Before we delve into the issues of the day, I should point out that because Christmas Eve falls on a Wednesday this year, the December 24 issue will actually hit newsstands on Friday, December 26 — even newspaper delivery elves don’t work on the holidays. I think it’s a union thing. Therefore, this column will cover events happening through said Friday, December 26. So, if I refer to “this” Friday, I mean Friday, December 19. “Next” Friday, means the following Friday, December 26. Make sense? Good. Moving on . . .
There are obviously numerous holiday-themed events happening this week. From midget ponies, er, “little horses” pulling Canadian tourists in sleighs down Church Street — seriously, how is that fun? It’s, like, four blocks — to drunken carolers parading around town butchering Christmas standards, it simply ’tis the season. It really ’tis.
This Saturday, one of our more revered local holiday traditions takes place at Nectar’s as Father Christmas himself, Mr. Brett Hughes, hosts his annual “Big Ass Holiday Show with Lots of Special Guests.” There is something to be said for blunt honesty, no?
The show has been occurring in various forms for just about as long as this writer can remember. Personally, it ain’t really Christmas in my hometown until we gather round the hearth and listen to Hughes recite “Blue Christmas.”
As always, Hughes has enlisted a veritable workshop of helpers to ring in the holidays. In addition to his always crack backing band, revelers can expect the countrypolitan crooner to be joined by such local celebs as — Note: It is recommended you read this next bit in your best Don Pardo voice — Justin Levinson, Amber DeLaurentis & Tom Cleary, Lee Anderson, Juliet McVicker, Marie Claire, Swale, The Physics Club, Joe Cleary, Gordon Stone and Dean Martin. OK, I made the last one up. But you really can’t have a holiday special without a drunk Dino. I think it’s actually a law.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’m obligated to point out that yours truly might make a guest appearance of his own. But I urge you not to let that dissuade you from going. The rest of the lineup will more than make up for the caterwauling of this washed-up alt-country singer. Especially The Physics Club. Trust me.
HOLIDAY PARTY (STAR)
If you prefer your (Yule)tidings a little less “comfort and joy” and a little more, well, “good and drunk,” have we got a holiday show for you! Dubbed “The Party Star Christmas Spectacular,” Burlington’s favorite debauched rabblerousers are aiming to host “the best Christmas-y gathering of the year.” Translation: “Let’s get hammered and play some really loud rock.” Like I said before, ’tis the season.
Party Star will be joined by until-recently-hiatused rock outfit Player 2, and the comically wondrous karaoke stylings of Koolaoke. This particular Christmas miracle also happens this Friday at The Monkey House.
MY TWO FRONT TEETH
Looking for a few last-minute gift ideas to please that fickle music fan in your life? Allow me to offer a couple of suggestions.
If you have someone on your list who is really into ironic electronic Christmas music — and who doesn’t? — Christmas and Glowsticks, the latest release from local funny man Joel Abbot (a.k.a. The Go Ahead And) might be just the thing. Composed of 12 reinterpretations of traditional holiday classics like “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” Silent Night” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” the disc exists somewhere in the space between The Chemical Brothers, Ray Stevens and Manheim Steamroller — with a little “Legend of Zelda”-esque eight-bit tomfoolery thrown in for good measure. Believe me, it’s more fun than it sounds. Check it out at www.christmasandglowsticks.com.
Those with (comparatively) more conventional tastes — i.e., most of us — would do well to check out the latest release from noted local gospel diva Tammy Fletcher, Tammy Fletcher Is Mountain Girl. As the title implies, the disc is somewhat of a departure into rootsier terrain than her previous work. But it’s equally impressive. Not to spoil the album review that will appear in these pages after the New Year, but it’s easy to take local institutions such as Fletcher for granted. Frankly, we get spoiled.
But the new album serves as a potent reminder that there are precious few voices — in Vermont or elsewhere — with her unique combination of power and grace. It’s not too early to start making New Year’s Eve plans, and her First Night release party at Burlington’s Flynn MainStage should be on your agenda.
Local World music magnate, Cumbancha Records, has had one hell of a year. In the wake of a slew of excellent releases from artists such as Chiwoniso, Umalali: The Garifuna Women’s Project and — my personal favorite — Rupa & The April Fishes, the Charlotte-based imprint was awarded “Label of the Year” from the annual World Music Expo (WOMEX). For those not hip to the World music scene, that is a very big deal. It’s pretty much the equivalent of a Grammy, except that the award is bestowed by folks who actually know something about music. Zing! On a related note, the label has put out a call for interns to aid in marketing, web development and the ever-nebulous “operations.” For more info or to apply, email email@example.com.
You might notice that there are precious few listings in this week’s paper for Morrisville hotspot The Bee’s Knees. That’s because the venue’s ongoing expansion has reached a fevered pitch and the joint will be closed from Monday, December 22, until New Year’s Eve. The plan is to unveil the new digs that night and then rock in (blues in?) 2009 with The Eames Brothers.
Speaking of blues and The Bee’s Knees, Dave Keller had a little Christmas miracle of his own recently. The local axe-man met his idol, blues guitar legend Ronnie Earl at — I’m not making this up — a Stevie Wonder concert. Long story short, the two hit it off and Earl invited Keller to sing on his forthcoming, as-yet-untitled CD. Typically, Earl — who doesn’t sing — enlists the likes of Greg Allman and The Fabulous Thunderbirds’ Kim Wilson for vocal cameos. So for Keller, it’s a big deal indeed. Perhaps he’ll divulge more details about the experience when he plays The Bee’s Knees this Friday. Personally, I’ll probably ask him about it when I make my annual pilgrimage to watch him play “Jason Corbiere’s Blue Christmas,” next Thursday — Christmas Night — at Nectar’s.
Finally, Merry Christmas to all — except those who don’t celebrate it. In which case, Happy Hanukkah, Killer Kwanzaa, Super Solstice and, um . . . Thirsty Thursday?