TOMMY CASTRO AND THE PAINKILLERS, EGYPTIAN THEATRE, Sun., Dec. 21-Tues., Dec. 23, 8 p.m., $28
Singer/guitarist Tommy Castro made his bones in blues circles via a horn-driven sound, but a few years back he decided to strip the band down to a tight, aggressive quartet. The Painkillers bring some added aggression to Castro’s tunes, but they remain rooted in straightforward blue-rock and R&B. The band’s latest release is The Devil You Know, and Castro said upon release that the leaner, meaner band is a return to when he started in music. “The Painkillers really get me back to my roots,” he says. “It feels to me a lot more like it did when I first started playing with my friends as a kid. Bands were always just three or four guys playing for the fun of it.” indeed, and Castro and his band will undoubtedly make a lot of other folks have a lot of fun with their three-night stand in Park City.
DEVIL WHALE OF A CHRISTMAS, THE URBAN LOUNGE, Friday, Dec. 19, 9 p.m., Free
How’s this for a fine way to spend your Friday the weekend before Christmas? Local rockers/good dudes The Devil Whale are hosting a, her, whale of a good time at The Urban Lounge, showcasing a bunch of their friends’ bands over the course of the night. On tap besides The Devil Whale is Max Pain and the Groovies, the North Valley, Starmy and Pleasure Thieves. I suggest you put on your most ridiculous Christmas attire and head on down for some of the finest local tunes available. After all, it don’t cost nothin’.
CHRISTMAS WITH MISFITS, ROSE WAGNER PERFORMING ARTS CENTER, Saturday, Dec. 20, 4 p.m., $20
I can think of no group better suited to assuring some thoughtful AND hilarious holiday cheer for the populace of Salt Lake City than the people at Plan B Theatre Co. This year’s holiday production, Christmas with Misfits, collects four short original plays by local Julie Jensen, and you can imagine stories involving teen geeks giving each other sex for Christmas and a baby Jesus hoarder will be ripe for some laughs. Rest assured, there will certainly be tender moments along the way as well, delivered by ace actors Kirt Bateman, Colleen Baum and Jeanette Puhich. The show has been selling out right and left, and the only tix still available are for the Saturday 4 p.m. show. So get on it before it’s too late!
BLACKALICIOUS, THE URBAN LOUNGE, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 9 p.m., $20
There was a time when it seemed like Blackalicious was coming through Salt Lake City two or three times a year, but it’s been a while. I’m happy to hear the NoCal duo of Gift of Gab and Chief Xcel is back on the road to deliver some of the ornate rhymes and classic beats that made them one of my favorite hip-hop groups about a decade ago. The twosome is known for staying positive, offering some spirituality and good vibes like many so-called “alternative” rap acts. As high school buddies who reconnected at UC Davis, the duo fell in with a scene that included the likes of DJ Shadow and Lyrics Born, and clearly know each other’s strengths, as their albums showcase serious skills. As far as December shows go, this one should be one of the best this year.
HORSE FEATHERS, THE STATE ROOM, Thursday, Dec. 11, 8 p.m., $18
Justin Ringle almost quit music a few years ago, after touring in support of Horse Feathers’ fourth album, Cynic’s New Year. While the set of songs he wrote for that collection were brilliant, they were also monumentally depressing, as they came to be known as his “divorce album.” Playing them every night didn’t exactly make Ringle anxious to keep on the same sonic path, so after some time off, he decided to write some more upbeat tunes and do his damnedest to turn Horse Feathers into his version of a “party band.” He largely succeeds on the band’s latest, So It Is With Us, one of the strongest releases of the year. See for yourself when the band hits The State Room Thursday. Sara Jackson-Holman opens the show.
SUICIDAL TENDENCIES, THE DEPOT, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 8:30 p.m., $24
One of my punk rock rights of passage as a little kid was my sister passing down a copy of the Repo Man soundtrack. That cult classic of a film featured Emilio Estevez as an L.A. punk, and his soundtrack became mine, introducing my ears to the likes of Black Flag, Circle Jerks and Iggy Pop for the first time. Also on there–skate punks Suicidal Tendencies and their now-classic “Institutionalized.” The aggression of the music and easy to relate to narrative struck a chord, as did later works like “How Will I Laugh Tomorrow” and “You Can’t Bring Me Down.” Still going strong more than 30 years on, Suicidal headlines at the Depot Tuesday, joined by Trash Talk.
SPOON, THE DEPOT, Monday, Dec. 8, 9 p.m., $30
Even though Spoon has enjoyed some commercial success through their existence, it still seems like the Austin-based crew led by Britt Daniel are kind of a cult band. Despite a sound blending cool post-punk with insistent, hooky pop, Spoon remains a theater-sized attraction on their tours, rather than arena-sized. That’s a shame, because the quintet is one of the best live acts around, delivering consistently great shows that get audiences moving in ways few indie-rock crews can boast. The band’s latest album, They Want My Soul, is another in a long line of worthy listens, holding up just fine alongside older faves like Girls Can Tell and Kill the Moonlight. Expect a heavy dose of the new material, the band’s first in four years, when they play Salt Lake on Monday. A Giant Dog opens the show.