WEDNESDAY 12.17

Alison Scott

Varsity Theater

Unlike many of her girl-and-her-piano contemporaries, Alison Scott looks past Tori Amos for inspiration and into the golden age of the singer-songwriter, when Carole King, Stevie Wonder, and many others hammered out a more timeless brand of piano ballad, one that could conjure up your own real emotions instead of asking you to identify with theirs. Sure, the Amos acolytes have their place and some have even improved on the Amos business model, but Scott's songs seem to be designed to cast a wider net and are deceptively damaged and clever, sneaking up on you quietly instead of just bashing you over the skull. Her output is nothing spectacularly innovative, but where exactly is it written that you have to be innovative to be enjoyable? The hipsters looking for the next thing to latch onto (only to discard it weeks later when it becomes popular) won't like it, but Scott doesn't seem remotely interested in such considerations. Indeed, this show is free, giving no one person or group of people special treatment—a mighty slap in the face to the many Minneapolitans who bask in their "VIP" status, and a warning shot intended for those who expect it. 21+. Free. 7:30 p.m. 1308 4th St. SE, Minneapolis, 612.604.0222. Pat O'Brien

 

THURSDAY 12.18

Celine Dion

Target Center

Celine Dion is the high-maintenance, mercurial girlfriend we never asked for. Just look at how she treated the Target Center in November. After the venue spent untold trillions revamping its acoustic rig, Dion buttered us up with talk of an "audio, visual feast" and other sweet nothings, only to scratch the show at the zero hour. She complained of a throat tickle and breezed right over us en route to a date with the Windy City, leaving us dressed up and dejected. Her vocal range, which spans several dozen octaves in pitch-perfection, is beyond reproach, and her voluminous career is a lullaby, capable of sending even the most intractable insomniac into blissful slumber. But don't clutch that ticket too tightly—when you see Celine Dion, it's on her terms. Get your hopes up, and you're only preparing yourself for a night of coffee and cold showers. All ages. $49.50-$187. 600 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.673.0900. David Hansen

 

FRIDAY 12.19

Trashy Little X-Mas Show

Lee's Liquor Lounge

Who really has those Hallmark Christmases with crackling fireplaces and Bing Crosby on the record player? Gear up for the hallowed days of fending off that creepy uncle and trying not to smirk at your grandma's annual public meltdown by enjoying an evening with Trailer Trash. One dollop of hell-bent honky-tonk with a dash of dirty garage rock, these locals have been offering holiday caterwauls in a friendly, if dysfunctional, manner for fifteen years running. Forget "Away in a Manger." Trailer Trash's "Please Daddy Don't Get Drunk This X-mas" is far more appropriate. They also lovingly pervert old-time classics, such as their version of "Do You Hear What I Hear" with a spliced-in Kinks riff. With two Christmas albums under their belt, Trailer Trash will provide enough wacky holiday cheer to keep you boot-scooting until February, when you still haven't managed to take down that damn garland. 21+. $12. 9 p.m. 101 Glenwood Ave., Minneapolis; 612.338.9491. Also Saturday Erin Roof

Happy Apple

The Artists' Quarter

Critics are all drooly over Happy Apple. If you look at the jazz trio-slash-mini supergroup's online reviews, there will only be a handful or so (as opposed to, say, 400+ for Coldplay's latest), but each one will be completely choked with wonder and adoration. Thing is, Happy Apple is so much more than a critics' darling. They could and seriously should bust the confines of more traditional jazz venues and play First Ave. In my imaginary musical dream world they would open for Radiohead. Listening will make you want to dance like the Peanuts crew does. Yes, listening to them will make you want to dance. You have three chances this month to do so. Make haste! $12. 9 p.m. (Friday and Saturday), 8 p.m. Sunday. 408 St. Peter St., St. Paul; 651.292.1359. Also Saturday and Sunday Jessica Chapman

 

SATURDAY 12.20

Military Special

Eclipse Records

St. Paul's Eclipse Records is hosting a ridiculously talent-laden show Saturday night, combining the efforts of some of the Twin Cities' brightest electronic acts in an all-ages local showcase. Military Special will headline the night, capping off a bill that also includes Unicorn Basement, Total Babe, and DiscoTech's DJ Gigamesh. An unusual deviation from the oversaturated dance-punk scene that plagued the mid-2000s, Military Special straddles a unique line between choppy-rock and warped electronics. Expect the band to let loose with a number of tracks from their recently released self-titled debut EP, and if you like what you hear, check out Military Special as they welcome 2009 at the Nomad World Pub on New Year's Eve. All ages. $4. 7 p.m. 1922 University Ave. W., St. Paul; 651.645.7724. Chris DeLine

New Congress

Trocaderos

On the New Congress's MySpace page, there is a sampling of new tracks from their forthcoming album, which seems to have been in a constant state of almost-completion for a while now (it's slated for an early-2009 release). But lucky for you, they've been playing the new stuff live. This group blends a mix of rock and R&B into the fold of their sharply produced songs, including their especially well-crafted slow jams, and lead singer/songwriter Aaron "Orange" Cosgrove has an otherworldly, soulful voice. Sharing the bill is the bluesy guitar-rock of 2Wurds and the Root City Band. And on this particular Saturday evening at Trocaderos, they've got a deal for you—if you have a spare coat you aren't using anymore, bring it down and you'll have a free drink in your hand. Jackets will be donated to the Salvation Army. If only this was the case at all bars all the time, right? 21+. $10. 9 p.m. 107 Third Ave. N, Minneapolis, 612.465.0440. Jen Paulson

Peter Himmelman

Cedar Cultural Center

A white guy from Minneapolis, huh? But it's not what you think—Peter Himmelman doesn't do hip hop (yet). He's a veritable Jack-of-all-(other)-genres, though, so it's not surprising that Himmelman is double-billed this weekend at the Cedar Cultural Center, with a traditional Saturday-night set followed by a family-friendly show on Sunday morning. Through his career, his style has ranged from rock to reggae to blues to new wave, and he's picked up nominations for both Emmys and Grammys along the way. But for all his many hats, Himmelman retains a stable, continuous quality in all of his songs—no matter their classification—anchored by reflective lyrics and throaty vocals. As such, the genre jumping doesn't seem a schizophrenic pursuit of style; rather, his acoustic diversity is a multi-faceted expression of a single aesthetic. Who knows—maybe he'll have a 2009 Rhymesayers debut after all. $25/$28 at the door. 7 p.m. 416 Cedar Ave. S, Minneapolis; 612.338.2674. Max Ross

 

TUESDAY 12.23

Roma di Luna Holiday Special

Cedar Cultural Center

Get your new-old-fashioned Christmas groove on, courtesy of arcane night music purveyors Roma di Luna. This year proved a momentous one for folk duo Alexei and Channy Moon Caselle. They dropped their second full-length disc, Casting the Bones, featuring the hauntingly plaintive "The Romance of Wolves." And recently the couple welcomed into their euphonious household their first child. The show will be Roma di Luna's first post-labor gig, and will feature a full backup band, a couple of newly penned songs, and a smattering of holiday standards. If you want to catch the band, catch them now—the new parents likely won't gig again before spring. As an added incentive, snuggle up to the hearthside voice of acoustic soulstress Chastity Brown, one of Minneapolis's dearest untapped musical resources. $10/$12 at the door. 7 p.m. 416 Cedar Ave. S, Minneapolis; 612.338.2674. —Will McClain

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