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Alvin Youngblood Hart to White Water Tavern 

THURSDAY 12/12

SWEARIN'

8 p.m. The Cavern (in Russellville).

If you've been digging the ongoing '90s indie rock fixation/revival of the last few years, what with these groups of youngsters getting together to craft fuzzy guitar rock with catchy melodies and a Pavement/Dinosaur Jr./Yo La Tango kinda vibe (Yuck, Weekend, PAWS, many others), then you really ought to check out Swearin' of Philadelphia. This crew has released two albums since last year, both rooted in buzzsaw pop-punk and that enduring Pixies-style quiet/loud dynamic. Singers Kyle Gilbride and Allison Crutchfield offer appealing sweet 'n' gruff vocal counterpoints that suit this style of music well. The group's new record, "Surfing Strange," finds them stretching out from their DIY, house-show roots, from scrappy punk to something with a bit more nuanced. That said, it's not a radical shift in direction or anything. Also on this bill: Pecan Sandy and Rad Rad Riot.

THURSDAY 12/12-SATURDAY 12/14

'PAGANS ON BOBSLEDS XXII: NICE AND NAUGHTY'

8 p.m. The Public Theater. $8-$10.

If ever there were a holiday that needed an occasional smart-alecky jab to take the wind out of its sails just a bit, it's Christmas. And for more than two decades, Red Octopus Theater has been taking that jab, with sketches that (lovingly) skewer those sentimental Yuletide traditions. This year marks the 22nd edition of Pagans on Bobsleds, and it will be marked with sketches old and classic, as well as songs, songs, songs. Some of the ol' faves will include The Solvecki Brothers ("selling their collection of emotional songs for guys"), Fauzio (with "Christmas party fashion tips") and the Old Lady (who'll be "wheeled out for a reading from her memoirs"). New sketches include: "Santas from Around the World," "Celebrity Wish List," "Law & Order: North Pole" and "Unjustified Elves."

FRIDAY 12/13

COOL SHOES: FAREWELL TO DOWNTOWN MUSIC

7 p.m. Downtown Music Hall. $10.

As we've noted previously, the countdown to Downtown Music Hall's closing is nearly done. Cool Shoes ("Little Rock's Notorious Monthly Dance Party") has been throwing shows at Downtown Music for the last five years, so it's only appropriate that they'd get together to have one last blowout before the place closes for good. The lineup includes Cool Shoes vets Wolf-e-Wolf and Kichen, plus GDash and Andy Chen and lighting provided by Balance Lighting Systems. It's an all-ages deal and it starts early so don't dilly-dally and miss it.

FRIDAY 12/13

ALVIN YOUNGBLOOD HART, VISION CONTROL

10 p.m. White Water Tavern.

For this one, I'll defer to Times contributor Joe Meazle, because I think he nailed it on this description: "If you think of Alvin Youngblood Hart only as a Handy and Grammy award-winning interpreter of roots and blues music of bygone eras (as many seem to continue to try to do), you would be missing the majority of what the multifaceted artist has thus far and continues to create. It would be akin to judging a bowl of gumbo base solely on a single ingredient, a folly to be sure. That fine gumbo has a roots and blues component, sure enough, but there is also R&B, soul, and good ol' fuse-blowing Southern rock 'n' roll, just to name a few of the ingredients." I can't put it any better than that. As far as Vision Control goes, you should know that it's a project of Little Rock native John Pugh, surely one of the most restless and creative artists this state has produced. He was integral in the '90s LR punk scene, performing in a grip of bands (Uptown Prophets of Armageddon, Crown of Glory, No City No State and Jet Jangua, among many others). He anchored the drumkit for Sacramento-to-Brooklyn dance mavens !!!, providing the driving beat for that band for several years before leaving to focus on the duo Free Blood. I haven't heard Vision Control yet, but according to press materials, "using only a guitar, a loop pedal and his voice, Pugh creates a minimalist landscape where syncopated pointillist patterns interlock with heavy proto-punk R&B vamps liberally peppered with bursts of no wave dystopia." Sounds intriguing, brainy and sultry all at the same time, which is to say, it sounds like a project from John Pugh.

SATURDAY 12/14

KACEY MUSGRAVES

10 p.m. Juanita's. $25 adv., $28 day of.

Though she's still definitely young at 25, singer/songwriter Kacey Musgraves is nonetheless a veteran performer, having been onstage and writing songs since she was in grade school. She was a contestant on "Nashville Star," and while she didn't win, it did open doors for her, including an opening spot on tour with Lady Antebellum and a deal with Mercury Records. On her debut single, "Merry Go 'Round," Musgraves sketches a picture of small-town life that's miles away from the sort of small-town hagiography so many contemporary country performers indulge in. In the narrator's hometown, "Mama's hooked on Mary Kay / Brother's hooked on Mary Jane / And Daddy's hooked on Mary two doors down." The song offers other sharp observations about how the small-town life isn't necessarily all that healthy. The title of the album — "Same Trailer, Different Park" — is also a sly riff on this theme. Elsewhere on the album, specifically the follow-up single "Blowin' Smoke" and the double-standard debunking "Follow Your Arrow," she continues to cast a skeptical eye on the world of everyday middle America. She certainly seems to have good instincts not only for pop-country songwriting, but also for distinguishing herself in a crowded field of other up-and-comers. Opening this show will be John & Jacob and Rodge Arnold.

SATURDAY 12/14

KINGSDOWN TOYS FOR TOTS CHRISTMAS PARTY

8:30 p.m. Revolution. $5 and a toy or $10.

Man, outside of the realm of utter tragedy there's just not a whole lot that's sadder than the thought of a little boy or girl not getting a Christmas present. How many bow-tied, wrapping-paper covered packages did you tear through as a kid without a second thought? Can you imagine not getting a single one just because things are tough for your folks and they straight-up can't afford it? That's why Toys For Tots exists, to try to make sure that every child has something to look forward to on Christmas. The guys in Kingsdown have done a Toys For Tots benefit for the last five years. So make sure and bring a new, unwrapped toy or, heck, bring two or three. If it could make one little kid's Christmas a little happier it'd be worth it. Plus there's the rock music for you to enjoy, which will include Kingsdown, natch, as well as Stereo Down, students from the House of Melody music school in Sherwood and Nashville rockers Advocate. It's an all-ages show.

SATURDAY 12/14

FINAL SHOW AT DOWNTOWN MUSIC HALL

8 p.m. Downtown Music Hall.

Over the last 20 years or so, I've seen venues come and go. Ask anyone who has ever put his or her own ass on the line to make a great show happen and that person will undoubtedly testify that it is a fickle, nerve-wracking, even cruel business. But for every shady promoter who rips off bands or fans, there are exponentially more who are just true-blue music lovers at heart who saw a need and tried to fulfill it. And so it is that another Arkansas venue will be closing its doors. Downtown Music Hall has, for the better part of a decade, provided a home to the area's metal, hardcore, hip-hop and dance scenes. It's a shame that it's closing, but I really believe the odds are good that owner Samantha Allen will be back before long to continue booking shows and doing what she loves. This final night at Downtown Music will, quite appropriately, be one that'll have heads banging and eardrums ringing. The lineup is Seahag, Napalm Christ, Iron Tongue, Crankbait and Jungle Juice.

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