All posts by Tony Kay

Music [email] [twitter] [facebook] Tony Kay, the SunBreak's Music Editor, has been slugging it out in the journalistic front-line trenches of the Northwest music scene for over two decades in various websites and periodicals. In addition to covering music, arts, film, and whatever else strikes his fancy for the SunBreak, he also writes about film for City Arts magazine, covers live music for the Seattle Concerts Examiner, and periodically hosts Bizarro Movie Night at the Aster Coffee Lounge in Ballard. Tony was crowned Ultimate Film Fanatic of the Pacific Northwest on the Independent Film Channel game show The Ultimate Film Fanatic a few years ago, and he's got the wacky stories (and the rump-end of a trophy) to prove it.

Indie Scare Flick ‘Spring’ Weaves a Dark and Affecting Spell

SpringWhen it comes down to brass tacks, you could call Spring (opening tonight at the Grand Illusion) a horror movie, but it sure doesn’t feel like one for much of its running time. That’s because co-directors Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead (working from a screenplay by Benson) have crafted a film that works believably as a drama and a romance, well before things get creepy.

Twenty-something sous chef Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) loses his mother to cancer, and when his short-fuse temper leads him to kick the crap out of a drunk jerk at a bar, he finds himself in trouble with the California police. Seeking a literal and metaphoric change of scenery, Evan impulsively takes off for Italy, ending up in a small coastal town overlooking the Adriatic Sea. There he meets Louise (Nadia Hilker), an enigmatic local girl, and sparks fly between the two of them. Exotic, gorgeous, and fiercely intelligent, Louise almost seems too good to be true. After a heated night of lovemaking, Evan falls hard, but soon things get weird. It’s not impossible to gauge what happens next (even without the semi-spoiler-y trailer, ads, and advance reviews), but suffice it to say Evan’s new love isn’t all that she seems.

Spring takes its time getting to the scares, and that’s a significant part of its effectiveness. The unhurried pace effectively parallels the setting, a humbly beautiful locale that’s serenely untouched by time. Benson and Moorhead present this place with a refreshing lack of pretense, painting it with character and enough dark corners to sidestep superficial travelogue prettiness. The romance between Evan and Louise evolves gradually and realistically as the two open up aspects of themselves little by little: You’ll definitely see Richard Linklater’s Before films woven into Spring’s DNA, with Evan’s earnestness thawing out Louise’s initial aloofness amidst patches of effective and funny dialogue (Pucci and Hilker, both terrific here, establish an affecting chemistry right away).

Benson and Moorhead certainly navigate the mucous-and-tentacle-laden creepy bits well, but it’s the slow-burn atmosphere that makes their sophomore feature so special. Like the original 1940 Cat People and An American Werewolf in London, Spring is—at its heart—a darkly romantic fairy tale, masterfully wrapped in monster-movie drag.

Robyn Hitchcock: Beaming in Classic Songs from Another Dimension

Love the shirt: Robyn Hitchcock at Columbia City Theater, August 2014. (photo: Tony Kay
Love the shirt: Robyn Hitchcock at Columbia City Theater, August 2014. (photo: Tony Kay

I’ve seen Robyn Hitchcock play at least five times since I first became a fan some 27 (yipes!) years ago, but for the last decade I’ve been guilty of having taken the very prolific, one-of-a-kind English singer/songwriter for granted. After seeing him play Columbia City Theater last August, that’s a mistake I’ve vowed not to make again. He returns to Columbia City Theater for a live set this coming Monday, March 16 (tickets, $22 in advance, are still available). Do yourself an enormous favor, and catch him if you can.

To these ears, Hitchcock stands as one of rock’s great troubadours. He essentially does with lyrics what Salvador Dali did with paint, capturing the absurdities, horrors, and wonders of life, love, and the universe with surreal brushstrokes that—outright weird as they sometimes get—always maintain an affecting core of universal truth. A lot of musicians play-act at boundless creativity and eccentricity: for Hitchcock, it’s as unaffected and natural as breathing.

