The ten best concerts this weekend: 11/30-12/2

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Ah, yes, welcome to the weekend! Long week, everybody, or is it just us? Well the good news is that we made it to end of another. The even better news is that there's no snow in the forcast, and there's another batch of good shows worth checking out. While there fair number of enticing acts coming to town, the bulk of this weekend's best bets are homegrown, including Tin Horn Prayer, who's celebrating the release of its eagerly awaited new record, Grapple the Rails, at the Bluebird, Wanker, who's celebrating three-decades of being, well, wankers, and Thee Dang Dangs, who also have a new platter. We've got all the shows listed in our concert calendar, or keep reading to see which shows we think are the ten best concerts this weekend.

See also: - Epoch When offers some lyrical insight into his GRIM state of mind - Thee Dang Dangs talk about their name and what it means - Tin Horn Prayer keeps its live show lighthearted to balance the darker moments of its music

10. VERTICAL HORIZION/WINGER @ GRIZZLY ROCK | 11/30-12/1 Yearning for the bygone days of yesteryear before smart phones and social media? The Grizzly Rock has a pair of back-to-back bills to appeal specifically to these sort of sensibilities. Consider it your own personal retro weekend. Tonight, the roadside roadhouse hosts the dudes in Vertical Horizon, the gentlemen behind late-'90s radio staples like "Everything You Want" and "You're a God." More wistful for the '80s? Good news: On Saturday night, the wayback machine gets dialed back a decade earlier to the polished hard rock sounds of Winger, fronted of course by local-boy-done good, Kip Winger.

9. EPOCH WHEN @ MEADOWLARK | SAT, 12/1/12 Born in Greeley, Colorado, Epoch When (aka Alex Koutsoukos) briefly moved to Los Angeles to pursue a scholarship he received from Icon Collective music production school. While his initial interests revolved mainly around house and dubstep, he had also been writing lyrics and soon moved more toward hip-hop. Citing an eclectic range of influences from Aesop Rock and Eyedea lyrically to Glitch Mob and Massive Attack in terms of production, Epoch exhibits a cross-genre appeal while staying firmly within the lyrical tradition. His lyrics tend to be dense and challenging but are also consistently interesting and, at times, quite powerful. The Fort Collins-based MC is immediately reminiscent of Aesop Rock in his stream-of-conciousness style and abstraction, Atmosphere in his dry, tongue in cheek sense of humor and George Watsky in his flow and literariness.

8. BRONCHO @ MOE'S ORIGINAL BBQ | SAT, 12/1/12 Broncho is a band that, besides having a name that will subliminally resonant with locals for its phonentic proximity to a certain sports franchise, instantly recalls its Ford/Carter-era forebears from the first few ragged chords. Even those with a relatively undiscerning ear will have little difficulty pinpointing the act's influences. There's nothing new here to be sure, but there doesn't have to be if it's done well. Suffice to say, this Oklahoma-based outfit instills its songs with exactly the same sort of primal energy and rowdy obnoxiousness that made all those groups fun in the first place. Prime music for blowing off some steam on a Saturday night.

7. WANKER @ TOAD TAVERN | SAT, 12/1/12 Despite having yet to play a single show, Wanker graced the cover of the December 23, 1987, issue of Westword, looking like a mash-up of the New York Dolls and Adam and the Ants. The group, which started as an idea for a cable-access comedy skit, proved to be too ridiculous and fun not to extend the prank to the public. Wanker combined the sneering, irreverent humor of punk with the high-concept, low-brow execution of the Tubes. Songs like "The Violation of Aunt Bea," "Blister Yer Sister" and "I Touch Myself" were so cartoonish and bombastic that you had to laugh -- or roll your eyes at the juvenile sensibilities therein. Never boring, Wanker (celebrating a quarter-century of existence this Saturday, December 1, at Toad Tavern) is kind of the Andy Kaufman of rock and roll.

