It’s kind of a light week on the local music front, as this year Jesus’ birthday falls on a Saturday, effectively killing an entire weekend normally reserved for rocking and/or rolling. That’s not to say there aren’t still plenty of options both before and after Christmas to sap whatever entertainment dollars you have left after the annual gift bonanza. And we’ll get to those shortly. Still, with most joints shuttered up Friday and Saturday, the calendar is a bit lean.
So, before we delve into the pressing matters of the day, and in the spirit of the season, I’d like to take a minute to offer some suggestions to anyone searching for last-minute gift items for their local music scribe. One, I’m told I’m really difficult to shop for. And two, after compiling the holiday wishes of various members of our local music scene , my greed juices are a-flowing. So here goes.
This year, I would like to see every band in Vermont have at least one good, visually interesting, high-resolution press photo taken. They don’t have to be professionally done or anything. Just of high enough quality to use in print. It’s 2010, people. You can take high-res pics with any digital camera. There is no excuse not to have a good picture handy. And if you do, you stand a much better chance of one day seeing your smiling — or sneering — mug on these pages. (By the way, “visually interesting” pretty much means not a pic of your band against a brick wall. Or on train tracks. It’s been done.)
And another thing: Should you ever tour this great land of ours and seek publicity in other newspapers, having print-quality pics accessible to my music-crit colleagues in other cities is a good way to get your foot in the door.
While we’re on the subject of band promotion, I would also like to see more artists describe themselves honestly. If I read one more PR blast telling me that so-and-so is the next (insert iconic rock star here), I’m going to puke. Here’s an actual line from an actual PR blurb describing an actual band actually playing in town next month: “With the coolness of Wilco, the songwriting depth of Bruce Springsteen, the pop accessibility of Tom Petty…” And so on.
Seriously? If any of that were true, these guys would be the greatest band in the history of rock, period. They’re not, of course. And no one in his or her right mind would read that and think they were. The folks in question are actually a decent band, though. So how about something like, “Taking sonic cues from Wilco, and thematic inspiration from the likes of Springsteen and Petty … blah, blah, blah.” A little more honest, much less hyperbolic and, not only that, you’ve sparked my interest. (If I’ve sparked yours, the band is called Skyler and they’ll be at Higher Ground on Sunday, January 9.)
I would also like the long-awaited “new” album from Swale  in my stocking. The one we’ve been waiting on for, like, nine years. Amanda, Eric and Jeremy, I love you. I really, really do. But this is getting silly.
A few other albums I’d like to see under the tree: the new Nuda Veritas ; the forthcoming EP from Maryse Smith ; the soon-to-be-released “new” Death  record; the country album Eugene Hutz  was demoing with Brett Hughes; a new Husbands AKA  album; anything at all from Lendway ; and Blue Button ’s debut.
I would like MSR Presents and Angioplasty Media to join forces and open their own club in the soon-to-be-vacant Old Navy storefront on Church Street. And for said club to also have a bowling alley.
I would like to see Sufjan Stevens live. Not necessarily in Vermont, though that would be ideal. Along with Tom Waits, Elvis Costello and Bon Iver, he’s one of the only artists left on my rock-and-roll bucket list.
I would like to find a redheaded drummer.
And finally, I would like to wish everyone a happy, safe and love-filled holiday season. Oh, and I’d also like a raise. And world peace.
As I’ve mentioned in past years, I have a few local-music-related holiday traditions. The first is that it ain’t Christmas until I’ve heard “Blue Christmas” performed by Brett Hughes and his gang of holiday hillbillies. Hughes’ annual ho-ho-hoedown has changed venues a few times over the years, moving from Red Square to Nectar’s to Metronome to the 1/2 Lounge and probably a few other joints I’m forgetting. But it’s as merry a holiday hootenanny as you’ll find. This year should be no exception, as Hughes decks the halls at Parima’s Acoustic Lounge in a very special holiday installment of the ever-popular Burgundy Thursdays series this week. Expect appearances from Lila Webb, Juliet McVicker, Mark Ransom, Mark and Jeff Spencer , Marie Claire , Karine Poulin, Fallon Ellis, Lowell Thompson , Brett Lanier, Sean Preece and more.
This next “tradition” is still new but promises to become a welcome annual addition to our collective yuletide rockin’. Last year at this time, monster guitarist — and fellow ginger — Bob Wagner put together an all-star band and paid tribute to the Beatles’ Let It Be. This year, he’s getting the band back together to honor, well, The Band. And Bob Dylan. This Thursday, aka Christmas Eve Eve, at Nectar’s, Wagner, Thompson, D. Davis , John Ragone, Ray Paczkowski, Jared Slomoff and Steve Hadeka join forces to cover the 1974 live collaboration between the Band and Dylan, Before the Flood.
Band Name of the Week: Jason Corbiere’s Blues Christmas. The final piece of my triumvirate of holiday traditions takes place at Nectar’s on Christmas night. It’s a blues jam featuring Corbiere, guitarist Dave Keller  and my dear old friend, blues harpist Greg Izor . I go every year, and every year I come away more impressed with Izor’s chops than I was the year before.
’Tis the season for holiday singles, apparently. The latest comes to us from Dan Parks’ outfit The Blame . It’s a rockin’ little rerecording of a 1991 release called “Christmas Eve,” cowritten with Matt Vachon of the Boomflowers. The song will eventually appear on the Blame’s forthcoming full-length, but is available for download at theblameonline.com .
Session nights seem to be gaining in popularity at area clubs. From blues to bluegrass, Irish to old-time, jam to jazz and even honky-tonk, if people play it, there’s probably a session for it somewhere. Now we can add soul music to the list, as Radio Bean has recently unveiled a Thursday-night soul session featuring Kat Wright, Will Lamb-Orgel , Shane Hardiman, Bob Wagner, Ed Grasmeyer  and Dan Ryan .
And, last but not least, anyone who had “James Taylor in Stowe” on their Christmas list must have been extra nice this year. JT will bring the fire and rain to the Aspen of the East on Friday, December 31, to help celebrate the grand opening of a brand-spankin’-new venue, the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center.
And once again, this week’s totally self-indulgent column segment, in which I share a random sampling of what was on my iPod, turntable, CD player, 8-track player, etc., this week.
Iron & Wine , Walking Far From Home
Bruno Mars , Just the Way You Are
Sam Amidon , I See the Sign
Etta James , The Second Time Around
Weezer , Christmas With Weezer