This Week's Recommended Shows

From Jay-Z and Kanye West to the Ames and Selena Gomez.

Tori Amos/WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 14

Since Tori Amos' 1992 solo debut, Little Earthquakes, her many releases have run the gamut from chamber pop to techno, but Amos' music and her activism with RAINN—The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network she co-founded—have been a resource for women who look to her for emotional support. Her shape-shifting discography, including this year's Night of Hunters, the singer's first classical crossover album—which also features daughter Natashya on a few tracks—has rewarded fans with an unpredictable, ambitious oeuvre as self-possessed and downright rockin' as the artist herself. Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine St., 467-5510. 8 p.m. $49. All ages. GWENDOLYN ELLIOTT

Casey MacGill's Blue 4 Trio/WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 14

I'm always amazed at just how many Seattleites have never been to the Pink Door; notwithstanding a steady stream of tourists, for city residents, it's a chronically overlooked institution kind of like the Statue of Liberty is for New Yorkers. Its dimly lit interior, rich food and craft cocktails, dangling trapeze artists, and half-crazed waitstaff in tandem with a rotation of house bands provide an evening's entertainment like no other. For a swinging, Prohibition-era jazz fix, Casey MacGill's Blue 4 Trio is just the thing: Drawing on influences from Fats Waller to Billie Holiday, the trio (originally a quartet) lays down luscious harmonies and feel-good, up-tempo jazz melodies, as if the Squirrel Nut Zippers met Django Reinhardt in a speakeasy. And watching bandleader MacGill (who has a pencil-thin-mustache/John Waters thing going on) surrounded by free-flowing booze and gorgeous hipsters makes you think you might actually be in one. The Pink Door, 1919 Post Alley, 443-3241. 8 p.m. Free. GWENDOLYN ELLIOTT

Dancer & Prancer/WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 14

It's that time of year again: trees, lights, stockings, nog, and, of course, surf-rock covers of Christmas classics! Festive fruitcakes Dancer & Prancer (whose members are Seattle punk-rock lifers you've probably seen in such bands as The Intelligence, the Coconut Coolouts, and others) bill themselves as "Seattle's Number One Holiday Surfin' Band!"—an indisputable claim—and, like Santa, visit only once a year to shower you with their gifts. According to their fancy website dancerandprancerwebsite.com, their repertoire includes such favorites as "Jingle Bell Rock," "Frosty the Snowman," and "Sleigh Ride," all done up in traditional surf-rock style with reverb-wet guitar licks and a steady, splashing backbeat. (They also share a "special Christmas message" about getting your chimney cleaned.) It's possibly the most inspired surf-rock covers project this side of those black-metal songs on YouTube ("the Darkthrones," "the Mayhems"). With TacocaT, Wiscon. Funhouse, 206 Fifth Ave. N., 374-8400. 9:30 p.m. $6. ERIC GRANDY

Tommy Stinson/THURSDAY, DECEMBER 15

Tommy Stinson spent nearly the first 20 years of his life working with a egomaniacal, musical-genius control freak. Then he went to work for Axl Rose. Stinson, who was scandalously young when he began playing with the Replacements in 1979, has made a career of doing what a kid who got handed a bass at age 12 and went on to spend his formative years in one of the most important American bands ever would do—he just keeps playing. From his work with his own bands Perfect and Bash & Pop to his current gig as the most credible member of Axl's B- squad, Stinson has proven himself a solid sideman and a true rock-'n'-roll survivor. Sonic Boom Records, 2209 N.W. Market St., 297-2666. 6 p.m. Free. All ages. MA'CHELL DUMA LAVASSAR

Jay-Z & Kanye West/FRIDAY, DECEMBER 16

I don't know if I'm old or it's just 2011, but I'm not sure there's any performer I'd rather watch from the bunker bleachers of the Tacoma Dome than at home on YouTube. If there were, it would surely be one or both of this week's two Titan-size shows—Prince, and Jay-Z and Kanye West's Watch the Throne collab. Oldsters and rockists will balk at two "mere" rappers being discussed in the same breath as Prince, but in terms of star power, hits, and egos big enough to fill an arena, Jay-Z and Kanye together must be on something like equal footing with the Purple One, at least circa 2011. These two world-eating, unrepentantly 1-percenter rappers (to the point of seeing the Occupy protests as an opportunity to sell merch) are, if not at the top of their games, still on some comfortably lofty plateaus. Even from the cheap seats, they should look huge. Tacoma Dome, 2727 E. D St., Tacoma, 253-272-6416. 7:30 p.m. $49.50–$199.50. All ages. ERIC GRANDY

Three Imaginary Girls Holiday Party/FRIDAY, DECEMBER 16

Three Imaginary Girls' local music blog may specialize in coverage of "sparkly indie pop," but this year's edition of its annual holiday showcase offers a fair amount of variety. Headliner Eef Barzelay, best known as the singer of New York–based alt-country band Clem Snide, pens mournful, solo acoustic tunes, while Illinois' Heliogoats play a straightforward variety of folk rock. Local quartet Mal De Mer, whose easygoing power-pop resembles that of The Lonely Forest, comes closest to living up to TIG's mission statement. Seattle Weekly columnist John Roderick will be in attendance before the show, donning Santa garb and posing for photos courtesy of SW photographer Laura Musselman. Columbia City Theater, 4916 Rainier Ave. S., 722-3009. 7 p.m. $11. ANDREW GOSPE

