Thursday 12/18

Blue Scholars, Common Market, the Physics

(Neumos) See preview, and Stranger Suggests.

The Cops, Cancer Rising, the Bad Things, Widower

(Sunset) After almost five years together, the Cops are about to go on hiatus, after putting on a Rock 'n' Roll Circus this weekend at the Sunset. It's a real shame they're taking an extended break, because the Cops have become one of the most solid acts in town. Their poppy punk music isn't the sort of thing that's been fashionable in Seattle over the life of the band, but they've perfected that shit: Their hooks are clean and sharp, and they've got a cohesion as a unit that other, more high-profile Seattle bands would kill to have. PAUL CONSTANT See also Stranger Suggests.

Eastern Grip, Thee Sgt. Major III, Open Choir Fire

(High Dive) Tonight, Seattle rock band Eastern Grip celebrate the release of their album Griptheria. The band's self-description is the most apt: "messed-up pop songs." With influences ranging from Fugazi to the Dead Milkmen to Archers of Loaf, Eastern Grip can't decide where to carve their niche in rock music's grand scope, so they just flail all over the place. "Low Voltage Journeyman" is a jammy blues number with a slight nod to Built to Spill. "Gonna Drive, Got All That Gear" is a snappy, stripped-down pop song. "Boots On" is poppy, too, but more in an alt-rock circa 1994 way. Openers Thee Sgt. Major III, starring Mr. Kurt Bloch on guitar, play songs that are brighter than the sun and catchier than syphilis. MEGAN SELING

Club Pop: Bow + Arrow, Masters and Johnson

(Chop Suey) Bow + Arrow are a punk-rock band with the inclination to make some asses shake—a perfect headlining act for Club Pop's annual Christmas show. Think Q and Not U—you won't know whether to stomp and sing along to the anthemic choruses or step back from the stage and just shimmy along with the strong beat. Bow + Arrow are one part party and one part DIY basement band inspired by passionate old-school acts like Rites of Spring and Cap'n Jazz. Before Bow + Arrow blow some minds, though, Masters and Johnson will get everyone feeling loose and goofy. They're like fuzzier, more humorous Talbot Tagora. MEGAN SELING

Connie and the Precious Moments

(Wildrose) It's colder than a witch's tit in a brass Wonderbra, so I have to recommend the heartwarming powers of Connie and the Precious Moments. I ran into Connie buying pantyhose at Bartell, and she promised me this show will be a magical mélange of classic holiday songs mixed in with Precious Moments staples such as "No Thank You" and "Sleeping Single on a Double Bed." She also assured me there will be plenty of recipes, poetry, and spiritual affirmations for everyone, shared lovingly between songs. Fans of Dina Martina, Barbara Mandrell, Yanni, Chuck Mangione, Juice Newton, and, well, anyone who knows how to play a rain stick, need to grab a favorite Christmas sweater and come feel the warm! KELLY O

Friday 12/19

Blue Scholars, Common Market, Truckasauras

(Neumos) See preview.

The Cops, the Fall of Troy, Kinski, the Whore Moans

(Sunset) Seattle quartet Kinski keep on truckin', adding muscle to their super-charged riff juggernauts. These days they're more earthy and less spacey than they were in the Be Gentle with the Warm Turtle/Airs Above Your Station era, but they've also become cannier about dynamics. These savvy veterans know how to age gracefully. Kinski are working on their next album and consequently plan to unveil some new material at this show. The Whore Moans rock hard and mean, and they mean it. Their debut album, Hello from the Radio Wasteland!—which comes out January 27 through Mt. Fuji—is spirited, unhinged, and as untainted by irony as, say, the MC5. DAVE SEGAL

Saturday 12/20

Blue Scholars, Common Market, Mad Rad

(Neumos) Elsewhere in this week's Stranger, Charles Mudede declares Mad Rad the harbingers of a third wave of Seattle hiphop—essentially, the Future of Seattle Hiphop. This, of course, is (rad) madness. The trio of P Smoov, Terry Radjaw, and Buffalo Madonna are many things—gifted party starters, tireless hustlers, expert postmillennial aesthetes, shameless Spank Rock knockoffs—but they are not yet any kind of Future of Seattle Hiphop. Rather, their debut, White Gold, is simply a fantastic record of one skeezy corner of Seattle hiphop's present moment. P Smoov's productions, heavy on the classic drum machine and synth sounds, are pro, and the crew's raps are funny, filthy, and freshly delivered. Of course, still elsewhere (on Slog), Mudede has written, "The now is what you leave when you die and what you enter when you are born. The now is that in which all things happen." Too right, Charles. Forget the future, Mad Rad are the Now. ERIC GRANDY See also preview.

