The twelve best concerts in Denver this weekend

LUCERO @ BLUEBIRD THEATER | THURS, 4/18/13 Outside of perhaps the Hold Steady -- which shares a proclivity for Bruce Springsteen -- nobody plays straight-up rock these days as convincingly as Lucero. Led by Ben Nichols's gravelly croak, Lucero borrows liberally from the Boss and Lynyrd Skynyrd on songs with swaggering piano lines and organ flourishes that have just enough sunburned Southern-rock licks on the outfit's ditties to remind us that they're indeed from Dixie, the land of Skynyrd, and not Jersey.

See also: - Johnny Marr on how he created the sound for "How Soon Is Now?" without effects - Slightly Stoopid's Miles Doughty on playing at Red Rocks on 4/20 and couch-lock ganja - Raekwon's thoughts on storytelling in hip-hop

ARAABMUZIK @ FOX THEATRE | FRI, 4/19/13 In the typically background-work world of hip-hop production, AraabMuzik has become a front-and-center presence in a way that's surprised people who knew him only as a name in the liner notes of Dipset albums. Those tracks are notable, but his solo spotlight work is what's gotten exclamation points spilling all over the place. Electronic Dream was an audacious stab at transforming arena-sized Euro-house anthems into instrumental club-rap bangers, and it did so in ways that preserved its source material's euphoric highs while still giving them a hard-hitting pulse a bit ahead of the trance-infatuated Top 40 curve. And as a live act, he's miles above anyone in finding ways to turn MPC manipulation into a virtuosic performance showcase. He's not so much an introverted knob-twiddler as he is a hip-hop John Bonham, laying down propulsive breaks and jaw-dropping solos with equal flash.

MACHINE GUN KELLY @ OGDEN THEATRE | SAT, 4/20/13 Machine Gun Kelly (named after the infamous early 20th Century gangster) is well-known for his rapid-fire delivery, rabid fan base, "Wild Boy" persona and crazy antics (during a performance for a Microsoft Store, he was stomping across tables, destroying several computers before getting shut down by the very company that hired him). MGK asserts that he is also a superior lyricist and anybody who doesn't see it isn't on his level. The rapper's first studio album, Lace Up, has done well, debuting at number four on the Billboard Charts and receiving generally positive reviews. MGK is only 22 years old, and with his career only really beginning, he has plenty of time to convert the nonbelievers.

RAEKWON @ HOODLAB | FRI, 4/19/13 This Friday, Raekwon of the Wu-Tang Clan is teaming up with DJ Premier to celebrate 4/20 at the 420 Extravaganja this Friday, April 19, at HoodLab. This show marks the first time Raekwon and DJ Premier share a bill. We spoke with Raekwon about the prospect of performing with one of hip-hop's iconic producers, new projects in the works for the Wu and the importance of storytelling in hip-hop and poetry in general. Read the full interview to see what The Chef has to say.

HEIROGLYPHICS @ CASSELMAN'S | FRI, 4/19 Heiroglyphics is a hip-hop collective based in Oakland that was founded by Del tha Funkee Homosapien, having recruited several members from Souls of Mischief. Chances are, even if you've never seen or heard them, you've seen their third eye logo which seems to invariably appear at least once at every hip-hop show. This underground group struck gold -- figuratively speaking -- with their 1998 West Coast classic 3rd Eye Vision, whose songs "You Never Knew" and "At the Helm" cracked the mainstream, if only for a little bit -- tiny fragments of their free-associative style and laid-back vibe are likely still implanted somewhere in your brain. Even on wax, the crew sounds like a real life cypher. They're even better live. The only problem is that you never know who is going to show up.

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