His career as a rock musician began in the late 1970s as lead singer, guitarist, and principal songwriter for The Soft Boys. Hitchcock firmly established his MO with the band—classic English rock songcraft wedded with sometimes strange, sometimes hilarious, always devastatingly effective lyrics. Hitchcock struck out on his own beginning with 1981’s Black Snake Diamond Role, and he hasn’t stopped since.

After establishing a dedicated cult with his solo work, he and his second backing band The Egyptians landed a major-label deal with A&M Records. The first release during that flush of success, 1988’s Globe of Frogs, introduced a lot of people (myself included) to the man’s unique world view and gift for indelible melodies.

Globe of Frogs bowled me over when I first heard it all those years ago, and I listened to it obsessively for months. Hitchcock’s brilliance didn’t form in a vacuum, of course—he’s openly acknowledged Syd Barrett’s influence on his knack for vividly-bizarre lyrics, and his melodies largely draw from Beatles-style harmonics and Dylan-esque folk—but he lent his own distinctive signature to those familiar elements. Insidious melodies abounded (try not to bounce your head happily to the jaunty, endearingly goofy “Balloon Man”), but the rest of Globe of Frogs was musical painting of the richest variety.

The record’s title track, with its sparse exotic percussion, spectral piano, and Hitchcock’s elliptical but evocative words felt, literally, like stepping into some mysterious, secret world. And unconventional as his lyrics were, they often hit with bracing directness. In the eerie sea-shanty/dirge “Luminous Rose,” he croons a line that remains one of the most profound strings of words I’ve ever heard in a pop song: “God finds you naked and he leaves you dying/What happens in between is up to you.”

After experiencing that record, Hitchcock’s back catalog and successive releases persistently occupied my stereo for the better part of a decade. Most striking about all of those efforts was how he was able to easily switch back and forth between trippy psychedelia (“The Man with the Lightbulb Head”), sterling pop (“So You Think You’re in Love”), and fragile British melancholy (the achingly gorgeous “Autumn is Your Last Chance”), touching on an array of classic influences without being subsumed by them.

Hitchcock’s muse has remained incredibly consistent over the years. After migrating from A&M to Warner Brothers in the ‘90s, he set up camp with indie label Yep Roc Records in the early 2000’s, and catching up with the lower-profile but still great albums he’s released in the ensuing decade-plus has represented some of the most rewarding music-nerd catch-up I’ve ever experienced. His voice—a singular, reedy tenor that swings between angelic sweetness, the impish playfulness of a truant British schoolboy, and a sometimes eerie deadpan—hasn’t aged a day, and his latest long-player The Man Upstairs combines Hitchcock’s still-sharp original songs with some well-chosen covers (his spare acoustic version of the Psychedelic Furs’ “The Ghost in You” will make you swoon). The album, like so much of Hitchcock’s work, feels classic and timeless in equal measure.

He also delivers one of the best live shows you’ll ever see. Hitchcock usually plays solo sets, and he’s capable of summoning up all the richness of his most psychedelic work with nothing more than his voice and an acoustic guitar. Best of all, his onstage banter alone merits the price of admission. Expect stream-of-consciousness tangents that include everything from minotaurs to giant irradiated astronauts, and blasts of hilariously pointed socio-political commentary. Once you see him onstage you’ll be hooked, and here’s hoping that unlike me, you’ll never take Robyn Hitchcock for granted.

Support Your Local Indie Movie Houses This Valentine’s Weekend

Moulin-Rouge-0004Sure, Valentine’s Day is just a memorial to a few brutally-executed Catholic martyrs that’s morphed into a cash-grab by candy makers, florists, and retailers of all stripes over the last century. And the pressure of having to invest as much money as possible for the sake of A Romantic Night or Weekend can be overwhelming.

But you can still find a through-line between thoughtful sentiment and fiscal sensibility this weekend. A trip to a movie theater provides an inexpensive-yet-satisfying (and yes, oft-romantic) entertainment experience. Skip the multiplexes and treat your date to a film in a local independent theater, dammit: Indie theaters usually run cheaper, they’ve got a helluva lot more character and charm, they tend to attract more discerning and polite patrons, and you’ll see something way more interesting than your standard corporate-excreted product. Enclosed, please find our recommendations for the most apropos (and in some cases, strangest) films hitting local indie theaters this Valentine’s Weekend.