6. HEAD FOR THE HILLS @ CERVANTES' | SAT, 12/1/12 One of the finest bluegrass acts to emerge from these parts, Fort Collins-based Head for the Hills serves up quite a collection of tunes on its self-titled sophomore release. On record, the quartet (along with some help from Bill Nershi, Drew Emmitt and others) digs in and kicks up the dust on cuts like the energetic, harmony-laden opener, "One Foot in the Grave," and "Chupchik," a high-paced, backwoods instrumental romp that's injected with a bit of klezmer. The bandmembers are clearly quite deft at their instruments, whether it's guitar, violin, upright bass or mandolin, and with Gus Skinas, who's engineered a ton of Rolling Stones discs, recording the whole thing, Hills is a thoroughly listenable and impeccable-sounding disc.

5. THEE DANG DANGS @ MOE'S ORIGINAL BBQ | FRI, 11/30/12 Thee Dang Dangs got going this past summer when Broox Pulford of Wombmates, Shawn Butzin and Ray Koren of Dead Rollers and Rebecca Williams of Call Me Dolly decided to start a new band, united by a mutual love of rock that's still rough around the edges. The outfit has already garnered a good deal of attention for its visceral live shows, and that spirit is captured well on the recently released Stone Coast EP, recorded by Alex Anderson of ManCub and Flashlights. (Bad Weather California is headlining this bill with additional support from the Blank Tapes.)

4. TIN HORN PRAYER (CD RELEASE) @ BLUEBIRD THEATER | FRI, 11/30/12 About three years ago, Scooter James was at a point where he'd done a few shows with Pinhead Circus, the well-regarded punk band he formed in 1988, but wasn't really set on pursuing music full-time anymore. Then he saw his friends in Tin Horn Prayer, and the band just completely inspired him. "They had that soul and that edge that I grew up with and that we all still loved," he recalls. "They still had a real folky kind of undertone to it; I always like to call it 'outlaw folk.' I saw them open up for William Elliott Whitmore at the Larimer Lounge, and something about it -- they just had such good energy; it was amazing. I literally told my wife that night I was super-jealous and that I wanted to join this band. And a week later, I got the call to join." (continue reading full Tin Horn Prayer profile)

3. moe. @ OGDEN THEATRE | FRI & SAT, 11/30-12/1 Originally alternating between the somewhat prosaic handle Five Guys Named Moe and the more esoteric Haggis, in 1991 this quartet eventually settled on the monosyllabic moniker moe. (That's right, lowercase and with a period.) With a weaving twin-guitar attack and a stout low end, the Buffalo-based act brews its own unique blend of groove that reflecting an array of influences from the peppier melodies of acts like Modern English and Steely Dan to the more blues-soaked rock of the Allman Brothers and Led Zeppelin.

2. MAC LETHAL @ MARQUIS THEATER | FRI, 11/30/12 It's a bit frustrating that after more than a decade of working tireously to build his name in hip-hop with clever wordplay and a distinctive cadence, the things Mac Lethal are most known for are a pair of gimmicky viral videos -- one of which he speed raps while cooking pancakes and another in which he tries his hand at replicating Chick-Fil-A's secret recipe -- and an incidental Tumblr dedicated to the face-palm inducing musings of his supposed cousin. A sometimes caustic, wickedly insightful Kansas City-based MC (aka David McCleary Sheldon) that earned his stripes battling it out at Scribble Jam, Lethal is a self-depricating everyman with a nimble flow and gift for expressing thoughtful observations and story telling. While the Rhymesayers version of 11:11 is his most tuneful record (try to scrub the hook "Calm Down Baby" above from your head...go ahead, we'll wait...), the original version of that album and Irish Goodbye, both issued on his own Black Cover imprint, represent his best and most affectingly honest work to date.

1. SHADOWS FALL @ FOX THEATRE | FRI, 11/30/12 Formed in Springfield, Massachusetts, in the mid-'90s, Shadows Fall began as a melodic death-metal band with some roots in hardcore. But around the turn of the century, the outfit took decisive steps to escape a genre rut, and the result was 2002's The Art of Balance, which served as a bracing statement of the group's then-new phase of development. While not ditching melodic leads, the core songwriting explored a deeper immersion in thrash. In 2009, Shadows Fall established its own label, Everblack Industries, in time for the release of Retribution. Fire From the Sky, its latest effort, explores eschatological themes that are very much in vogue with the end of the Mayan calendar looming. But the songs are more about cutting out the dead weight in your life than about a literal end of days. (Killswitch Engage and Acaro are also on the bill for this sold-out show.)

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