Old Ballard section of Seattle. The band -- which takes its name from the notion of following your passion and bliss, even when your logical mind is telling you to pursue a more sensible course in life -- writes earnest, hushed, folk-inflected pop songs that recall Déjà Vu-period Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. The results are less rock-oriented, but no less well-crafted. Championed early on by Seattle's premier independent radio station, KEXP, the outfit was picked up by Sub Pop, which reissued its 2011 self-titled debut. On the group's latest effort, Let's Be Still, you can hear a tasteful hint of Gram Parsons's gentle soulfulness.

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