Black Congo, NC
Nightlight—The Kinnikinnik collective is an off-map blemish of creativity in the otherwise staid rock world of Charlotte. Started as an imprint by Bo White to release his own work and with the band Calabi Yau, Kinnikinnik became a symbol of the left-field underground there. White later joined Black Congo, NC, a group with a wide array of unexpected influences. He and its other guitarist Eric Deines began putting the Kinnikinnik stamp on local shows they were promoting. Deines says he liked the "the minimalism of it, the palindrome." They added the band Yardwork to the collective and a collaboration was born in the wilderness of Charlotte.
It's not an easy place to navigate, says Deines: "Yeah, crowds in Charlotte receive us in an odd way. First, it's hard to tell what is the guitar, sax, keys or sampler sometimes, and I think that's tough for some folks." It's easy to get a bit lost in their thicket of chiming sounds and rhythm, too, and Deine's undulating near-falsetto, because it's nearly seamless. They can fold the élan of West African highlife guitar into a sampler's pulsing metronome.
The future of Black Congo, NC is uncertain, as he's moving to Bloomington, Ind., soon. But the band will be well-documented in a series of seven inches with that Kinnikinnik stamp, one that has permanent ink in Charlotte, where this collective works together so easily. As Deines put it, "Everybody pitches in, everybody loses money, everybody parties, everybody wins." See 'em in person while you still can. With Twin Tigers, Fertile Crescent and Remora. Show starts at 10 p.m. —Chris Toenes
The Regulator Bookshop—Those who missed Allan Gurganus' similar holiday performance from 2005 have been given a second chance: The Hillsborough author of The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All returns for an encore performance of "A Fool for Christmas," his hysterical, unpublished short story about an overweight nobody named Verne who gets thrust into helping a stranger with a mystical birth. Gurganus' story is a Christmas staple on NPR's All Things Considered, and he's a brilliant raconteur and local treasure. Not to be missed. Mulled wine, hot cider and cookies will be served at the free 7 p.m. performance. —Sam Wardle
Gothic Bookshop, Duke Campus—Among the key assets any city can possess is a cranky journalist with a great memory. In Durham, that's Jim Wise, erstwhile Herald-Sun columnist who was scooped up wisely by The News & Observer—Paxton's cluelessness was evident when they canned Wise in their 2005 takeover of the Durham daily. In his newsprint chronicles, Wise puts the Bull City's happenings into the context of history, lamenting the foolish notions that bulldoze that history. Odd and amusing anecdotes in his local history books remind us that the characters behind city hall dramas haven't changed much in 150 years. This afternoon at 12:30 p.m., Wise reads from his latest collection, Durham Tales: The Morris Street Maple, the Plastic Cow, the Durham Day that Was & More. "He browbeats the city with such cynicism at times, you wonder why the heck he doesn't just pick up and move to Wake Forest," Bull City Rising blogger Kevin Davis recently said of Wise, calling him "the relative you love to hate and would hate to lose." —Fiona Morgan
Durham Symphony Orchestra
Fletcher Hall, Carolina Theatre—The opening night of Ira David Wood's A Christmas Carol in the city's new giant, Durham Performing Arts Center, receives some worthy competition from two hardscrabble Bull City standbys: Durham Symphony Orchestra has eked out an existence as a nonprofit since 1977, combining classically trained volunteer musicians and professionals in several concerts a year. Tonight at 7, they present their take on Holiday Pops with Fouad Fakhouri conducting in the landmark Carolina Theatre. Tickets are $30. —Grayson Currin