Scanning the local concert calendars on this particular pre-Christmas week is usually a good way to find some of the hardest working musicians in the game. There’s a certain amount of dedication required to brave the winter road, away from home and family. It’s also a great time to find local acts squeezing in gigs while home for the holidays. Here we are again, at the end of December in 2011, with dependable examples of both, five of which make us especially grateful for this calendarian coup de tat.
Brian McKnight, Tuesday-Friday, Yoshi’s
Aww yeaa. Mr. McKnight, seller of myriad albums, breaker of myriad hearts, tickler of myriad instruments, is still maintaining his active-verb status as a classy R&B force. After a recent turn into the musical theater world — he performed in the Broadway show Chicago in 2007 — McKnight is back to doing what he does best, putting us in the mood for some lovin’. His most recent album, Just Me, is a stoic return to form, and his four-night stint at Yoshi’s promises to be a holiday-time treat.
The Growlers, Wednesday, Independent
Straight outta’ Long Beach, The Growlers take their nostalgia back a bit further than the LBC days of Snoop, Ice Cube, et al. Vintage garage surf rock is still very much a part of their Southern California, as are the trippy lo-fi psychedelics that characterize their second album, Hot Tropics. There’s something at once haunting and haunted about their sound, which makes prudent use of muddied vocal effects and boing-boingy guitar lines.
Bayonics, Thursday, Brick and Mortar
True to the name, Bayonics rep the Bay and our idiosyncratic ways and words and mythologies. This 10-piece collective is a true reflection of the Greater Bay Area’s by-now melted pot, with sensibilities ranging from hip-hop to funk to R&B and Latin, reggae and beyond. And if you haven’t checked out one of the best new venues in the Mission, Brick and Mortar, here’s a great excuse to cross it off your underground music bastion bucket list.
Dir En Grey, Thursday, Regency Ballroom
How do you say “RAWWRRRRR” in Japanese? What’s that? Oh, it’s “RAWWRRRRR?" OK, bad joke, but there is a point — we really never think of metal as a means of breaking down cultural barriers, but in the case of Japanese thrashers Dir En Grey, metal has been an international form of communication. The band has been touring the world since they formed in 1997 and built up quite the cult following in the process, releasing eight full-lengths and scaring the bejesus out of millions of willing minions.
PopScene XMas Gala with Dan the Automator, Thursday, Rickshaw Stop
You wouldn’t know it, but San Francisco product and producer Dan The Automator was on the front lines of hip-hop’s first throes of mass engagement. He’s worked with the likes of hip-hop heavyweights such as Prince Paul (Handsome Boy Modeling School) and Del tha Funkee Homosapien (Deltron 3030), and he went platinum as the producer of the debut Gorillaz album in 2001. His new project, NBA2k7, features Mos Def, E-40, Fabulous, Ghost Face, A Tribe Called Quest, Rhymefest, Lupe Fiasco and more. So pay $10 and your respect to the brain behind some of hip-hop’s most forward-thinking music.