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7 must-go December shows

Posted by Alex Pearlman  December 2, 2011 09:15 AM

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december boston concerts.jpgBy Mike Flanagan

The holidays are in full swing, and if you haven't started your shopping yet, you will soon enough. If you can spare some cash, give yourself the gift of a night of live music.

Here are seven shows you shouldn't miss this month.

Wednesday, Dec. 7: Fat History Month (Precinct, Somerville, $7). Fat History Month’s somewhat-experimental, basement-friendly, genuine rock should fare well in Somerville’s Precinct. With few vocals to obstruct conversation and a sound intriguing enough to discourage it, Fat History Month is a great band to try for a cheap night out on the Boston music scene -- that is, if you haven’t already.

Thursday, Dec. 8: Ryan Adams (Orpheum Theater, Boston, $40+). For perhaps the first time in his dense career, Ryan Adams is as focused as he is prolific. After years of recording his extensive, spastic, but occasionally exquisite, array of songs with a rotating cast of musicians, Adams played Ashes and Fire a bit closer to his newly sober chest. Although he did solicit a little help from his friends -- among them, Norah Jones and wife Mandy Moore -- the new songs showcase a more introspective Adams, with fewer demons to expel, which should make for a more relaxing concert experience than what he's offered in the past.

Saturday, Dec. 10: Good Old War (Brighton Music Hall, $12). When I saw Good Old War at what used to be Harper’s Ferry three years ago, their electric equipment cut out. Without blinking, drummer Tim Arnold picked up his accordion, Dan Schwartz ripped the cable out of his electric/acoustic guitar, and the trio occupied a clearing in the middle of the crowd, where their immaculate vocal harmonies soared just a head higher than those of the eagerly participating audience. Assuming the new management at what is now the Brighton Music Hall has upgraded the venue’s sound equipment since then, it’s fair to expect a much fuller, more rock ’n roll sound from Good Old War. The harmonies, though -- which will always be the band’s hallmark -- will not be compromised in what history suggests will be a near-flawless set of modernized roots rock tunes.

Monday, Dec. 12: Band of Horses (Paradise Lounge, Boston, SOLD OUT). Believe it or not, Band of Horses manages to maintain the dichotomy of pristine vocals and grease-shined instrumentation live without tipping too far toward one extreme or the other. There are few ways to marry classic country, folk, and Pet Sounds-eque pop without compromising sincerity, and Ben Bridwell has perfected at least two of them to produce three albums worth of heartrendingly intimate material for his increasingly popular band to play at increasingly large venues. If you managed to snag a ticket before they sold out, congratulations -- you'll get to catch this band on the rise before they’re playing arenas for twice as high a ticket price.

Monday, Dec. 26: The Early November (Paradise Lounge, Boston, $20). Depending on how you feel about reunions, The Early November have either ruined your most romantic of eighth grade memories or given you the opportunity to relive them with their recently announced tour and new album. Either way, it’s likely safe to expect a lot of angst-tinged pop-punk classics from the early 2000s, like “Every Night’s Another Story,” “Fluxy,” “Ever So Sweet,” and more at the Paradise, which should be a more-than-fitting host for the nostalgia-fest.

Thursday, Dec. 29: Thursday (Royale Boston, $20). Keep the nostalgia train running through to the new year; Thursday is slated to take the stage in Boston for the last time ever -- that is, until they run out of money in four years and realize they have nothing else to offer to society. If you ever saw a quintet of socially inept yet irrationally self-sure pseudo-musicians attempting to make sense of guitar feedback in a suburban basement, this might be your last chance to relive the primal euphoria.

Thursday, Dec. 29: The Wandas (T.T. the Bear’s Place, Cambridge, $10). The Wandas impressed a small but enthusiastic crowd in the smallest of corners at the Boston Music Awards last month with their bold yet understated take on mainstream rock. Though they lost their bid for Pop Rock Act of the Year to Gentleman Hall, the Wandas are sure to prove their heavyweight status in the local rock scene with their subtle, fatally infectious hooks and diligently polished live sound when they headline the Narragansett Holly Jolly Holiday Party.

Did you go to any shows on November's list? Give us your review, and tell us what shows are on your calendar this month!

Photo by Anirudh Koul (Flickr)

About Mike -- I am a journalism student at Emerson College getting ready to graduate in December. I've done investigative work for the New England Center for Investigative Reporting and covered beats in Bridgewater and Dorchester, but my passion is music. When I'm not blurring the line between obsession and enjoyment while listening to Pavement or Bruce Springsteen, I'm punching walls over the Celtics. Twitter: @mikeflanagan2.

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