Harold and Maude (6:45 p.m. tonight, Saturday, and Sunday)—SIFF Cinema Uptown, $12 general admission, $7 for SIFF members: Hal Ashby’s 1971 romantic comedy definitely shows its seams in some places—ancillary characters are almost cartoonishly underdeveloped, and some of its attempts at black humor fall a little flat—but there’s no denying the magical chemistry that imbues the odd couple at its center. Baby-faced proto-goth Bud Cort and seventy-something spitfire Ruth Gordon both deliver career-best performances, and Ashby and screenwriter Colin Higgins develop these characters so sharply that they effectively extinguish any quibbles. Cat Stevens’ plainspoken and sweet soundtrack songs never fail to tug at the heartstrings (not surprisingly, SIFF’s organizing pre-screening Cat Stevens sing-alongs).

Moulin Rouge (various times tonight, Saturday, and Sunday), True Romance (9:00 p.m. tonight, Saturday, and Sunday)—Central Cinema, $7 general admission for each: Do not, we repeat, do not lame out and watch Moulin Rouge on Netflix or On Demand this weekend. Catch Baz Luhrmann’s still-ravishing pastiche of MGM musicals, MTV flash, Bollywood splashiness, and swoon-worthy romance on a big screen as God (and Luhrmann) intended. And speaking of swoon-worthy romance, don’t discount the Tony Scott-directed/Quentin Tarantino-scripted True Romance. Beneath its violence, nerd-centric references, profanity, and stoned Brad Pitt-isms resides a resonant story of two damaged lovers (Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette) finding redemption and mutual strength in each other’s arms. As is customary, Central Cinema sports a full meal menu for all screenings.

Gone with the Wind (11:00 a.m. Saturday), Guys and Dolls (4:15 p.m Saturday), Some Like It Hot (8:00 p.m. Saturday)—Cinerama, $15 each plus service fees: It romanticizes the antebellum South to an absurdly wrongheaded degree, but damned if the 1939 Best Picture Oscar winner Gone with the Wind isn’t the most breathlessly-paced and absorbing four-hour film you’ll ever see, replete with two of Golden Age Hollywood’s most luminous stars (Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable) and scenes of epic splendor sure to make full use the Cinerama’s massive screen. Later that afternoon, hear Frank Sinatra clean Marlon Brando’s clock vocally in the 1955 film adaptation of Guys and Dolls, and wind up the evening with a screening of Billy Wilder’s howlingly funny 1959 gangster/drag opus, Some Like it Hot. Bonus: The Cinerama’s upgraded its snack, food, and drink repertoire.

R100 (various times tonight, Saturday, and Sunday), VHSex 3 (9:00 p.m. Saturday February 14)—Grand Illusion Cinema, $9 general admission each/$5 each for Grand Illusion members: Forget the antiseptic diet-BDSM being relentlessly flogged at local multiplexes. If you want some real cinematic sexual subversion this weekend, get thee to the Grand Illusion for both of these presentations. The former is a warped Japanese comedy about an S&M-addicted milquetoast facing a succession of extremely angry dominatrices. Critics have definitely smiled on it much more than the aforementioned BDSM-lite product, for what it’s worth. VHSex 3, meantime, throws two hours worth of truly demented sexually-explicit and just plain batshit-crazy clips (lovingly collected from vintage VHS tapes) at the unsuspecting audience. Much cheesy Casio synth music, bare flesh, and mulletude shall hold sway, and if the last two VHSex compilations are any indication, this third entry should be the perfect weirdo antidote to all of the hearts-and-flowers sentiment in the air tomorrow.

My Bloody Valentine (10:00 p.m. tonight)—Blue Mouse Theatre, $5: If you’re the kind of person who prefers their Valentine’s Day hearts ripped from screaming teenagers, rejoice. There aren’t any new horror films hitting local screens this weekend (studios traditionally bust out at least one new shocker on Friday the 13th), but Tacoma’s oldest independent movie theater (92 years young and counting) has your back with tonight’s addition to their Friday Night Frights series. This evening, they present the original uncut and uncensored version of one of the most fondly-remembered chillers of the early 1980’s. My Bloody Valentine pretty much skews to the slasher formula, but it’s also packed with extremely effective scares and maintains a genuinely foreboding atmosphere. Seeing the movie at this venerable theater is well worth the trek south if you’re in Seattle. See it with someone you love.



