Of Monsters and Men, The Killers and Andrew Bird play Chicago
Monday, December 17
Iceland’s Of Monsters and Men cap off an exemplary year with a 2-night stand at the Riviera Theatre. Touring in support of their impressive debut full-length record, My Head is an Animal, the chamber pop/folk band has garnered comparisons to Arcade Fire and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Songs such as “Mountain Sound,” Little Talks,” and “Six Weeks” highlight the bands penchant for uplifting anthems with gorgeous male/female vocal harmonies. If their recent appearance on The Tonight Show is any indication, the band is firing on all cylinders. 7pm.
Tuesday, December 18
Locals Heavy Times will rock the Empty Bottle tonight with their blistering live show. The band’s 2011 record, Jacker, on local HoZac Records, features 12 burners that are loud and sloppy and catchy as hell. “I’m Single,” the band’s new 7” features three equally impressive jams. With The People's Temple and Uh Bones. 9:30pm.
English pub-rock legend Graham Parker is about to be introduced to a wider audience thanks to his appearance in the new Judd Apatow movie, This is 40. In the film, Paul Rudd plays a record executive who tries to save a tanking record by Parker, who plays himself. Parker has two songs on the soundtrack as well as a new record, Three Chords Good, his first new album in 31 years with his band The Rumour. While the new record might lack the intensity of some of the earlier recordings (it actually reminds me of his terrific 2004 record, Your Country, which was on the local label Bloodshot Records), it still contains the sharp wit and intelligence we’ve come to expect from Parker. Playing tonight at Park West, look for Parker to play songs from the new record as well as old favorites like “Local Girls,” Stick to Me” and “Passsion is No Ordinary Word.” Watch the video for the Three Chords Good track "Long Emotional Ride" here. 7:30pm.
The 24-hour benefit show, The Second City That Never Sleeps: Letters to Santa features music and improv that is nearly as impressive as the 12/12/12 benefit concert. You might not get Paul McCartney playing with the remaining members of Nirvana, but a line-up that includes Fred Schneider of the B-52’s, Kim Deal of the Pixies and The Breeders, Bonnie “Prince" Billy, Glen Hansard skyping from Dublin, JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound with SNL’s Fred Armisen, Steve Albini interviewing Nate Silver, and Jeff Tweedy is not too shabby. And you won’t have to tolerate the nauseating Billy Crystal. Plus, there are scheduled appearances from SNL’s Jason Sudeikis, actress Olivia Wilde, SNL’s Michael Patrick O’Brien and local improvisor TJ Jagadowski. And if you are still looking for some holiday gift ideas, you’ll have a chance to bid on a private concert in your living room from Jeff Tweedy. Tweedy performs at 9pm and the auction for the private concert starts at 10. Get the rest of the schedule here. The Second City e.t.c. Theatre. 6pm.
Wednesday, December 19
The charming sister duo Tegan and Sara are on a roll with a plum spot opening for The Killers (at the UIC Pavilion on Friday), a recent Grammy nomination, and a killer new single. Tonight Tegan and Sara are doing a free radio station sponsored show at The Cubby Bear just steps from where the Cubs lose. Expect to hear material from their forthcoming record, Heartthrob, which comes out on 1/29/13. Also keep an eye out for their version of the Rolling Stone’s classic “Fool to Cry” on the second season of the HBO show Girls. And "Fool to Cry" will be available digitally on 1/8/13 as part of the deluxe version of Girls-Volume 1: Music from the HBO Original Series. 7pm.
Join Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s keyboardist Cameron McGill and his band at Schubas for his final Chicago show of the year. McGill has a new solo record in the works and appears in the great new short documentary Re-Vinylized. The film, by John Boston, features McGill and other local record store owners and employees, discussing the trials and tribulations of the local record store scene. With Cloudbirds. 9pm.
Thursday, December 20
Thrill Jockey has long been one of the best record labels around and tonight they will celebrate 20 years with a party at the Empty Bottle. Local legends of innovation and influence, Tortoise and The Sea and Cake will perform. The Sea and Cake’s excellent 2012 record, Runner, is one of the band’s strongest, but don’t expect to hear much from it tonight. According to the Thrill Jockey website, the bands will be playing “weird sets for hometown weirdos.” Definitely not to be missed as members of all the bands have been major players in the Chicago scene for two decades. 8pm.
Local band Cains & Abels released a very satisfying record this year on Whistler Records called My Life is Easy. And while singer David Sampson’s distinctive vocals might be an acquired taste, the band is tight, and the songs will stay with you long after the show has ended. Catch them tonight at The Hideout with Baron von Something and Erik Hall. 9pm.
Friday, December 21
The perfect band to celebrate the impending “doomsday” apocalypse is, of course, a collective known as Doomtree. Featuring exceptionally talented members of the Minneapolis hip-hop scene including Sims, Lazerbeak, P.O.S and Dessa, this will be the last all crew Doomtree show of the year. Doomtree’s 2011 record, No Kings, contains 12 bangers that will provide a nice soundtrack if the world does end. Metro. With Buck 65 and Show You Suck. 9pm.
The world might not end tonight, but the clock will definitely be turned back a number of years because Concrete Blonde is performing at Park West at 8pm and The Verve Pipe will be performing at Schubas at 9pm.
Also, The Killers will play the hits at UIC Pavilion tonight. Recently, Killers leader Brandon Flowers told The Guardian that "as long as (the band) is still going, there will always be a Killers Christmas song." Since this show is so close to Christmas here's hoping the band performs their latest Christmas single, "I Feel it in My Bones." 8pm.
Saturday, December 22
If the world is still around and you didn’t get a chance to see Andrew Bird at Fourth Presbyterian Church earlier in the week, you still have one more chance to see him. Tonight at The Hideout, Andrew Bird & Friends will perform a benefit for Rock for Kids. Yes, tickets are expensive, but all proceeds go toward the Andrew Bird Scholarhip Fund, which will provide a music student enrolled at Chicago High School for the Arts with private music instruction for one school year. Bird released two records this year, Break it Yourself and the companion EP Hands of Glory, which you can now buy as a deluxe package. The Break it Yourself song “Lusitania,” featuring St. Vincent is one of the musical highlights of the year. And to put you in the holiday spirit, perhaps Bird will perform his lovely version of “Auld Lang Syne” that appears on the recent Holidays Rule album. 8:30pm.
Sunday, December 23
And on the other end of the spectrum, Chicago singer-songwriter Michael McDermott plays a special Christmas show this evening at City Winery. McDermott's latest record, Hit Me Back, is yet another beaufiful collection of deeply personal songs including "Where the River Meets the Sea," a song he performed at his mother's funeral. The Chicago Tribune's Mark Caro profiled McDermott last year on the 20th anniversary of his debut album, 620 W. Surf. 7pm.