Christmas MusiCares Benefit/SATURDAY, DECEMBER 17

Presidents of the U.S.A. guitarist Andrew McKeag helms a lovely annual holiday tradition of gathering his best pals to his side to cover a classic double album from front to back, with all the proceeds going to MusiCares, the health-care safety net for uninsured musicians. This year he's taking on Eric Clapton's Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, a somewhat surprising choice, even to him. "I'm not a gigantic Eric Clapton fan," he admits. "However, this record kicks ass. That Tulsa-meets-Florida-meets-England vibe is real fucking groovy, and serves as a reminder of how high the bar was once set for pop-music musicianship." Luckily, McKeag's friends—including Jeff Fielder and Mike McCready—are some of the strongest players in town, so that bar will no doubt be met this evening. With Blue Spark, Kim Virant, Mike McCready, the Jelly Rollers, Sean Bates, James Apollo & His Sweet Unknown, the Glass Notes, Nathan Wade & the Dark Pioneers, Persephone, Sam Russell. Tractor Tavern, 5213 Ballard Ave. N.W., 789-3599. 9:30 p.m. $10 adv./$12 DOS. HANNAH LEVIN

Dinosaur Jr./SATURDAY, DECEMBER 17

While the recorded output of seminal '80s alternative-rock bands like The Cure or R.E.M. has been less than stellar in recent years, Dinosaur Jr.'s 2009 Farm showed that the group is nearly as vital as it was in its heyday. It helps that the band's sound—pulverizingly loud, fuzzed-out guitar rock, which on its 1985 debut, Dinosaur, predated the grunge explosion by more than half a decade—has yet to go out of fashion, but frontman J Mascis is the crux of Dinosaur Jr.'s continued relevance. The guy's an ace songwriter, as he demonstrated with a solo acoustic album earlier this year, and an even better guitarist who's influenced bands like Pavement and Weezer. This show will also feature a live interview with the band conducted by former Black Flag frontman Henry Rollins. With Pierced Arrows. Showbox at the Market, 1426 First Ave., 628-3151. 7 p.m. $22.50 adv./$25 DOS. ANDREW GOSPE

Thompson Square/SATURDAY, DECEMBER 17

Buoyed by infectious country radio hits such as "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not?", "I Got You," and "Let's Fight," Thompson Square is a less annoying, more talented, more attractive, and more married version of the platonic she-and-he duo Sugarland. The moment America becomes utterly fatigued with Jennifer Nettles—and if there's a God in Nashville, it'll happen soon—the comely (especially now that she's ditched her skunk-colored hairdo for a pervasively dark hue) Shawna Thompson will make you forget she ever existed. Her husband, Keifer, wears a soul patch and a newsboy hat. Once he follows his wife's lead and discovers the value of a cowboy hat and a razor, the sky's the limit for this pair. With Jerrod Niemann. Snoqualmie Casino, 37500 S.E. North Bend Way, Snoqualmie, 425-888-1234. 8 p.m. Sold out. MIKE SEELY

Selena Gomez & The Scene/SUNDAY, DECEMBER 18

Nineteen-year-old pop singer Selena Gomez has a lot in common with the teenage Britney Spears—an early career as a Disney child star, an armful of Teen Choice Awards, a pop-star heartthrob boyfriend named Justin. One of the best tracks on Gomez's most recent album When the Sun Goes Down, "Whiplash," is even recycled from the Britney songbook. As for Gomez's potential for Spears-size stardom, we're on the fence. Her disco-dub-pop single "Love You Like a Love Song" was sleek and sophisticated, but her just-released "Hit the Lights" and its accompanying video look and sound like a hackneyed American Eagle commercial. If Gomez wants her music career to last longer and attract more attention than a Justin Bieber paternity suit, she should learn some lessons from the life of Spears, both dos and don'ts. Don't: marry your backup dancer or shave your head. Do: edge up those songs! With OneRepublic, Cobra Starship, Hot Chelle Rae, Tinie Tempah, Karmin. WaMu Theater, 800 Occidental Ave. S., 381-7555. 5 p.m. $46. All ages. ERIN K. THOMPSON

***EDITOR'S PICK

The Ames/TUESDAY, DECEMBER 20

Three-piece collective The Ames—drummer Michael Lanz, bassist Dan Swan, and multi-instrumentalist Sam Carlton, who contributes lead vocals, keys, banjo, guitar, harmonica, and the occasional kazoo—make a type of music that fits their hometown of Bellingham: quaint, charming, and a little off-kilter. The band's only been together since August, but the three songs on their self-titled EP already offer a good lesson on how folk can be fun—theatrically woeful vocals and loose, freewheeling melodies backed by plinking strings and a pounding ragtime piano. It's foot-stomping, saloon-style folk, its mischievousness enhanced by snarky, devil-may-care lyrics like "You may cry, tattle, and stomp/And honestly, honey, ain't nothing else wrong/Except for I/Really think that you're ugly." With Magoozler, Bear Cove. High Dive, 513 N. 36th St., 632-0212. 8 p.m. $6. ERIN K. THOMPSON

 
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