Local Musicians Find a TV Audience on ‘Band in Seattle’

The Gods Themselves on Band in Seattle
The Gods Themselves.
The Gods Themselves.
The Gods Themselves.

The Gods Themselves take to the Victory Studios stage. (photo: Tony Kay)

Astra Elaine holds court, Collin O'Meara bashes out the beat. (photo: Tony Kay)

Damion of The Gods Themselves. (Photo: Tony Kay)

(photo: Tony Kay)

THE FAME RIOT's Liz Scarlett gets all Guitar Hero. (photo: Tony Kay)

Shazam Watkins and Liz Scarlett, THE FAME RIOT's resident wallflowers. (photo: Tony Kay)

(photo: Tony Kay)

(photo: Tony Kay)

(photo: Tony Kay)

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The Gods Themselves. thumbnail
The Gods Themselves. thumbnail
The Gods Themselves. thumbnail
THE FAME RIOT. thumbnail
THE FAME RIOT. thumbnail
THE FAME RIOT. thumbnail
THE FAME RIOT. thumbnail
THE FAME RIOT. thumbnail

Band in Seattle recently began shooting for its second season, and the scrappy locally-produced show’s become an engaging regional music sampler in the year-plus of its existence.

There are plenty of ways to see quality video footage of local bands playing live, but Band in Seattle offers up its wares in charmingly old-school fashion on CW network affiliate Channel 11 every Saturday night at 11:00 p.m. Whether by accident or design, the show’s programmers have demonstrated a knack for cherry-picking a wide cross-section of Seattle musicians nicely uninformed by trends: A durable blue-collar rock band (Gunn) or a sharp old-school soul ensemble (Funky 2 Death) may not hold much flavor-of-the-month cache, but it’s great to see them getting exposure in the same venue as hip-hop futurists Kingdom Crumbs. In another nice touch, all of the bands showcased weigh in on their music—and on balancing the mundane necessity of day jobs with their art—in mini-documentary wraparound segments.

Season 2 started strong with a great showing by noir-pop chanteuse Prom Queen, and last Friday Band in Seattle taped a segment featuring The Gods Themselves and THE FAME RIOT (their caps, not mine) at the show’s usual haunts, Victory Studios. The performance space sported great acoustics and a comfy retro layout that made it feel like a party at your cool uncle’s bachelor pad, replete with free beer courtesy show sponsors Naked City Brewery.

I never miss a chance to see The Gods Themselves play live if I can help it, and their Band in Seattle session cemented that resolve. The band’s debut record was, simply put, my favorite local rock release of 2014, a beyond-cool amalgam of post-punk starkness, caveman rock throb, and thick psychedelic funk wrought from a deceptively minimalist three-piece lineup. Live, TGT delivered a no-bull yet elastic sound that thrived on unlikely synergy: They hefted some serious rock muscle behind B-52’s-style new wave on “Last Chance for Love,” primal garage-rock stomp behind epic goth (the towering “Thunderbird”), and an unexpected vein of soul amidst the serpentine snarl of “I Am the President.” Thanks to the sharp sound mix, the call-and-response interplay between lead singer Astra Elaine’s versatile purr and Damion Heitnschel’s Joey-Ramone-style bark came through loud and clear.

Speaking of loud, Tacoma outfit THE FAME RIOT came fully-equipped with plumage so gloriously garish it woulda made the most shameless hair-metal band blush, and that’s a significant part of their charm. Frontmen Shazam “Tea Time” Watkins and Liz Scarlett ladled on plenty of showmanship to go with their teased hair, sequins, and circulation-constricting stretch pants, playing their rock-star roles to the hilt and lending an extra layer of humor and flash to their slick and catchy pop. Contrasting electro-disco with smeared-lipstick decadence isn’t a new concept, of course—British bands like Dead or Alive and Sigue Sigue Sputnik ruled dance clubs back in the ancient analog days of the 1980s—but damned if these T-Town imps don’t work that combination like conquering heroes. If the seemingly spring-loaded audience reaction at their Band in Seattle session was any indication, there’s potential for some serious mass-appeal method to THE FAME RIOT’s madness.

