YES, PLEASE: Woods, Mmoss, Bull City Punk Rock Xmas, Shirlette & The Dynamite Brothers, Bukkake Boys, Double Negative
VS1: Kenny G vs. George Winston
VS2: Birds and Arrows vs. Gospel Music vs. Ukulele Orchestra
VS3: I Was Totally Destroying It vs. Lonnie Walker vs. Mandolin Orange
VS4: SNMNMNM vs. Weekend Excursion
12.15 WOODS, MMOSS @ KINGS
Sun and Shade, the most recent LP by Woods, emboldens the twinkling shuffles of the Brooklyn band's earlier output, ratcheting the instrumental density and often stretching the solos to properly psychedelic lengths. At the core, though, remains the touchingly sweet voice of Jeremy Earl, who sings as though he were leading a lullaby, not a rock band. Boston's Mmoss opens with rock that feels both faded by the sun and viewed through a yellowed scrim. Their anthems feel deliberately distant, like a gentle request for attention. Also, Phil Cook & His Feat. $10–$12/ 9:30 p.m. —Grayson Currin
12.16 BULL CITY PUNK ROCK XMAS @ BROAD STREET CAFE
Take the free admission as encouragement to check these up-and-comers, all of whom approach rock 'n' roll with a classic punk lean. The Bastages bring heritage with guitarist Danny Hooley and bassist Chris Eubank, who both played in the '80s hardcore band Ugly Americans. These days, their music isn't too far removed from the early-'80s sound: fast, forceful and sarcastic. Almost People boasts a more modern but no less accomplished sound, suggesting post-Jawbreaker pop-punk like The Ergs or Dillinger Four. The Bamfs' melodic punk and B Side Project's vaguely jangly garage rock round out this bill. Free/ 10 p.m. —Bryan C. Reed
12.17 SHIRLETTE & THE DYNAMITE BROTHERS @ KINGS
The Christmas party of local blog New Raleigh won't feature traditional holiday styles, but it will be festive nonetheless. The paring of Durham rapper Shirlette Ammons with Chapel Hill funk aces The Dynamite Brothers is as party-ready an ensemble as there is in the Triangle. Backing Ammons, the Brothers push sexy beats to the fore, lying back and intermittently unleashing solos as punctuation. Ammons uses the collaboration to stray from the hyper-rhythmic flow she displays with Mosadi Music, often opting for a sensual murmur that highlights the lusty tension in her lyrics. Nests open, with comedy acts appearing through the night. $7/ 9:30 p.m. —Jordan Lawrence
12.18 BUKKAKE BOYS, DOUBLE NEGATIVE @ KINGS
Whether or not you've seen them before, now would be a good time to catch Double Negative. The Raleigh hardcore band has had some turnover in the past year, hiring drummer Bobby Michaud (of Charlotte's Brain F≠) and new singer Cameron Craig (of Raleigh's Logic Problem) to facilitate more activity and touring. They're also exploring compelling new sonic territory, stretching riffs into riveting squalls and divining bigger hooks and sharper turns from the noise. Atlanta's Bukkake Boys match DN's ferocity with a lean assault in line with early Poison Idea. With the mysterious Manic and Raleigh's Atrophix. $8/ 7:30 p.m. —Bryan C. Reed
THURSDAY, DEC. 15
From: Seattle, Wash.
Claim to fame: Inventing MRE version of jazz
You'll not find him near train tracks twirling a handlebar mustache, yet Kenny Gorelick's (hence the appellation "G") music owns a condo in infamy. His exceptionally unexceptional smooth instrumentals are store-brand jazz that save money in the production process by skimping on creativity. It's not only frictionless; it's completely stainless. After an hour of listening, you'll be hard-pressed to find any imprint on your memory besides a feeling of missed time. This fugue state isn't brought to you by aliens. It's Kenny G, whose idea of funk is sterile enough to survive an autoclave. At DURHAM PERFORMING ARTS CENTER. $45–$90/ 8 p.m.
Since: Early '70s
Claim to fame: Seasonal instrumental piano pieces came to define New Age
Sometimes an interesting idea goes horribly awry. What began as spare piano melodies with a light, breezy carriage (no minor keys here!) is now the last thing most people hear before falling asleep on a massage table. Winston's work is expressive, achieving clear success in evoking different seasons. Like almost any series, it all blends together after a while. At least it still holds form and retains some consistency rather than dissipating into the ether, like the pap of Mr. G. At CAROLINA THEATRE. $40–$55/ 8 p.m. —Chris Parker
THURSDAY, DEC. 15
BIRDS AND ARROWS
From: Chapel Hill
Claim to fame: Cute pop-folk from a husband, wife and cellist
By embracing Christmas cheese, Birds and Arrows were able to write a genuinely fun holiday song. The band is selling a limited run of ornaments with download cards for "Our Christmas," in which the husband-and-wife songwriting team plays off opposite views of the season. "Has it really been a year?" grumbles Pete Connolly, to which his wife, Andrea, answers, "I've been waiting for a year." The live set will include Birds and Arrows' winter-themed songs from past releases, which tend toward comforting beauty. With the masterful duo Small Ponds also playing, this one's a steady bet. At CASBAH. $8–$10/ 8 p.m.
