The best concerts to see in Denver this weekend

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FRI | SLEEP at GOTHIC THEATRE | 1/3/14 Stoner rock and doom metal gained mainstream popularity over the past decade thanks to acts like Queens of the Stone Age and High on Fire, whose reach expanded beyond metal fans. Before playing in the latter band, guitarist Matt Pike had been a pioneer of modern sludge metal with Sleep, an outfit that got its start as Asbestosdeath in San Jose, California, in 1990. With Al Cisneros, Chris Hakius and Tom Choi, Pike wrote five now-classic Sleep albums, including 1993's towering Holy Mountain and the belatedly released 2003 masterpiece Dopesmoker. The group split in 1998, after which Pike started High on Fire and Cisneros went on to form the more ex-perimental Om with Hakius. Sleep re-formed in 2009, and, to the delight of metalheads everywhere, has lost none of its legendary power.

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

SUN | MARIA TAYLOR at LARIMER LOUNGE | 1/5/14 Maria Taylor formed her first band, Little Red Rocket, with her friend Orenda Fink when the two were growing up in Birmingham, Alabama. The group was signed to Geffen and had a couple of albums under its belt when it disbanded in 2000; Taylor and Fink then moved to Athens, Georgia, where they formed Azure Ray. When that group went on temporary hiatus in 2004, Taylor wrote her debut solo album, 11:11; her lush compositions, ethereal yet warmly resonant voice, vivid personal storytelling and thoughtful social commentary established her as a viable, original artist in her own right. In 2013, Taylor issued Something About Knowing, a collection of songs that, though more folk-inflected and lighter in tone than her earlier work, are no less emotionally vibrant.

FRI | THE BLACKOUT PACT REUNION at 3KINGS TAVERN | 1/3/14 The Blackout Pact's demise was a highly scrutinized one. A fellow touring band's laptop went missing, and a quick search found it nestled among the Pact's personal possessions. Blame was placed, and the band fell apart. More than two years after that fateful day in Las Vegas, the Pact returned with 2009's Wolves in the Lazarette. The music there was exceptionally good, with guitars playfully finger-tapping around an upbeat, punk-rock foundation as vocalists Mike Herrera and Cory Trendler barked lines about trying to find salvation at the bottom of a bottle of whiskey.

SAT | WHO'S BAD MICHAEL JACKSON TRIBUTE at OGDEN THEATRE | 1/4/14 Michael Jackson's artistic legacy is hardly simple. From his trailblazing days as a Motown wunderkind to his final, turbulent years in the center of a mass-media circus, MJ made music that was both accessible and revolutionary. Indeed, the breadth of his catalogue makes the task of Who's Bad all the more daunting. The Michael Jackson tribute band, which hails from North Carolina and was launched in 2004 by saxophonist Vamsi Tadepalli, has toured the world with the lofty mission of covering every era of the King of Pop's career. To that end, the group is just as apt to break out a version of an early Jackson 5 hit like "ABC" as it is to take on selections from 2001's Invincible. That ambitious scope, along with a careful attention to costumes, arrangements and musicianship, has made Who's Bad one of the world's premier Jackson tribute bands. Anchored by the uncanny delivery of vocalists Joseph Bell and Taalib York, Who's Bad relies on a careful attention to detail to bring all chapters of Jackson's legendary career to life.

FRI | AUDIO DREAM SISTER (CD RELEASE) at HI-DIVE | 1/3/14 Jamie Haner and Dan Kuhn moved to Boulder in the late '90s after attending Michigan State University. They soon discovered that the musical climate in Denver was more to their liking, so they moved to the Mile High City and became involved in the small but vibrant underground music scene here, forming Audio Dream Sister (due at the Hi-Dive on Friday, January 3) in the early 2000s. The act was part of a wave of emerging stoner/sludge-metal bands that also included the Bronze, Under the Drone and Black Lamb, among others. After releasing two albums, the group took a break until 2011, and is now preparing to issue III, with Mike Harper on drums. The new material is leaner, more tuneful, and more emotionally resonant than Haner and Kuhn's earlier efforts.

SAT | JD SOUTHER at SOILED DOVE UNDERGROUND | 1/4/14 Oh, to have been a fly getting high on the wall of JD Souther's LA pad in the late '60s. His roomie was Glenn Frey, and his neighbor was Jackson Browne, and the tunes that fermented there would become the sweet wine of California country rock. Souther's co-writes for the Eagles -- "Best of My Love" and "New Kid in Town" -- had a dreamy sheen and unabashed sentimentality that, like his biggest solo hit "You're Only Lonely," sounded great on early FM radio. Blame him for soft rock if you must, but just try to resist humming along.

FRI | THE NATIONAL at BELLY UP ASPEN | 1/3/14 After finishing their tour in support of 2010's High Violet, the members of the National didn't have any immediate plans to record again. But guitarist Aaron Dessner, whose daughter had just been born, ended up with a lot of time on his hands. He began writing songs in his backyard studio and giving them to singer Matt Berninger, and, next thing they knew, they'd written an album -- Trouble Will Find Me.

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