The Gods Themselves/FAME RIOT episode of Band in Seattle should air sometime in the spring, and the show continues to film new episodes throughout March and April, with plenty of worthwhile local bands in tow. Tickets and more info are available here.

Your Live Music Bets for the Weekend of January 16 through January 18

Tacocat lead singer Emily Nokes will turn that frown upside down at Chop Suey Sunday. (photo: Tony Kay)
Tacocat lead singer Emily Nokes will turn that frown upside down at Chop Suey Sunday. (photo: Tony Kay)

To those of you clamoring for more posts here at ye olde semi-dormant SunBreak, you’re the greatest. Both of you.

Most weekends in this ‘burg are pretty stacked musically, but this one’s especially resplendent with sonic riches, some suffused with significant bittersweetness. Read on.

Friday, January 16 (tonight!)

Garageland Fest  with The Paul Collins Beat, Rich Hands, Acapulco Lips, The Gods Themselves, The Knast, and heaps more  @ LoFi Performance Gallery. 21+. $12 advance/$15 at the door. Doors open at 5 p.m.

Power pop elder statesman Paul Collins never quite made the impact of late ’70s peers like The Knack and Cheap Trick, but that wasn’t for want of  insidious sugary hooks goosed with new wave jumpiness. Collins is onto something pretty awesome of late with Garageland Fest, a touring mini-festival headlined by Collins and his band The Beat that showcases bands native to each tour stop. That means you’ll hear a bunch of great Seattle outfits before Collins takes the stage tonight, including the walloping-great hard-pop stylings of Acapulco Lips, guaranteed post-punk-gone-garage-funk nirvana with SunBreak faves The Gods Themselves, and the tasty fuzztone-seasoned sixties revivalism of The Knast, among others. Expect indie vinyl retailers, an unplugged happy hour, and DJs to give you even more reasons to skip work early, and to stay late.

Katie Kate, Tangerine, Thunderpussy, Peeping Tomboys @ The Vera Project. All ages. $10 advance/$15 at the door. Show at 7 p.m.

Four strong local acts populate this fundraiser for Seattle-based non-profit Skate Like a Girl. Katie Kate‘s dance pop dips into hip-hop and electronica with equal grace, and sunny pop ensemble Tangerine took me by very pleasant surprise at Bumbershoot last Labor Day. Local all-femme supergroup  Thunderpussy stomp out throbbing groove rock with balls as big as any all-dude band,  and Peeping Tomboys sound like a bunch of riot grrrls weaned on tribal post-punk.

Chuck Prophet, The Tripwires @ The Tractor Tavern. 21+. $15 at the door. Show at 9 p.m.

Californian Chuck Prophet played in the underrated but pretty awesome Green on Red back in the 80s. His solo work for the last three decades has seen him de-emphasize his former band’s psychedelic touches in favor of a sturdy roots-rock sound–songs that’d sound ideal in a last-chance bar where Bruce Springsteen and Lou Reed share drinks. Get there early to hear The Tripwires, a terrific local power-pop band that includes alumnus from Screaming Trees, The Minus 5, The Young Fresh Fellows, and the Model Rockets.

Saturday, January 17

The Young Evils, Blood Drugs, Hounds of the Wild Hunt @ The Sunset Tavern. 21+. $8 advance/$10 at the door. Show at 9 p.m.

The Young Evils nearly hit the major label big-time last year, until complications with said major label jerked them around to a pretty lame degree. It’s a long story with a happy ending: The Evils got to keep their recordings from those ill-fated sessions. The initial fruit of those labors, last year’s False Starts EP, made for an addictive and awesome companion piece to their equally awesome 2012 Foreign Spells EP. As is frequently the case, early arrival is a must: Blood Drugs‘ scraping art-metal should translate impressively live, and Hounds of the Wild Hunt remain one of Seattle’s flat-out best live rock ensembles.

Hellbat, Silty Loam, The Heels, Bugs @ Blue Moon Tavern. 21+. $6 at the door. Show at 9 p.m.

