Mannheim Steamroller, the musical vehicle of Omaha, Neb., producer/composer Chip Davis and compadres, has acheived the not inestimable task of adding to the dense and relatively impenetrable canon of holiday music groups that can be said to be "a tradition." A combination of dazzling musical virtousity, "fresh" arrangements (early albums were titled Fresh Aire I-IV) and compositions blending classical, rock and light jazz elements have made for an eminently listenable mixture that's sold in the millions. Amid an extensive list of releases, their Christmas records, starting with the first in 1984, have been their audience's overwhelming favorites.
Not one to give up on a winning formula, Steamroller (to aficionados, much as Motley Crüe devotees refer to "Crüe") holiday album releases by now number in the double digits, and the group's latest release, Mannheim Steamroller Live, captures 2014's seasonal tour in Davis' hometown on CD and DVD. It might seem a bit odd to go see the group a day or two after the actual holiday, but it just might be the best way to cap off the season, after the hustle and bustle is all over: Relax in a plush seat at the symphony hall and just breathe in the holiday in the form of music. (BS) Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, 8 p.m., $50-$68.50, MannheimSteamroller.com
Calling The Fingers three-fifths of Royal Bliss makes them sound like the beginnings of a monster hangover, especially since they're playing the day after Christmas. Instead, think of Jake Smith, Taylor Richards and Neal Middleton as three fingers, like three fingers of scotch, which is more manageable—but still results in a good party. There's precious little music to hear from the group—just one YouTube clip from 2012—but it's mellow and vibey, perfect for the lull between holidays. Middleton calls it "folk alternative" and says The Fingers exist "mainly for fun, but we do want to release something in the future." There's not even a band photo yet, but Middleton says, "...get creative. Maybe give us our album cover. Ha-ha." (Randy Harward) The Royal, 4760 S. 900 East, 9 p.m., $5 day of, TheRoyalSLC.com
What do you do when you have a show booked for the sleepiest time of the year? You get creative. A couple of years back, Diabolical Records had a show planned for Dec. 26, and it fell through. To replace it, they put a bunch of local musicians in groups with people from others bands, and told them to perform 10-15 minute sets of music, whether it was new original stuff or improv. It was such a success that they made it an annual event. Two weeks ago, 45 musicians from bands like JAWWZZ!, Foster Body, Chalk, Passive Tourist, Baby Girl and "many non-musicians" entered their names to participate. From that talent pool, Diabolical's Alana Boscan and Adam Tye will, by a random drawing, form nine bands performing one-time-only 5-to-15-minute sets. "This is the show," says Diabolical Records on their Facebook page. "Come experience the weirdness!" Note: They also say that, although the show is scheduled to start at 7 p.m., "it may start earlier." (RH) Diabolical Records, 238 S. Edison St., 7 p.m., free, Facebook.com/DiabolicalRecords
"Salt Lake Shitty Psychedelic Rock Band," as they call themselves on their Facebook page, local band Spirit Tribe plays Kilby Court a couple of weeks after their last visit, and a little over a month after the release of their first full-length album A Common Tragedy. Recorded at local nonprofit studio Midnight Records, the album finds them having much in common with other outfits in the "Psych Lake City" local psychedelic music scene, with whom they often share the bill at performances. Songs like "American Illusion/Green God" show off their political leanings, as does their "R. Nixon" EP, cover art displaying the late ex-prez tinted in glaring neon colors.
The mellifluous vocals and ambling, bluesy sound hearken back to '60s practitioners of the psych genre, but as a young band with very recent recordings, they both demonstrate themselves as quite capable of taking advantage of the recording process and having some room to grow and develop their ideas, and a distinct voice among the crowd. In the meantime, they are an entertaining band to watch, and the resurgence of psychedelic music is a healthy development in a time-honored rock & roll tradition. With Baker Street Blues Band and Breezeways. (BS) Kilby Court, 741 S. 330 West, 7 p.m., $6, KilbyCourt.com
Giraffula; Max Pain & the Groovies; Lost, The Artist; Chris the Redeemer
Finally, an artist ideally tailored for those indie rock posters featuring cutesy animals! Salt Laker Seth Cook, aka Giraffula, known for his experimental electronic music performances featuring cheesy keyboards, kitchy samples and, oh, yes, animal-head masks. Despite (or perhaps because of) the geeky-artsy trappings, there is some real artfulness, subtlety and tastefulness in his use of loops and effects. His album is fittingly titled Smile and Wave.
Max Pain & the Groovies is one of the pre-eminent bands in the local psychedelic music scene, as well as former City Weekly Music Awards winner. Local hip-hop duo Lost, the Artist has been touring the Western U.S., and the seasoning effect of the road has refined their art. Chris Washington (aka Chris the Redeemer) raps about the local hood on "Sherman Ave.," as well as other germane topics.
The show might serve as a pre-party for New Year's Eve festivities the night after, as well as a mini-showcase celebrating some idiosyncratic (read "quirky") standouts among the local music scene. (BS) Urban Lounge, 241 S. 500 East, 8 p.m., $3, TheUrbanLoungeSLC.com
In the world of musical micro-niches, Salt Lake City band The Anchorage might have tapped into something with the highly nuanced notion of alternative ska. A half-decade ago, they cobbled together a lineup from the refuse of several other local ska bands either dormant or defunct. It might have sounded like sonic remnants, but they stitched together a rhythmic unity to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts—especially the one-two punch of Erik Vorkink on trumpet and trombonist Evan Wharton. Their sound is surprisingly dense without being "ska-ttered," you might say. The outfit likes to add its own unique spin to cover songs, including "Dead Man's Party." Download their version of "Feliz Navidad" free from The Anchorage's Bandcamp page. Pelicants and Quiet Oaks open. (Brian Staker) Kilby Court, 741 S. 330 West, 7 p.m., $6, KilbyCourt.com