From: Jacksonville, Fla.
Claim to fame: Being in a buzzed-about other band
Sorry to anyone expecting soulful hymns, but this band name is ironic. Gospel Music is Owen Holmes, bassist of Black Kids, delivering pop tunes about girls and binge drinking. This project doesn't do much to distinguish itself from the pack of harmless lowish-fi fun-rock roving around. "All the girl had to say was 'I'm Puerto Rican'/ and I shared too much with her," Holmes sings on his LP, How to Get to Heaven from Jacksonville, FL, before the lyrics begin to bottom out completely. "Any port in the storm, and I'm a port authority," he sings. Too bad tonight's Gospel Music is a proper noun. At MOTORCO. $8/ 9 p.m.
Claim to fame: All ukuleles, all the time
Depending on how you feel about ukuleles, this is definitively the best or worst way to spend your Durham Thursday. The tiny instruments are often enough abused as props or gags, but that's not the idea tonight. Expect intricacy from the Ukulele Orchestra, which can pull off all-uke versions of "Born to Run" and even "Pinball Wizard." By conservative estimates, there will be at least five ukes leading a holiday sing-along (audience members have been encouraged to bring their own ukuleles, too). The party starts early and may run late, so it should be easy enough to drift out and into the neighborhood competition. At THE PINHOOK. Free/ 8 p.m. —Corbie Hill
FRIDAY, DEC. 16
I WAS TOTALLY DESTROYING IT
Claim to fame: Endlessly hooky pop-rock heartbreak
If you're looking for an entry point into local music, Friday offers three solid options. I Was Totally Destroying It's catchy and cathartic pop-rock is one of the area's most reliable spark plugs; grandiose maybe before their time, they've been playing a rash of full-album shows lately. This time, at least, you get their best: 2009's Horror Vacui cascades down chugging riffs that crash into shout-along choruses that dig deep into the breakup of coupled singers John Booker and Rachel Hirsch. Drummer James Hepler adds proper heft, as Hirsch and Booker harmonize energetically, backing each others' insults with masochistic glee. Tonight, they'll play the whole thing. With Jessica Long & the New Kind and Minor Stars. At CASBAH. $5/ 9 p.m.
Claim to fame: Big Pink folk-rock with riffs of Built to Spill
Raleigh's Lonnie Walker burst onto the scene a few years ago with a revved-up, slacker-rock take on Dylan's amphetamine electric phase, changing up the tones and doubling the tempos. They didn't really go much further than that. The live outfit you'll find at Slim's is far more advanced. They now attack their guitars with skilled abandon, wrenching out colorful tones and shaping them into songs that will scratch anyone's Dinosaur Jr. itch. Singer Brian Corum has grown into a charismatic frontman, too, rattling off rapid-fire lines while exploring the range of his nasal bark with surprisingly diverse results. With The Art Department and Other Colors. At SLIM'S. $7/ 9 p.m.
From: Chapel Hill
Claim to fame: Gently worn folk harmonies
With lock-tight rhythmic assistance from local greats James Wallace and Jeff Crawford, Chapel Hill duo Mandolin Orange has also undergone a transformation. Their spare folk has been made over into equally comforting country on the new full-band disc, Haste Make, with wistful harmonies playing just as well over gentle honky-tonk stomps as over simple guitar and fiddle. But if Mandolin Orange wins this contest, it's on the strength of their opener. As Phil Cook and His Feat, the Megafaun piano and banjo player instills old-time instrumentals with a modern enthusiasm and melodic ear that should tempt even the most skeptical fans. With the Stickley Brothers. At CAT'S CRADLE. $10/ 9 p.m. —Jordan Lawrence
SATURDAY, DEC. 17
From: Chapel Hill via LA and Rochester
Claim to fame: Quirky horn rock
The legend of infectious geek rock locals SNMNMNM—Seamus Kenney and Matt Kenney and Matt Vooris and Mark Daumen—lives on: The quartet plays its 14th anniversary show, though its members have been busy performing with Lost in the Trees, A Rooster For The Masses, the Durham Symphony Orchestra and tributes to both Big Star and Elvis Costello for the last several years. Now, they return to the tuba-toting power pop and ska-punk outfit that made them notable. Supreme Fiction borrows a bit of that Costello influence for its nervy sprawls, while Antibubbles' fuzzy, synth-filled pop sprees recall The Rentals. At LOCAL 506. Free/ 9:30 p.m.
From: Greensboro via Boone
Claim to fame: Melodic college rock
The legacy of clean-cut college rock locals Weekend Excursion—fronted by recently retired singer-songwriter Sam Fisher—lives on: The group plays its third annual reunion show, which always benefits the V Foundation for Cancer Research. It's a personal cause, as three members have lost mothers to cancer. Weekend Excursion's constituent parts have been busy working on rereleases, solo careers and collaborations on scores for television and film, among other projects. For a night, they return to the polished pop-rock unit that made them notable. With emo-tinged pop-rockers Jonas Sees In Color and the blue-eyed soul of 2008 American Idol finalist Michael Johns. At LINCOLN THEATRE. $10–$12/ 8 p.m. —Spencer Griffith