Dec. 14 2015 02:56 PM

Our top picks for things to do this week

Alex Woodard
Photo by Teresa Fae


Singer-songwriter Alex Woodard says a few years ago his life had become "like a bad country song." His dog had died and he'd lost his record deal, but luckily for Woodard, inspiration returned in the form of a letter written to him from a fan. Actually, the letter wasn't to Woodard, but rather to the woman's boyfriend who had died a few years before. She had been writing letters to the boyfriend in order to cope and would leave them in places or, in this case, send them to someone else.

Woodard ended up showing the letter to his friend Sean Watkins, the guitarist in Nickel Creek. The two ended up writing a song about it called "For the Sender" and were soon collaborating on more letter-themed songs with musicians like Sara Watkins (Sean's sister and bandmate), Jon Foreman of Switchfoot, Jordan Pundik of New Found Glory and veteran singer-songwriter Jack Tempchin.

Thus, the For the Sender Holiday Show was born. Well, not just the show, but the For the Sender series of albums and accompanying books as well (there have been three since 2012). Woodard characterizes them as a way to "give something back to the people who sent me these letters."

The recently released third collection is called For the Sender: Love Letters from Vietnam and centers on the real life story of Air Force mechanic Sgt. John K. Fuller and the letters he sent to his wife from the Vietnam War. Fuller's daughter discovered these letters after her father's death and began penning her own letters.

"They are stories that show that there can be something other than disorder after a trauma," Woodard says. "It took me a while to realize it, but that's what this project is all about: The beautiful things people create in order to deal with loss."

Woodard and the aforementioned musicians will all be performing at the For the Sender holiday concert at the Belly Up Tavern (143 S. Cedros Ave.) on Sunday, Dec. 20, at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $18 and benefit Team Red, White & Blue's surf camps for military veterans.

Soweto Gospel Choir
Photo courtesy of Soweto Gospel Choir


At the risk of sounding like a scrooge, the holiday song bombardment is starting to get to us. We need some real spirit; not the same generic jams over and over ad nauseam. Luckily, the Soweto Gospel Choir will be in town for two performances at the Jacobs Center's Celebration Hall (404 Euclid Ave.) on Sunday, Dec. 20, at 4 and 7:30 p.m. The acclaimed chorus features dozens of distinct voices and is known for its angelic mix of African gospel, spirituals, pop and reggae. Yes, they'll even perform some Christmas songs. And just as the choir might inspire concertgoers to spread a little joy on the way home, a portion of the ticket prices will go toward supporting the arts in Southeastern San Diego's Diamond neighborhoods. Tickets start at $25.


Sacha Boutros

The days of Prohibition may be long gone, but the value of booze around the holidays sure isn't. That's why the third annual Sacha's Supper Club Christmas Speakeasy is such a welcome relief from the holiday grind. Held in the Mississippi Ballroom of the Lafayette Hotel (2223 El Cajon Blvd.) on Thursday, Dec. 17, the night features Grammy-nominated jazz singer Sacha Boutros performing alongside the Moonshine Men Orchestra. Other live acts include Rebecca Jade and Whitney Shay, while the Hang 10 Hoppers cut a rug on the original 1946 dance floor. Standing room and table prices vary from $20 to $45 and a three-course meal by Lafayette Chef Ryan Gilbert can be pre-ordered for $50. Excluding ticket price, a $20 food and beverage minimum is required per person. Doors open at 6 p.m.


See all events on Friday, Oct 21