Natalie Portman's Shaved Head, Starfucker

(Vera Project) Both Starfucker and Natalie Portman's Shaved Head are ostensibly "fun" bands. Both have irreverent names. Both make electronics- laced indie pop that, respectively, encourages or demands dancing. And therein lies the difference between these bands and their brands of fun. Starfucker simply are fun, and they seem effortlessly so. Their sonic palette suggests acts as diverse as Ratatat and MGMT, their songs perfectly combine catchy pop melodies with dance-floor-filling grooves, their live shows kill, and their debut album makes for rewarding home listening. NPSH, on the other had, just try too damn hard to signify how terribly "fun" they are, with wacky outfits, side-ponytails (quirky enough to warrant their own song!), and a glossy but ultimately preset electro-pop style that sounds like every crap track on Hype Machine. Here's hoping they take notes from the opening act. ERIC GRANDY

The Cops, Spiral Stairs, the Sea Navy, Wallpaper

(Sunset) Tonight is the last, and I would argue best, night of the Cops' three-night-long, three-ringed Rock 'n' Roll Circus at the Sunset Tavern. Previous nights feature the considerable talents of such diverse local acts as Cancer Rising, the Whore Moans, the Fall of Troy, and Kinski—and tonight's lineup of folky indie rock and power pop is just as unfuckwithable. While his old bandmate Stephen Malkmus is turning out the fried classic rock these days, Spiral Stairs' solo work pleasantly recalls the gentler, twangier pop moments of Pavement (think "Range Life" without the snark). Auburn's finest, Wallpaper, play pop rock that's damn near too smart for its own good. And then of course, there's the Cops, who are the kind of reliably satisfying rock band—loud as fuck, straight-ahead, equal parts punk and rock 'n' roll, more than up to the task of playing ringmaster for this circus—that it's too easy to take for granted in a music-saturated city like Seattle. ERIC GRANDY

The Maldives, the Moondoggies, Jack Wilson & the Wife Stealers, Battle Hymns

(Tractor) If you Google the phrase "rooted in tradition," you'll probably find local nine-piece country band the Maldives on the first page. Their pedal-steel whines, fiddle drones, and vocal twangs sound competent and sincere beyond reproach; they're true disciples of country music. The Moondoggies similarly hark back to the pre-digital age with an unerring authenticity and an unstinting passion. The Seattle band's songwriting and playing are strong, but if you have an aversion to new bands sounding like country-rock outfits circa 1971, you may want to give the Moondoggies a wide berth. That being said, the Moondoggies' country-rock revivalism is executed about as cunningly as anyone now working in that niche. DAVE SEGAL

The Virgins, Hockey

(Chop Suey) Who the fuck are the Virgins? Well, they're an "indie rock" band whose self-titled debut album is out on a major label (Warner/ Atlantic). They're from New York City. They met at a Ryan McGinley photo shoot, and they look like the kind of guys who would meet at a photo shoot. Their putative breakout song is a lazy '80s white-boy funk number called "Rich Girls," which makes VHS or Beta sound like wild sonic originators and makes the Strokes read like high poetry. Said song is featured on an episode of the TV show Gossip Girl. They have another song called "She's Expensive." Bitches and money—amirite, fellas?! These guys are tools. Portland-based Hockey (also major label, Capitol) strike a similar although considerably less loathsome intersection between preening fashion-plate rock and pale funk. ERIC GRANDY

Sunday 12/21

Venetian Snares, Otto Von Schirach, Cyrusrex, NAHA

(Nectar) See Data Breaker.

Are You a Cat?, Golden Animals, Prisonfood, Specswizard

(Comet) Are You a Cat? have become my new favorite local act (thanks to Paul Constant for the tip). AYAC? operate on the fringes of experimental rock and electronic music, blurring genre distinctions and fuzzing up your mind in delightfully demented ways. They currently have no official releases, but a 27-minute composition titled "Beach Volleyball" made its way into my headspace and scrambled my cerebellum like so many eggs. AYAC? also can write more concise pieces of equally compelling weirdness, like a Northwestern Residents or Biota. This duo give you enough gripping, off-the-grid creative deconstruction to keep you grinning for days (and with "Soft Houses" and "Changa Roo," they prove adept with Afrobeat and funk, too). Golden Animals, who hail from "the deserts of Southern California," purvey a dusky, moody country rock laced with trace elements of psychedelia—and, oddly, hammy male/female vocals and arrangements right out of a Broadway production. They're undoubtedly crackers for Gram Parsons. The rest of this bill—hiphop maverick Specswizard and noise provocateurs Prisonfood—makes even less sense together. Should be fun. DAVE SEGAL

Monday 12/22

Jam Jam

(Baltic Room) DJ Collage brings the raw dancehall/reggae ruckus every Monday. Spend your Monday night with the engaging, lyrical big man and let his chi propel you through the rest of the week. You'll probably pick up some wicked new slang terms—and maybe a hottie, too. DAVE SEGAL

Tuesday 12/23

You can haz cozy night at home.

Wednesday 12/24

Soul Hole

(Rob Roy) Every Wednesday, DJ Self-Administered Beatdown (Scott Giampino, drummer in Humble Pie cover band the Fixers and talent buyer for the Triple Door) spins obscure and familiar soul, funk, and R&B gems from his vast vinyl stash. His sets are history lessons to which you can sweat, if you so desire. Or you can just sit on one of Rob Roy's plush sofas and bask in the vintage awesomeness of tunes cut by some of the best musicians ever, played by a dude with extensive knowledge and a friendly demeanor. I've trainspotted like a motherfucker some nights, but Giampino has yet to shoo me away. Patience of a saint, that guy. DAVE SEGAL