Five Holiday Shows That Won’t Make You Retch

But which would be even better after a glass of hot buttered rum.

The Charles Lloyd New QuartetThis Earshot-produced show isn't officially pegged to the holidays. But the veteran saxophonist has such an intensely spiritual vibe—apparent from the first note—that he'll instantly bring you back to the season's reason. "For me, the purpose of life is to know God," says Lloyd, as if there were much doubt after hearing him. Lloyd came of age in the late '60s and was known as a "West Coast Coltrane," but unlike so many players who—even today—are trapped in the legend's wake, Lloyd was able to transform 'Trane's searching style into something unequivocally his own. In the best religious tradition, he inherited a legacy that he's made newly meaningful—creating a feeling that's more contemplative and less histrionic. His "new quartet" features three top-tier New York players who are a little a more muscle-y than the band he toured with in previous years—and, on the evidence of their recent live disc, that only helps to take Lloyd's lyrical spirit higher. MARK D. FEFER Sun., Dec. 6, Town Hall.Tudor Choir/Seattle Baroque Orchestra: MessiahGeorge Bernard Shaw once wrote of a Messiah performance by a choir that included 900 basses. He mentioned it offhandedly, as if that were how Victorian England always did it. For me, smaller is better: The majesty of Handel's 1741 oratorio will always come through, but its dramatic power, intimacy (the domestic humbleness of the Nativity is what makes it so moving), and sheer sonic magic can get smothered in pomposity with too many musicians onstage. If you only hear one Messiah this season, this should be your choice, with Doug Fullington's 14-voice Tudor Choir and Ingrid Matthews' SBO collaborating in a performance in which every splash of picturesque color and expressive nuance will ring out. GAVIN BORCHERT Sat., Dec. 12–Sun., Dec. 13, Town Hall.KEXP Yule BenefitIt's only fitting that KEXP's Yule Benefit exclusively comprises Northwest bands, all of which are very worthy of your attention. While Seattle eight-piece Grand Hallway's sumptuous symphonic pop bears little resemblance to Portland-based the Builders and the Butchers' swarthy, blood-soaked goth-grass, both bands have recently attracted the attention of the wider musical world—meaning that you'll want to catch them now, because there's a good chance that by this time next year both of them will be popular enough to fill that headlining spot.It goes without saying that you'd be a fool to miss the Cave Singers' beatific, folksy compositions or the Thermals' peppy punk. The years have polished the Thermals' raw, rough-and-tumble garage punk to a glossy shine, but without buffing away any of the band's appeal or indie cred. SARA BRICKNER Sat., Dec. 12, Neumos.Deck the Hall Ball 2009Rather than last year's same-y array of indie-rock bands peopled by white dudes with lots of feelings, this year's Deck the Hall Ball looks much better (if just as whitewashed) than last year's diabetes-inducing pop overdose. Sure, it tasted good, but it's heartening to see that the folks at The End have at least attempted to add some substance and attain a little balance by enlisting synth-pop heavyweights Metric and Vampire Weekend.And while critics take pleasure in shitting upon English headliner Muse for coming off like a cheap Radiohead knockoff, anything beyond a perfunctory listen makes it clear that this band offers its own distinct, decidedly un-Yorkeian sound. The Ball's been sold out for weeks, and the Craigslist ads pleading for spare tickets just keep getting more desperate. SARA BRICKNER Tues., Dec. 15, WaMu Theater.The CornerThe South End and the North Pole will be heavily represented at December's The Corner, a monthly showcase of local hip-hop that falls on Christmas night. The three featured MCs represent the diversity of, and distinct scenes within, Seattle's South End hip-hop: Khingz, the nomadic journeyman MC whose prolific output includes the latest Cold Hearted in Cloud City EP; Jarv Dee, a rowdy frontman of the up-and-coming Cloud Nice crew; and Orbitron, the true-school b-boy who heads up the Circle of Fire Crew. But the guest of honor hails from the real North End. Santa Claus will grace the Rendezvous as the headliner and rap a full set. Here's hoping Mr. Claus himself will appear to spit some frees about cookies, reindeer, and grinding on the graveyard shift the night before. HOLLIS WONG-WEAR Fri., Dec. 25, Rendezvous.

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