Marah's Christmas Show
The Pour House
Formerly Philadelphia's rock-crit favorites, Marah hit N.Y. City for their last two records, If You Didn't Laugh, You'd Cry and A Christmas Kind of Town. The yuletide offering is everything that's always been wrong about Christmas entertainment made loveable once again. And there are bonuses here: Santa and his sleigh get a dirty magazine and some Jack with a reverent smile and a sinister wink over 20 tracks, intertwined with skits about red-faced Xmas wassailing. Rejoice at 10 p.m. for $12. --Grayson Currin
Asylum Street Spankers
The Pour House
Emphasizing the "un" in unplugged, Austin, Texas' Asylum Street Spankers play sans mics and amps. All the better to make their take on early blues and even earlier jazz--with a handful of like-minded originals fitting in snugly--feel even more turn-of-the-19th-century. This being mid-December and all, front Spanker Wammo and company might even work in a couple of vintage holiday songs. (Might I be so bold as to recommend Leroy Carr's "Christmas in Jail--Ain't that a Pain.") Doors open at 8 p.m., the first too-loud barfly gets shushed at 10, and $10 will need to change hands. -- Rick Cornell
Imagine: a sparkling tree that grows right before your eyes, menacing mice battling a life-sized toy, a Sugar Plum Fairy and dancing Matroishkas. Think someone poured too much booze in the eggnog? No, it's just good, clean, wholesome fun. The Carolina Ballet brings to life Clara's journey through the Kingdom of Sweets in their fifth annual production of The Nutcracker. The show begins tonight at 7:30 p.m. and runs through Dec. 23. Ticket prices and show times vary, call 719-0900 for details. --Virginia Daniel
Yep Roc Christmas Show
This Yep Roc Christmas Show features their new local signing Cities, who are currently recording a debut with Brian Paulson. Their swirling, churning guitar rock feels touched by both the textural throb of British dream pop and the melancholic gloom of slowcore, which makes for a certain somnambulant appeal. They're preceded by the perky power pop of The Capulets, whose infectious songs recall Possum Dixon for sheer pop smarts and spunky new wave pep. Formerly The Fashion Brigade, Wilmington's Emergency Broadcast System recently moved to Brooklyn and released a new EP of ebb & flow, post-rock drone and shimmer. A solid night of free entertainment starting at 9 p.m. --Chris Parker
There are metal bands, and then there are metal bands like Raleigh's Daylight Dies, slated to play a July 2006 string of shows with Emperor--the infamous black metal band whose members are notorious for their anti-Christian beliefs. Needless to say, the brainchild of Barre Gambling and Jesse Haff is a monster of doom-y, melancholic darkness, which owes an incredible debt to its Viking metal forebears and to likeminded contemporaries Opeth. Soul Preacher's goth-metal eyeliner drips like My Dying Bride's but tastes a bit like Sabbath, while Jonin's Priesty enchantment calls to mind Rhapsody beefed up by the visor-metal prima donnas in Trapt. Strychnine Soul opens. Tickets are $7 and the metal begins at 9:30 p.m. --Robbie Mackey
From the backwoods of Johnston County, the snaky Red Sun offer up indigenous Southern metalcore that smacks of North Carolina like Norway's Enslaved stink of Scandinavia. And while the band occasionally gets caught on a pesky Slipknot or two, Red Sun tends to put nu-metal's damp brashness to bed with some pretty badass riffs. Red With Vengeance mete out sludgey halftime grinds and blustery blast-beat clinics in equally lethal dosages. Keen on chaos like capital-dwelling metal stalwarts Between the Buried and Me, but direct like Scott Allen and the painfully brutal Today is the Day, Red With Vengeance are one of the Triad's most promising young metal bands. Felony 45 opens. The show starts at 10:30 p.m. --Robbie Mackey
Raleigh Flute Choir
N.C. Museum of Art
For 18 seasons, the N.C. Museum of Art has played host to the Raleigh Flute Choir, an orchestra of C flutes, a piccolo, an alto flute, bass flute and contrabass flute. The choir has gained recognition for its 498 inches of pipe and their contrabass flute, the first to reach North Carolina. Now, in its 19th annual Christmas Concert, the choir is returning with a playbill of traditional holiday music with a fresh twist. A global array of Christmas music--from Liberia, Poland, Ireland, Spain, Germany, Norway, England, France--drive this year's theme of "Holidays Around the World." The show begins at 3 p.m. and tickets are $8 or $4 for students. --Paula Lehman
Quail Ridge Books & Music
Taking its name from the Hebrew word for family, Raleigh quartet Mishpacha emerged as part of the Temple Beth Or volunteer choir in 1994, blending traditional music with an approach built around classical and acoustic guitars and piano. Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel even performed Hannah Szenesh's "Eili, Eili" with the band when he visited Meredith College in 2003. They play at 2 p.m., and admission is free.
