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Best performance bets for December, (almost) Rudolph-Free Edition

Sounds of the City


Saturday, December 1

The Buffalo Ukulele Club @ the Carnegie Art Center (North Tonawanda)

Area practitioners of the hipster-approved instrument assemble for a mid-afternoon concert. Note that this event is just one part of NT's annual Winter Walk, a family-friendly day of low-key seasonal fun at multiple cultural and retail venues in the heart of "the Lumber City"—so, yes, the odds of encountering a Rum Pum Pum are high.


Monday, December 3

Wayne Horvitz Trio @ Hallwalls

After making a name for himself in the downtown Manhattan scene of the 1980s, pianist and composer Horvitz relocated to Seattle, where he has remained a prolific contributor to the international jazz and new music world ever since. His latest project is The Snowghost Sessions, a collaboration with drummer Eric Eagle and bassist Geoff Harper recorded at the Montana studio of the same name, making use of electronics and prepared pianos to augment the trio's acoustic instruments. The result is an album of songs that are sometimes gorgeous and accessible, sometimes total sonic freakouts—often in the span of five minutes. If you've always been curious about the outer edges of contemporary music but a bit hesitant about where to begin your exploration, this concert may well be just what you're looking for.


Preoccupations @ Mohawk Place:

The post-punk/noise/electronic/art rock outfit formerly known as Viet Cong is back with an album of new material, helpfully titled New Material. Despite the name, a lot of it sounds like vintage Sisters of Mercy to me, so if you're jonesing for something dark, catchy, and Goth-y that conjures fantasies of dancing upstairs at the Continental during the waning years of the Reagan administration, here ya go.


Will Wilson @ UB's Center for the Arts, Screening Room:

UB's art department wraps up another season of its always exemplary fall-semester speakers series with a talk by this photographer of Navajo descent about his collaborations with scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.


Friday, December 7

A John Waters Christmas @ Asbury Hall

The "Pope of Trash" hits town with one of his spoken-word shows. By this point, the man surely needs no introduction; we've all marveled at how he transitioned from one of the pioneers of no-budget, taboo-shattering midnight movies like Pink Flamingos to the feel-good Broadway smash Hairspray, with several beautifully written essays and memoirs cementing his reputation as the elder statesman of kitsch. What makes him so utterly unique is the charm with which he celebrates the detritus of American popular culture. If you've ever heard his lovingly curated 2004 CD compilation of long-forgotten, so-horrible-it's-delightful Christmas music, you know this is hardly going to be a Silent, let alone Holy, Night.


Gabriel Kahane @ the Burchfield Penney

From his fondness for sweeping conceptual projects to his gentle vocals and often oblique lyrics, this Brooklyn-based composer is a kind of classical-music brother to indie-rock boy wonder Sufjan Stevens—and, no surprise, they have a history of working together. Past Kahane endeavors have been based on subjects like Craig's List ads, ten buildings in LA, and the star-studded true story of an artists' commune co-founded by Gypsy Rose Lee in the 1940s. His latest album, Book of Travelers, was inspired by an almost 9,000-mile train trip around the U.S. (no phone or internet allowed!) that began just after Election Day 2016.


Saturday, December 8

Dysfunctional Holiday Party @ Squeaky Wheel

OK, technically this annual video screening/snackfest/dance party/basket raffle is indeed a seasonal offering (and thus may feature either Rudy the Red and/or Lil Drumboi among its karaoke selections), but its tone is a bit darker than your average ho-ho-hoedown. Where else are you gonna have the chance to get your picture taken with not just the Elf on a Shelf but his/her employer, Surveillance Santa?


Friday, December 14

Stay Gold @ the Burchfield Penney

The Center's annual "Community Art Party" differs from most of the city's many other, more established site-specific music/performance/installation/dance party spectaculars (Artists and Models, Peepshow, Prom of the Dead, Trimania, and so on) in two big ways: It takes place inside the museum's own facilities, which allows participating artists more time to set up and get to know their allotted spaces (the majority of which are tucked into obscure nooks and crannies of the building not usually intended for exhibition or live performers), and there's no cover charge. Among the seven featured musical acts this time around are Hop Hop, Curtis Lovell, and the cleverly named Brothers Blue, while the eleven pop-up installations are being created by Markenzy Cesar, Debra Eck, Xiao Yang, the duo of Holly Johnson and Brian Milbrand, and the Electric Oil and Light collective, among others.


Wednesday, December 19

Justin Timberlake @ Key Bank Arena

The Man of the Woods bruised his vocal cords—perhaps they are allergic to flannel?—and had to postpone his October show. This is the make-up date. When he rescheduled another Buffalo concert four years ago, he promised full body massages (by Jimmy Kimmel) to any unsatisfied customers, so the bar is pretty high this time around.


Thursday, December 20

Peggy Farrell @ Pausa

One of the titans of Buffalo's jazz scene takes a look back at her long career, from her early years singing in a Greenwich Village club through her eighteen-year collaboration with pianist Al Tinney performing in just about every top venue in WNY. Now in her eighth decade, she has cut back on appearances, making this one a must. Admission is under ten bucks and the club is small, so get there early.


Thursday, December 27

Paul Kozlowski Quintet @ Pausa

One of Buffalo's most consistently fascinating musical adventurers, Kozlowski is known for traveling the world to immerse himself in sounds most of us only know through recordings, if at all, and then finding ways to incorporate them into his own compositions. His artisanal blends of Eastern European, Arabic, African, and Latin American rhythms and textures have been heard on many a local stage (and in many an indie theater production); here's a chance to catch his current band of merry folk—also known as "Casperous Vine"—back home in the heart of Allentown.


Ron Ehmke is a writer, performer, and media artist you can learn more about at everythingrondoes.com.


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