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As we ride the rough final days into Christmas vacation bliss, let us soothe our wounds and overworked ears not with the soul-sucking sounds of Christmas songs, but with music that has nothing to do with the most media-saturated holiday of the year.
Let us rejoice in the riff of a guitar and crush a “jingle-jangle” bell beneath the foot of metal or hip-hop. Let us melt Frosty down with the smoky heat of punk and let us tell Santa Claus where he can finally put his coal.
But I digress. Humbuggery is not my forte and though the weather outside is not necessarily frightful, if Christmas cheer is your bag, then Godspeed. However, if you’re looking to bypass the “spirit” train this holiday here’s a few options that you should consider:
This Friday, Dec. 22, catch the Big Cats, the Easys, Smoke Up Johnny and the Reds in one perfectly wrapped package at the Revolution Room. (9 p.m., $6)
The Big Cats (see related story on page 26) reunite barely once a year and are all hard-working members of other bands (and recording studios) who seem to have enough affection for one another and for their music to keep coming back to it.
The Easys, on the same Max Recordings label as the Big Cats and featuring members of Max’s the Boondogs, bring the same golden pop/alt-rock sensibility, but with an energy that differentiates them from the sometimes dreamy vocals of the latter band. Without bearing offense to the delightful ambiance of the Boondogs, the Easys make it really, well, easy to bear the transition with their summertime sound and harmonies. Songs like “The Weatherman Says,” with a Shins-inspired harmony, are unbeatably solid, and though the sound is straightforward it is humbly and precisely so, making it palatable, danceable and instantly likeable.
For those of you who haven’t found yourself watching Smoke Up Johnny during the band’s string of gigs in the last couple weeks, I suggest you find out exactly how strong your love for this rock/punk band is. Featuring notorious actor and frontman Alan Disaster, this band is a little bit grunge, a little bit punk and a little bit Jimmy Soul? (See the line, “If I wanna be happy for the rest of my life, better not make a good lookin’ mama my wife.”) The combination makes Smoke Up Johnny the fruitcake of this lineup. Although you’re almost certain you don’t want a piece at the party, after all the guests have left you find yourself washing slice after slice down with cranberry flavored vodka punch.
The Reds, three musicians stripped down and sped up, remind you of a band you may have heard in the late ’80s, maybe the ’90s, maybe yesterday. Their charm is mainly the thick bass line and accented drum beats combined with Johnny Mac’s vocals (beautifully reminiscent of some new wave greats).
Saturday marks one of your last chances to see Sugar and the Raw in their original incarnation, at Juanita’s. (9:30 p.m., $6.) Although the band has seen many members comes and go, this show will feature, on a rather bittersweet note, the original members. Initially they were labeled as a “party band” (granted, they will be using balloons at their final show) but they held their own and were eventually inaugurated into the indie-pop elite with their album “Translucent” on the local Max label. In recent months the shows were few and far between, with Conrad Burnham’s solo sets the only indication that the band was still around. However, despite the technical demise of the band, the newer members will continue to play music under a new name (yet to be divulged).
Other shows to catch this week: The Localist Hip-Hop Show at Downtown Music is on Saturday … At White Water on Friday it’s bluegrass with Runaway Planet and on Saturday country rock with Jeff Coleman and Chuck Gatilin, an extremely talented pair … On Thursday at Juanita’s, Hornucopia is back (it’s a benefit for the “Play It Again, Arkansas” program for putting musical instruments in public schools), and on Friday the heaviness of the holidays takes over featuring As Cites Burn with Jonezetta, India and the Evidence. On Wednesday at Juanita’s check out the New Frontiers (formerly Stellamaris) with Bear Colony, Manchester Orchestra and Chase Pagan … At Vino’s this week, celebrate Christmas the hard way with Merry Metal X-Mas featuring 1000 Points of Pain … At Sticky Fingerz on Thursday, see local jam favorites Free Verse, while on Saturday it’s the dependable local rock cover act Tragikly White Band … At Cornerstone Pub, Weakness for Blonds plays Friday … And at the Treehouse this week check out sugar-sweet folk with Damsels in Distress with Josh Abbott, and cut the sweetness punk with Maaster Gaiden.
See the calendar or Cat’s blog at www.arktimes.com/blogs/prowl/ for prices, times and more about the local club scene. E-mail: email@example.com.