Hellbat combines rolling psych organs, a driving punk rhythm section, gleefully unhinged call-and-response vocals, and willfully silly lyrics to happiness-inducing effect. The end result sounds like an art-punk band like X Ray Spex providing the soundtrack as Yoko Ono, Kate Pierson, and Jello Biafra beat the shit out of each other, and if the resulting anarchy isn’t fun as hell onstage, I’ll eat one of the two hats I own.

Grayskul, The Nightcappers, Imaginary Friends, guests @ The High Dive. 21+. $8 advance/$10 at the door. Show at 9 p.m.

The E-40 show at the Showbox Sunday night will surely draw a bigger crowd (and it’s got Nacho Picasso providing what’ll be a hell of a warmup), but local boys Grayskul sport imagination and smarts that deserve an equally sizable turnout. They couple their rhymes with a production style that swaddles addictive beats in a wonderfully glitchy and constantly changing framework. And if they’re not as abundant with the party jams as E-40, Grayskul give your brain a little more to chew on, in a good way.

Sunday, January 18

Another One Bites the Dust with Tacocat, Pony Time, Wimps, Kithkin, Chastity Belt, Universe People, Childbirth, and more @ Chop Suey. 21+. $10 day of show. Show at 4 p.m.

Don’t you love how Seattle squashes its smaller live venues by  lunging at development dollars like a mentally-defective toddler stepping on ducklings to get to a gooey candy bar? If by some stretch of the imagination you answered no, then get thee the hell over to Capitol Hill dive Chop Suey for one of its last gasps as a proper music space. It’s impossible to fault the lineup here–picks to click include Tacocat’s sunny yet snarky pop, Kithkin’s always-unbelievable ocean of rhythm, and Childbirth’s hilariously nasty female-centric punk–and the first 250 discounted admissions sold rapidly. Get ready for a long line–and a probable sell-out well before the nights’ end.

Your Live Music Bets for the Weekend of December 19 through December 21

santa-claus-with-devil-movieIt’s less than a week before Santa does the Down-The-Chimney Shimmy, so the fact that there are some seriously cool holiday-themed live shows going on this weekend should come as no surprise. What may surprise you (and what will surely make your live music choices true agony for the next three days) is how many great non-holiday shows lie in waiting. Consider this heads-up my Christmas gift to you. Happy Holidays, folks.

Friday, December 19 (tonight!)

Dancer and Prancer’s Xmas Extravaganza with Shannon and the Clams, La Luz, The Fe Fi Fo Fums, DJ Brian Foss @ Chop Suey. 21+. $15 at the door. Show at 9 p.m.

In case you didn’t know, Capitol Hill venue Chop Suey becomes the latest local music venue to fall victim to grabby developers come January. That means you’d better get your fix while you can, and this second night of holiday hijinks should be just the ticket. Shannon and the Clams play retro rock that plumbs surf music, rockabilly, and lo-fi pop, La Luz’s swaggering garage-surf remains crucial live, the Fe Fi Fo Fums bash out lovingly sloppy rock that makes the Black Lips sound like Yes, and hosts Dancer and Prancer do the Ventures’ surf-Christmas schtick with irresistible panache. All that, and pictures with Santa, and a DJ set by booking God/former Funhouse Santa Brian Foss? Smells like Christmas-palooza.

Kinski, Spoils, Low Hums @ The Blue Moon Tavern. 21+. $8 at the door. Show at 9 p.m.

Kinski have been kicking around Seattle for long enough (since 1998) to officially be taken for granted, but do so at your own peril. Their most recent full-length, 2013’s Cosy Moments, saw them pounding out some lean and menacing hard rock with vocals, but fans can rest assured that the band’s dreamy/gothy/atmospheric/freaky instrumental soundscapes remain intact–and mesmerizing live. Low Hums most definitely live up to their name, generating a slow-rolling and likewise-atmospheric wall of sound that adds some roots twang to the trip, as if Ennio Morricone’s slide guitar player dropped acid and joined a shoegaze band.

X, The Blasters, Girl Trouble @ El Corazon. 21+. $25 advance/$30 at the door. Show at 8 p.m.

