1. Unsilent Night @ the Gaslamp Quarter on Dec. 17. Originally started in New York by composer Phil Kline 13 years ago, this is San Diego's fourth annual edition. It's an “outdoor ambient music piece” based on audience participation-volunteers bring a boombox with a tape player and are given a cassette containing a piece of the ambient orchestra. During a 40-minute stroll through the Gaslamp, the boomboxes become a moving concert through the streets. Those wanting to participate should e-mail email@example.com. The group meets at the Gaslamp Trolley Station at Fifth Avenue and Harbor Drive at 6:40 p.m. and starts their stroll at 7 p.m.
2. A John Waters Christmas @ the Casbah, Dec. 18. The freaky filmmaker brings his Spalding Gray-esque monologue and night of Christmas music (based on his new compilation, A John Waters Christmas) to the rock dive. Superfans can pony up $75 for a meet-and-greet.
3. William Elliot Whitmore w/ Clutch @ Brick by Brick, Dec. 17. While their records sound like generic metal-rock, Clutch still draws in fans because their live show (anchored by fury-filled drummer Jean Paul Gaster) just kills it. The real treat of this show, though, is William Elliot Whitmore, who just might be the best musician in San Diego this week. The sinful country-tinged gospel blues is absolutely fan-fucking-tastic on his second release, Ashes to Dust, a cross between Tom Waits and blues mystic Otis Taylor. He sounds like a whole chain gang of whisky-damaged blues elders fused into the body of a relatively young Indiana farm boy. See this guy at all costs.
4. “Christmas Pageant” featuring Los Straightjackets w/ The World Famous Pontani Sisters @ the Belly Up, Dec. 17. Rock 'n' roll's Mexican-wrestling-masked madmen rock out their tunes from the album Tis the Season for Los Straightjackets, while the Pontani Sisters burlesque troupe rips through choreographed dance routines, kicks and sultry costumes. Kaiser George, leader of Scotland's beat-band, The Kaisers, serves as emcee and vocalist.
5. Rogue Wave w/Mazarin @ the Casbah, Dec. 16. Their debut EP on Sub Pop Records was stunning, and our writer thinks Rogue Wave's full-length is just as good, if not better (see Page 42). And Philadelphia's Mazarin may just be the best psychedelic pop band out there right now-their newest album is a gem, combining warm pop vocals with My Bloody Valentine-like haze.
6. The Aquabats @ Soma, Dec. 18. Pop-punk is staler than the graham crackers you nostalgically purchased in 2001 and still have in the cupboard. The Aquabats, however, are not. The zaniest and most entertaining elders of a genre that even teens should abhor by now.
7. The Like/Giant Drag @ the Casbah, Dec. 15. Being the privileged kin of rock royalty, the young gals in The Like have some proving to do. And they start nicely with their debut album (see our review on Page XX), making fuzzed-out she-rock that'll warm the hearts of old Belly fans. Giant Drag is a Veruca Salt-meets-Slowdive duo from L.A. with occasional glimpses of promise heard in Annie Hardy's flippant innuendo.
8. Ilya w/Manuok @ the Casbah, Dec. 17. After a conspicuously long absence, Ilya, San Diego's dreamy ambient rockers are back for their CD-release party, and glaze-eyed vocalist Blanca Rojas sounds just as beautifully possessed as ever. Local talent Scott Mercado sounds like Grandaddy with his project, Manuok, only less cluttered and more haunting.
9. I See Hawks in L.A. @ Acoustic Music San Diego, Dec. 17. Led by Rick Shea, who played in Dave Alvin's backing band, the Guilty Men, I See Hawks in L.A. is the best country band in town this week, with close harmonies and a Lefty Frizell-inspired, old-timey style that conjures up the Byrds' Sweetheart of the Rodeo. Dude grew up in San Bernardino playing truck stops and country bars, so it's both authentic and close to home.
10. Red Lightning @ 'Canes, Dec. 18. This is the new project from Alan Whyte, the guitarist in Morrissey's band who co-wrote many of the tunes on Moz's You Are the Quarry and forthcoming LP, Ringleader of the Tormentors. It's real solid stuff that's reminiscent of '80s alternative-rock (the record was produced by David Newton, who helmed the Mighty Lemon Drops) without sounding tragically dated.