Norfolk Pine Giveaway
Renaissance Funeral Home
Well, it is the season of giving, and so be it if the giving comes in a bit of ingenuous advertising from a local funeral home. Renaissance Funeral Home employee Joe Smolenski admits that the 3-year-old business' decision to give away 350 free pumpkins at Halloween and 400 Norfolk mini pine trees was entirely advertising related. But hey, it's free holiday cheer! Swing by the funeral home at 7615 Six Forks Road between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays through Dec. 22 to grab a free, two-foot indoor tree, shipped from Florida. Just don't plant it six feet under, OK? For more info, call 866-1866.
High School Battle of the Bands
It's East Chapel Hill vs. Chapel Hill High School in this all-out, knock-down, drag-out spitfire of a trans-town battle of the bands. Well, not really. Some bands share members between schools, and the bands share the stage tonight. ECHHS has a busy few days musically, as the students host a jazz showcase at Open Eye Cafe on Thursday, Dec. 15 at 7:30 p.m., and the Long Leaf Opera Company presents Amahl and the Night Visitors in the school's auditorium Dec. 16 and 17.
Kenny Roby & Louis Ledford
April + George
April + George is a combination wine bar and art gallery in Raleigh's Glenwood South district, which is funny because Kenny Roby is the type of guy who would never use the area's lame-o nickname, "GloSo." It's not that he's too serious for that, it's just that he's too real for vacuous metropolitan dubbing: Like Randy Newman, Roby's songs are the hard-lined, pragmatic offerings of a dreamer who has enough empirical evidence to prove that life is oftentimes a wicked master. That said, his songwriting can be as funny as it is stoic, and that's a tall order for both. He's leading a weekly Writer's Bang (I doubt he came up with that name, either) at April + George, this week with special guest Louis Ledford. --Grayson Currin
Chatham County Line & Friends Ho Ho Holiday Party
The Pour House
By now, you should know what you're going to get with Chatham County Line: bluegrass of the well-dressed, gather-around-one-mic, award-winning kind. So it's the "Friends" part that offers the promise of holiday surprises on this night, with visions of Stillhouse and the Carbines (two bands whose lineups overlap with CCL) dancing in patrons' heads. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door, with the first Ho dropping at 10 p.m. --Rick Cornell
Winter Solstice Walk
West Point on the Eno
Sure, it's getting colder, but winter doesn't start until 1:35 p.m. today, according to the U.S. Naval Observatory's Astronomical Applications Department. That's when the sun enters the sign of Capricorn, heradling in winter with the shortest day of the year. To learn more about the winter solstice, join the West Point on the Eno's free Night Hike from 8-10 p.m. Reserve a spot by calling 620-8154. And if you want to learn about the solstice from people who really know winter, visit Exploris Museum in Raleigh on Saturday, Dec. 17 at 2 p.m., as the area's Finnish and Scandanavian societies explain the natural annual cycle, also called Yul.