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A VERY TUCSON CHRISTMAS

If the Christmas music at every freakin' retail store in existence isn't reminder enough, look no further than this week's slate of holiday-themed shows to tip you off that the season is in full swing. (My heat currently isn't working, so I need to look no further than my thermostat--but that's another story entirely.) Here, then, is a summary of some fine ways to celebrate the birth of Baby Jesus.

It's been an awfully long time since a locally produced Christmas album saw the light of day, which makes us especially pleased to announce that this week sees a release party for Christmas in Tucson. The disc is a compilation of local artists' takes on Christmas music, both traditional and original, and was, as the liner notes state, "conceived and produced by Olivier Mosset" and "organized by Elizabeth Cherry." Mosset is, of course, a world-renowned Swiss visual artist and part-time Tucson resident, and Cherry, his ex-wife, is a former local gallery owner and onetime director of the Museum of Contemporary Art. The project is a charitable endeavor, with proceeds being donated to the Primavera Foundation, which, according to Club Congress' Web site, "sows the seeds of change by strengthening lives, building communities and advocating for social justice."

Some 22 local bands and musicians stepped to the plate to donate tracks for the cause, and the results are impressive. On the traditional end, you've got Al Perry ("Holly Jolly Christmas"), Matt Mitchell (an instrumental take on "Sleigh Ride"), Naim Amor ("I'll Be Home for Christmas"), The Solace Bros. (Alvin and the Chipmunks' "Christmas Don't Be Late"), Marianne Dissard ("Stop the Cavalry"), Jose Saavedra and Elise DuBord ("Hacia Belén Se Encaminan") and Mr. Tidypaws (an instrumental version of "The Christmas Song"). Those offering original songs are Love Mound (the Southern-fried burner "Shake Your Christmas Tree"), Little Black Cloud (the melancholy "Holiday Song"), Creosote (the high and lonesome "Tiny Lights"), Bob Spasm (the don't-don't-play-it-for-your-grandma "We Wish You a Shitty Christmas"), Blackwood and Co. (the funkalicious "Brainiac Pt. 2 [Silent Night]," which sounds more like a '70s cop show theme than a Christmas song), T-Dub Rockers (Tom Walbank and friends indulging their dub reggae obsession on "Christmas in Tucson") and Al Foul ("Dim the Lights on the Xmas Tree for Mother [They're Using the Electric Chair Tonight]," which, despite its lyrics, is straight out of the Elvis playbook).

And then there's this: Credited to "Bloat Records: Various Artists," "The History of Christmas (An Historical Survey and Retrospective in Eight Parts) as Told by Bebe McPhereson" is a 19-minute faux storybook tale ("Please turn the page when you hear the [beep]") that recounts an alternate tale of the origins of Christmas as only the folks from Bloat can tell it. (I can't seem to recall the Bible saying anything about sharks with breasts for everyone to play with.) The suite includes performances from The Pork Torta, Bob Log III the aforementioned McPhereson, and B4SKIN featuring Electroshockbox.

All in all, Christmas in Tucson is probably the strangest Christmas album since John Waters dropped that cheesefest compilation a couple of years ago. And, come to think of it, it pretty well encapsulates both the amount of talent and sheer weirdness that we've all come to love about Tucson.

For this week's release party, the entire cast and crew from the album will re-create it live, not once, but twice.

Get in on the madness at 9 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 14, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Admission is $5, or $10 with a copy of the CD. Questions? Ring 'em up at 622-8848.


A VERY KXCI CHRISTMAS

In recent years, one of my favorite local holiday traditions has become 91.3 FM KXCI's annual Sonic Solstice radio show, for which local bands and musicians take the Christmas spirit to the airwaves by playing both original and traditional holiday-themed songs. Laurie Starr and Don Jennings, hosts of Monday night's Starr Tracks and Locals Only, respectively, forgo their usual programming to bring you a who's who in local music performing music to get you into that seasonal mood. And, since this is the sixth year of the show, there's quite an archive of recorded performances from past years to fill in those gaps that occur during artist change-overs. Live performers for this year's program include the Dusty Buskers, D. Mulligan, Grupo Sonido, Bread and Circus, Tracy Shedd, Jose "Pepo" Saavedra, Michael P. Nordberg, Nowhere Man and A Whiskey Girl, Golden Boots, the Silver Thread Trio, Low Ones, Creosote and John De Roo.

