It's the holidays, which means it's also the season for holiday parties. If you're already worn down by the thought of force-feeding with relatives or office get-togethers that require you to pretend to like your co-workers on your off-hours too, the good news is that there are other, better options for revelry. Memphis musicians — many of whom are on the road for much of the year — have made big shows a Christmas tradition in the last few years, and there is a good slate of them over the next couple of weeks.
Saturday, December 17th: Shangri-La Christmas Party with Magic Kids and Fraysia
"Every year we just try to have some good music and try to pair up different types of bands," Shangri-La Records' Jared McStay says. "It's a big party that we throw for all of our customers and for anyone else who wants to come. We try to make it appeal to as many different people as we can. But it's mostly just about music."
McStay is not sure how long this holiday show has been going on, as it was already established when he took over from Shangri-La founder Sherman Willmott. "It's at least 13 years, probably more like 15," he says.
This year's show at the Hi-Tone Café features Magic Kids, the smooth, Bennett Foster-fronted Midtown indie-pop band whose 2010 album Memphis garnered national attention. Also on the bill is Fraysia, featuring McStay, Impala guitarist John Stivers, Tripp Lamkins of the Grifters and Dragoon, and Andy Saunders from Glorie.
"It's kind of a new thing we've been doing," says McStay, whose band the Simple Ones was a mainstay of the '90s Memphis alt-rock scene. Between sets, DJ Buck Wilders will keep the party rocking with his blend of vintage soul and contemporary rock. Admission is $5 plus a can of food, which will be donated to the Memphis Food Bank.
Sunday, December 18th: Goner Christmas Party with Peach Kelli Pop, True Sons of Thunder, Sharp Balloons, and Toxie
The next night, Goner Records will take over the Hi-Tone for their annual Christmas shindig. Like McStay, Goner Records owner Eric Friedl is not sure how many years Goner's been throwing down for the holidays. "I remember the Barbaras played one year," he says. "We try to keep it underground — keep it street."
This year, Friedl says the show will be based around a girl group from Canada called Peach Kelli Pop. In addition to the fun, uptempo Nuggets revivalism of the headliners, Friedl's own noise maestros, True Sons of Thunder, have worked up a set of Christmas tunes that must be heard to be believed. "It's gonna be pretty different from what we usually do," Friedl says.
Goner co-owner Zac Ives' punk band Sharp Balloons will also be playing, along with Toxie, featuring Goner's own Madison Farmer and Magic Kids' Will McElroy. "I think we're saying it starts at 6 p.m.," Friedl says. "It's a post-dinner, stretching into the late night kind of thing. It'll go from a family Christmas kind of party to a big night out."
Thursday, December 22nd: Lucero with Amy LaVere
Minglewood Hall will host two of Memphis' biggest road warriors as they return home for this Christmas extravaganza. Lucero needs no introduction to Memphis audiences. The alt-country band has been one of the most successful Memphis acts of the 21st century, both artistically and commercially. Their first annual Christmas show last year was packed, and this promises to be even bigger.
Joining the boys will be Amy LaVere, fresh from touring Europe in support of her acclaimed third album, Stranger Me, which will be at the top of many people's lists for best Memphis record of 2011. Portions of the proceeds from the show will benefit MusiCares, a Grammy Foundation-run program that assists musicians in need.
Sunday, December 25th: Snowglobe's 9th Annual Christmas Show with the Pirates
After you've finished opening your presents, head to the Hi-Tone for the return of Snowglobe. "It's totally a tradition," drummer Jeff Hulett says. "Christmas is not Christmas without the Snowglobe Christmas show."
It's something of a reunion and not only for the band members, who, due to distance, other musical obligations, medical school, and new babies, have not played live since last year's show. "Some people miss it, because they're out of town, but the great thing is that there are a lot of our friends, family, and fans who have scattered across the country but are back in Memphis and come to the show," Hulett says. Even though Snowglobe appearances are rare, that doesn't mean they're inactive. They have almost completed a new album with local producer Toby Vest.
"I'm pumped about where it is," Hulett says. "It'll be a fun record. It's a lot more electronic and poppy." Will we get a preview on Christmas night? "I hope so!" he says.