If the words ‘seminal’ and ‘legendary’ didn’t already exist, some rock critic or music nerd would have had to invent them to describe X. The LA punk band influenced a couple of generations of indie musicians by draping a roots-rock canvas over punk rock. They still give it their all onstage and sport an astonishing back catalog. Roots-rock stalwarts The Blasters and Tacoma’s own Mount Rushmore of Garage Rock (Girl Trouble) form a super-powered opening one-two punch.

Funky 2 Death @ Seamonster Lounge. 21+. Free! Show at 10 p.m.

I’m a relatively late convert to Wallingford’s Seamonster Lounge, but it’s a great little scrapper of a venue with decidedly funky leanings. Local ensemble Funky 2 Death have pretty much served as the Seamonster’s informal house band for awhile now, and they’re capable funketeers with a surplus of chops. The grooves don’t come more organic and durable, and when guitarist Jabrille “Jimmy James” Williams begins firing off molten licks you best look out.

Saturday, December 20

Xmas Maximus, Cathy Sorbo, The Candy Cane Dancers @ Darrell’s Tavern. 21+. $10 at the door. Show at 9 p.m.

Last year’s Xmas Maximus Holiday Show provided some seriously good times, serving up plenty of holiday-themed original and cover songs that took plenty of goofball paths (yes, Christmas tunes and prog rock can be combined, if you’re as bent as these guys are). This year’s installment continues the madness, with the best dive bar in North Seattle once more standing in for the North Pole, an all-star cast of local musicians (including singer Barbara Trentanange, who belts out “At the Christmas Ball” below) populating the band, comedian Cathy Sorbo turning the air blue, and the Candy Cane Dancers bringing the burlesque.

My Goodness, Haunted Horses, Chrome Lakes @ Sunset Tavern. 21+. $12 at the door. Show at 8 p.m.

In case you haven’t gotten the news, My Goodness crafted what might be the best epic rock record of 2014 with their full-length Shiver and Shake (further elaboration here). Why they’re not filling giant venues at this point is one of life’s true mysteries, so enjoy seeing them in the cozy confines of Ballard’s Sunset Tavern while you can. The strong, stacked bill also includes the drony and scary Haunted Horses, and some potently forceful post-punk from local boys Chrome Lakes.

X, The Blasters, Boss Martians @ El Corazon. 21+. $25 advance/$30 at the door. Show at 8 p.m.

See Friday, December 19, give or take the very awesome stylings of another local garage rock ensemble, Boss Martians, in lieu of Girl Trouble.

Joe Purdy, OK Sweetheart, Sophia Duccini @ The Neptune. 21+. $29 advance. Show at 7 p.m.

Joe Purdy‘s tremulous folk stylings offer the requisite earthy charm, but for my money, the two opening acts make this bill damn near irresistible. Local girl Sophia Duccini‘s sidelong folk songs with pop tinges would impress even if she wasn’t a tender 18 years old, and former New Yorker/current Seattleite Erin Austin lends some powerhouse pipes to her ongoing project/band OK Sweetheart, combining sixties pop, folk, and Muscle Shoals soul to shimmering effect.

Santa Claus @ Scarecrow Video. 21+. Free. Show at 8 p.m.

Before you go to any of the above music shows tomorrow night, you’re cordially invited to visit the world’s greatest video store, knock back a beer, and watch Santa Claus score wacky dust from Merlin the Magician before going mano-a-mano with a devil. My sworn mission to make this bizarre bon bon an enduring holiday classick continues. First ten people receive a suitably bizarre door prize, courtesy of Santa!

Sunday, December 21

Piano Starts Here: A Charlie Brown Christmas @ The Royal Room. All Ages. $5 advance. Show at 6 p.m.

Gigantor, Lushy @ The Royal Room. 21+. No Cover, Suggested Donation $5 to $15 at the door. Show at 9 p.m.

Vince Guaraldi’s soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas never fails to wrap a warm scarf around one’s heart, so hearing several talented local musicians wending their way through those jazzy chestnuts roasting on an open fire should be a treat. Stick around at Columbia City’s great new-ish venue for what will surely be sterling turns by Gigantor (fab reggae/ska fronted by Lynval Golding of ska legends The Specials) and Seattle’s finest cocktail/bossanova/space-age pop ensemble, Lushy.