While past years have seen the show go as long as six hours, this year, Sonic Solstice is scheduled to run from 6 to 10 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 17. The show's mood is always pretty giddy and will make you long for the days when real, live radio was the norm--it feels like just about anything can happen. Tune in and make it one of your holiday traditions; you'll be glad you did.


A VERY KOOL SHADES CHRISTMAS

It seems like only yesterday that the young'uns in local ska outfit Kool Shades were celebrating their win at the Arizona Daily Star's high school Battle of the Bands competition. (It's actually been about a year and a half.) This week, the group will headline the Kool Shades Christmas Show, which will also include performances from Captain Squeegee and the Soapsuds and The Manhattan Address.

Treat yourself to a very skankin' Christmas at 6:30 p.m. next Thursday, Dec. 20, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. All ages are welcome, and cover is $5. For more info, call 622-8848.


A VERY TOURING CHRISTMAS

It's not just locals getting in on the holiday fun. This week brings to town a couple of national acts on holiday tours, too.

Swing revivalists Big Bad Voodoo Daddy will celebrate the season big-band-style at their Wild and Swingin' Holiday Party, which hits the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., on Friday, Dec. 14. The show is open to all ages and gets underway at 8 p.m. Tickets are available for $24 in advance; they'll be two bucks more on the day of the show. For further details, call 740-1000.

Giddyup on over to the Desert Diamond Casino, 1100 W. Pima Mine Road, on Saturday, Dec. 15, for the Oak Ridge Boys Christmas Show. I'd be willing to wager a few ducats that Elvira will be recast as a reindeer for the night. Advance tickets are available for $30, $35 and $45 at all Ticketmaster locations, at the casino's box office, by phone at 321-1000 or at ticketmaster.com. All tickets will be $5 more on the day of show. For more information call (866) DDC-WINS.


ON THE BANDWAGON

While we don't have enough space here to tell you about all the fine non-holiday-related shows happening around town this week, keep your eyes and ears open for these: Arvel Bird and Will Clipman at Javalina's on Saturday, Dec. 15; Jesse Dayton and The Wyatts at The Hut on Saturday, Dec. 15; Authority Zero at The Rock on Friday, Dec. 14; John Corbett at The Maverick on Sunday, Dec. 16; KWMT FM 92.9 The Mountain's Holiday Concert featuring KT Tunstall, the Indigo Girls, Brandi Carlile and Ingrid Michaelson at the Tucson Music Hall on Monday, Dec. 17.


THANKS FOR COVERING UP!

Finally, a heartfelt thanks to everyone who contributed in any way to this year's edition of The Great Cover-Up, held last weekend at Club Congress. Because of you, we will be making a donation to our beneficiary, the Tucson Artists and Musicians Health Alliance, in the amount of roughly $7,000.

Please indulge us while we single out some folks for their tremendous efforts in making the event the success it was. Massive respect to the following: the amazing Dan Hernandez, David Slutes, Jake Workman, Josef Stephens and the entire Club Congress staff; Curtis McCrary; Chita, Scott Barnett and everyone at KLPX FM 96.1; Mike Sydloski and all at Rainbow Guitars; Justin Bernard and everyone at Sticks N' Strings; Jill A'Hearn and all at the Tucson Weekly; Don Jennings, Duncan Hudson and everyone at KXCI FM 91.3; TAMHA; and last, but foremost, all of the bands and artists who participated in the event: Alachua County All Stars, Kevin Pakulis, The Distortionists, Nowhere Pago and the Center Men, Cathy Rivers, Andrew Collberg, The Deludes, Muddy Bug, Redlands, Guilty Pleasurez, With Cheapness, Feed, Ladies and Gentlemen, ... Music Video?, Love Mound, Golden Boots, The Swim, The Jons and Seven to Blue, Strike Gently, Tracy Shedd, Rock Sauce, Flagrante Delicto, Marianne Dissard, the Sabatino Killers, Mr. Free and the Satellite Freakout, Al Perry, Spacefish and Found Dead on the Phone.

And, of course, thanks to all who attended.

Our appreciation is boundless. We'll see you again next year.

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