The Brian Setzer Orchestra
Brian Setzer has taken the exuberant message of Louis Prima's 1956 hit "Jump, Jive an' Wail" to heart. A brash update of swinging big band jazz has provided the former vocalist and guitarist for rockabilly revivalists the Stray Cats with an unlikely career renaissance. His savvy realization that the approach is equally effective when applied to zany seasonal material like "Dig That Crazy Santa Claus" and "(Everybody's Waitin' For) The Man With the Bag" has further complemented his marketability. Uninhibited revelers are encouraged to don their zoot suits and grab some mistletoe on way to Wednesday's high-energy bash.
Tickets to the 8 p.m. show range from $33 to $123.
The prodigiously accomplished Frank Zappa was one of the strangest musicians of the previous century. Groundbreaking but demented recordings like the 1970 album Weasels Ripped My Flesh retain their revolutionary luster. His goofy name aside, Zappa's son Dweezil is a comparatively conventional man. He honors his father's legacy with sober reverence in the Zappa Plays Zappa project. The incongruously temperate approach to the deranged material emphasizes extraordinarily immaculate renditions of the work of an eccentric but essential American composer.
Tickets to the 8 p.m. show range from $25 to $50.
The Night the Buzz Stole Xmas
The 15 bands assembled by radio station 96.5 The Buzz for its three The Night the Buzz Stole Xmas concerts represent an expansive survey of the state of contemporary alternative rock. The trio of headliners sets the eclectic tone. Flogging Molly (Friday) are Celtic punk veterans. Grouplove (Saturday) play the sort of slinky pop that exemplifies the format's fashionable sound of the moment. Passion Pit (Sunday) specialize in synthetic dance music. Other notable acts include up-and-coming soul-tinged crooners ZZ Ward (Friday) and Elle King (Saturday) and the critically acclaimed British band Alt-J (Sunday). Fans are encouraged to arrive in time to catch Not a Planet (Friday), She's a Keeper (Saturday) and Heroes and Villains (Sunday), the fine locally-based bands that open each show. Each of the three shows begins at 6:30 p.m. Tickets to each event are $30.
- Friday- Flogging Molly/Dirty Heads/Morning Parade/ZZ Ward/Not a Planet
- Saturday- Grouplove/Of Monsters and Men/The Joy Formidable/Elle King/She's a Keeper
- Sunday- Passion Pit/Alt-J/Blondfire/Churchill/Heroes and Villains
The Oak Ridge Boys
Most youthful music lovers probably know of the Oak Ridge Boys only through the bouncy 1981 novelty hit "Elvira." Yet the ensemble has attained rarified success in a decades-long career. The first incarnation of the band was formed in the 1940s. The current version began scoring smash hits like "Y'all Come Back Saloon" in the 1970s. The band's roots in Southern Gospel and its undeniable pop smarts have made the Oak Ridge Boys one of the most distinctive and enduring acts in the history of country music. The vintage ensemble is touring behind a new release titled Christmas Time's a-Coming, the sixth holiday album of its extensive career. Tickets to the 8 p.m. show range from $29.50 to $75.
Despite the form's inventive sonics, hip-hop's lyricists are a shockingly conservative bunch. The same handful of themes are endlessly reiterated. Kool Keith has been one of the genre's most notable exceptions for over 25 years. He's created numerous outlandish personas to express his boundless imagination. Dr. Octagon is an alien gynecologist. Black Elvis is a rock star from a parallel universe. Poppa Large is a "big shot on the East Coast." Two Kansas City acts open for the eccentric legend. BluntRap is a marijuana-obsessed crew that includes a live band. The duo of Vertigone and Sephiroth aspire to be as musically and intellectually stimulating as Kool Keith. Tickets to the 8 p.m. show are $12 in advance.
The worlds of Red Dirt country and commercial contemporary country rarely intersect. Mainstays of the Red Dirt scene, Austin's Reckless Kelly have been thriving without much mainstream recognition for over fifteen years. Inspired by the outlaw persona of Waylon Jennings, crafty singer-songwriters like Robert Earl Keen and the rustic Oklahoma rock of Leon Russell, Reckless Kelly and their likeminded peers have forged successful careers performing an earthy hybrid of country and rock. Two additional ensembles of Texans- Micky and the Motorcars and a band led by Phil Hamilton- will also attempt to transform The Granada into a raucous Texas dance hall on Friday. Tickets to the 9 p.m. show are $13 in advance and $15 on the day of the show.
The transformation of Carrie Underwood from a wide-eyed contestant on American Idol to a powerhouse country star has been as unlikely as it is impressive. The Oklahoman first appeared as a starstruck raw talent before quickly evolving into the savvy winner of the reality show in 2005. She's since racked up four chart-topping albums and a dozen #1 singles. Blown Away, her most recent effort, demonstrates that her artistic and personal growth continues at a remarkable rate. Opening act Hunter Hayes, 21, may be country music's version of Justin Bieber. As with the teen idol, Hayes' boyish appeal is boosted by an uncommon amount of self-assured talent.
Tickets to the 7:30 p.m. show range from $44 to $64.
Davey's Uptown Rambler's Club
Rockabilly may operate on the fringes of popular culture, but there can be little argument that practitioners of the form typically sport the best hair styles in the music industry. Bloodshot Bill is no exception. While the wild-eyed rocker from Montreal usually performs as a primitive one-man-band, the inevitable disintegration of his carefully groomed pompadour provides plenty of visual appeal. Fans of the Cramps and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion as well as denizens of barbershops could find no better place to celebrate Saturday night than Davey's Uptown Rambler's Club. Big Iron opens the show. The cover charge for the 9 p.m. show is $8.
Redrick Sultan's official biography doesn't list the high school activities of its members, but the music produced by the Vancouver-based quartet suggests that they were unrepentant band geeks. Their impressive musicianship, zany costumes and the reliance on instruments like saxophones and vibraphones are revealing. The arty sound is designed to appeal to fans of brainy rock acts ranging from Frank Zappa to Cake. Two remarkably compatible Lawrence-based bands open the show. The exuberant musicality of Lawrence's Panda Circus resembles a nerdier version of Cursive. Karma Vision adds a psychedelic twist to the evening's ebullient sensibility. Show time is 9 p.m. (Redrick Sultan also performs at the Riot Room on Sunday.)
What Made Milwaukee Famous
A recording hiatus of almost five years is capable of killing the careers of many bands. "Gone and Done It Now," the new single by What Made Milwaukee Famous, signals that the band hasn't lost a step since it last issued new music in 2008. Leavened by a horn section and a funky bass line, the jaunty new song rivals the Austin-based band's best work. The quartet embraces a startling mix-and-match sensibility. It's capable of evoking the indie rock grandeur of Spoon, the heartbreaking folk of Elliott Smith and the invigorating melodic charm of Wilco. The locally-based Kill Noise Boys, a new band led by Nate Gawron of the Wilders, open the show. The cover charge for the 10 p.m. show is $8.
| Bill Brownlee, Special to The Star