* Denotes events that are $15 or less
SAM Lights *
The Olympic Sculpture Park fetes the season with lights and all kinds of art-making activities, including adorning life-sized shadow puppets and creating paper-cut lanterns. You know, luminarias (just saying the word puts me in a joyful mood). There’s also live blues and folk music, a brass band and, of course, a food cart (which is actually a bike).
If you go: SAM Lights, Olympic Sculpture Park, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Dec. 18 (free) — F.D.
During its short-lived reign (from 1963-1964), The Judy Garland Show managed to give the world a Christmas special. Remembered for its panoply of guests, Garland’s forced holiday spirit and for being totally unironically great, the show lives on for a lot of Garland fans. Inspired by this special, David Church and James Webber wrote the musical Judy’s Scary Little Christmas. Actors put a spin on this bizarre moment in history — and introduce Judy Garland to a new audience of spirited devotees. As you can imagine, it didn’t take a lot to camp up a variety show, and immortalize Judy Garland (with spiked grog in hand) for a whole new generation.
If you go: Judy’s Scary Little Christmas, ArtsWest Playhouse and Gallery, Now through Dec. 28 ($17 to $36.50) — N.C.
A Christmas Story, The Musical
Here’s a confession: I had never seen the movie, although I knew it had something to do with one kid wanting a BB gun; another kid whose tongue gets stuck onto a flag pole; and some pink bunny pajamas. So I watched the movie and I liked it. And then I saw the musical and I loved it. It’s everything I crave this time of year: sweet, funny, poignant and oh-so-clever: Ralphie’s myriad daydreams of how he’ll use the BB gun; or how the show translates the Old Man’s joy at winning a fishnet stocking leg lamp into a toe-tapping, winning musical number that’ll make you go, "Damn, I am so glad I’m sitting here right now watching this." The theater’s also offering up a show-specific beverage called the Red Ryder and yes, you should order one.
If you go: A Christmas Story, The Musical, 5th Avenue Theatre, Now through Dec. 30. (Tickets starting at $29) — F.D.
I’m a huge sucker for visual art exhibits that feature books. Once I get over the initial shock of seeing a perfectly good hardback with the spine purposely broken, or pages folded geometrically up toward the sky, I think to myself, “I could look at this piece on my wall everyday” and “Why didn’t I do this?” This exhibit (which ends Saturday) celebrates the book, whose place in our digital society is ever-shifting. We get to follow books on their journeys, whether that be into the hands of 1st graders or into a work of art.
If you go: Well- Read: Visual Explorations of the Book, Photo Center NW, Through December 20th, All Ages (Free) — N.C.
The National tribute show *
Sorrow found me when I was young / Sorrow waited sorrow won / Sorrow they put me on the pill / It's in my honey it’s in my milk. That's the first stanza of (you guessed it) “Sorrow” by The National. The group has a reputation as a “sad” band, but peer into the darkness of lead singer Matt Berninger’s lyrics and dazzling details emerge. The words are a cutting commentary on a battle with depression and constant prescription medications. Berninger and his band won’t be in Seattle this week unfortunately, but a group of excellent local musicians (Chris Cunningham of Ravenna Woods and Hey Marseille, Whitney Lyman of Pollans, etc.) will perform selections from The National’s pristine six-album catalogue. For longtime fans, this could be a refreshing new angle on songs that already mean a lot to you. For those unfamiliar, you have six amazing LPs to listen to.
If you go: The National tribute show, The Crocodile, Dec. 18. ($12). 21+ — J.S.H.
Communion: Mexican Hangover Brunch
You have two more weekends to head to one of Monica Dimas’ Mexican brunches, popping up at Nacho Borracho and the Rhino Room. Dimas, who cooks in the Ethan Stowell restaurant empire, serves up a menu offering tasties like posole, tomatillo and tortilla soup, and seafood stew. She turns Mexican staples into lovely combinations that make perfect hangover cures. Let yourself think about posole — melt-in-your-mouth pork and otherworldly hominy kernels in a homemade broth spiked with lime and house-roasted chilies — then try to think of anything else until Saturday.
If you go: Communion: Mexican Hangover Brunch, noon to 3 p.m. Saturdays at Nacho Barracho; 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sundays at the Rhino Room through Dec. 28.— N.C.
The Moondoggies *
Seattle's love for roots rock is as inalienable as the city's affection for microbrew, coffee and practical long-lasting outerwear from REI. For three consecutive days this week, Seattle's preeminent Americana bar, the Tractor, will host two of Seattle's preeminent Americana bands: The Moondoggies and the Maldives. The former is more contemplative, with subtle percussion and vocals. Both have the traditional backbone of keys, guitar, drums and electric bass, but The Maldives throw in a banjo player. The group's singing also tends to be more forthright and urgent. It's a perfect complementary musical pairing.
If you go: The Moondoggies, Tractor Tavern, Dec. 18-20 ($12) 21+ — J.S.H.
KEXP Yule Benefit featuring Strand of Oaks
For those who missed the weeklong on-air fundraiser last week, KEXP is raising money for the station’s transition into a new home at Seattle Center. This is a big deal for them. On the air last week, morning DJ John Richards said the station will finally be able to offer public tours in its new space. Its current home is so cramped that an open door policy isn’t feasible. So now here’s a benefit show with Strand of Oaks blasting out rough hewn, nihilistic-yet-hopeful Americana rock. This is pearl-handled midwestern road music in the tradition of Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp, with deeply personal lyrics and lots of keys and organ. During a recent live performance, the band’s singer songwriter Timothy Showalter spoke fondly of Smashing Pumpkins and hair metal bands. That musical influence is also present to an extent, especially in Showalter's guitar playing.
If you go: KEXP Yule Benefit featuring Strand of Oaks, Neumos, Dec. 20. ($20). 21+ — J.S.H.
Photo of Judy's Scary Little Christmas by Michael Brunk. Cara Barer is one of several artists whose work is featured in the "Well Read: Visual Explorations of the Book" at Photo Center NW.