The Best Concerts in St. Louis From December 22 to 28

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Local music fans can now enjoy the happy side effects of St. Louis ex-pats coming home to visit family. That means reunion concerts aplenty with with occasional homecoming show for good measure (lookin' at you, Kristeen Young). So what if recent shopping has rendered your wallet into a thin, flimsy shadow of its former self? Most of the events on this list run from $5-$10. The holiday season is here to bring people together, you know.

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Red Letter Days w/ Tidal Volume, Static Life, Guava Monday, December 22 The Ready Room 7 p.m. | $10 By Christian Schaeffer From this 2013 Homespun review: Make no mistake about Red Letter Days' intentions: The young three-piece wants to be all over your radio. This five-song EP has the sheen and sparkle of modern radio rock so imprinted on its DNA that the band's stated influences (Paramore, All-American Rejects) appear as an inspiration and a target. According to its press materials, the band has a manager, a booking agent, and even decamped to California to record Sounds Like a Plan. So just know up-front that this isn't a band content to simply dip its toe in the mainstream - this is a plunge. The trio is centered around Katie McKenna's vocals, which can dip down low enough to grab some Pat Benatar-esque huskiness. Katie's brother Willie McKenna helms the drum kit and Alex Bolano plays guitar with enough bravado to pull off a passable finger-tapped solo on opening cut "Beautiful Eyes." But brief discursions aside, these songs are built around hooks and big, bouncy choruses.

Bhob Rainey Tuesday, December 23 Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center 8 p.m. | $5 Joseph Hess Holiday traditions die hard, and this one won't go until the Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center does. Bhob Rainey digs at the secret corners of your brain, wielding a soprano saxophone to invoke aural anomalies. Rainey is sure to peel the paint off the walls with the unconventional means he uses to create otherworldly sound. For fans of experimental composition, his name recalls short days and cold weather, as Rainey usually descends upon the Lemp Arts Center during the brisk days leading up to Christmas. His honest style of free playing provides a unique performance, making every concert a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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Mark Dew Wednesday, December 24 Hideaway Restaurant & Lounge 8 p.m. | free To walk into the Hideaway is to enter a place that seems frozen in time, where the dozen or so seats around the piano are packed with your grandparents' friends, decked out in chunky jewelry and tilted fedora hats. Ostensibly, they're here to listen to Mark Dew play -- he's here Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights -- but you're just as likely to hear one of those old-timers sitting around the piano trill Charlie Rich's "The Most Beautiful Girl." And when Dew finally has his turn at the mic, he'll say something humble, like, "I apologize; it should have been in the key of F." No matter. Dew is the conductor of this time-traveling train, and everyone's on board. Dew, who is blind, has been the piano man here for nearly a quarter-century and jokes that the best part about working here is, well, getting paid. He marvels at the younger set trickling in and its knowledge of the Cash and Sinatra songbooks: "The more the crowd gets into it, the more I play," Dew says. And that's enough to keep him around. "I'm not quite ready to be out to pasture," he says. "Yet."

PHOTO BY JON GITCHOFF
  • Photo by Jon Gitchoff

Jake's Leg Chrstmas Thursday, December 25 BB's Jazz, Blues & Soups 9 p.m. | $10 From the RFT Music archives: For more than 30 years, Jake's Leg has performed the music of the Grateful Dead across St. Louis. That's longer than the Dead themselves were together, which says something about the longevity of their music and the dedication of the fellows in Jake's Leg. The five-piece purposefully avoids being a straight tribute act -- there are no Jerry Garcia stick-on beards here (though give keyboardist Bill Noltkamper a leather vest and he could make a passable Pigpen). Instead, the band reconfigures the Dead's songbook through its own lens, continually reshaping the well-known jams and deep album cuts. Jake's Leg plays out at least three times a week, performing both electric and acoustic sets wherever young and old Deadheads gather to bask in the warm rays of improvisational rock & roll.

Follow through for more shows happening Friday through Sunday.

ART BY DANA SMITH
  • Art by Dana Smith

Old Capital Square Dance Club w/ Cree Rider Family Band, Bottoms Up Blues Gang, Old Souls Revival, Cara Louise Band Friday, December 26 Off Broadway 7 p.m. | $10 By Ryan Wasoba There's more than a little bit of cheekiness to the moniker Old Capital Square Dance Club, a name that conjures the sonic version of a browned Wild West photo souvenir from Six Flags rather than a good ol' American rock band with traces of Tom Petty and the Stones. The group, spearheaded by singers/songwriters Jesse McClary and Zach Anderson, has recently justified the "Club" portion of Old Capital Square Dance Club by morphing into a collective of sorts -- notably adding multi-instrumental virtuoso-in-the-making Zagk Gibbons, whose first name is not a typo. OCSDC shows range from acoustic songwriting showcases to seven-piece band jams. The fact that the band's songs work in such a variety of formats reinforces the strength and depth of McClary and Anderson's melodies and wordplay.

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Trans-Siberian Orchestra Friday, December 26 Scottrade Center 3:30 p.m., 8 p.m. | $49.65-$83.70 By Ryan Wasoba From the RFT Music archives: You'd better not pout, better not cry. You'd better not shout "Freebird!" and I'm telling you why: The Trans-Siberian Orchestra is coming to town. Each winter, TSO stirs up a yule-tidal wave of progressive metal and laser lights, stimulating the senses like a snowball to the face. Although the band has become a December fixture along with Claymation television specials and uncomfortable conversations with children about Santa Claus, TSO's newest double album, Night Castle, abandons holiday themes. Decorated with vocals (the instrumental band's equivalent of Dylan going electric), Castle is a rock opera that plays more like a fruitcake version of Meatloaf than a mighty Chrismastodon. Despite this lump of coal in its discography, Trans-Siberian Orchestra will surely shred the halls of the Scottrade Center with riff-riffic seasonal favorites. 'Tis the season to be proggy.

PHOTO BY JON GITCHOFF
  • Photo by Jon Gitchoff

Bruiser Queen w/ Kristeen Young, Brother Lee and the Leather Jackals Saturday, December 27 The Demo 8 p.m. | $10 From Best Local Single of the Past 12 Months St. Louis 2014 - "In Your Room:" Most summer songs tend to sound different or dusty a year after their release, reminding the listener of national, regional and personal events of days gone by. Not so with Bruiser Queen's snarling single "In Your Room." Though it dropped in 2013, "In Your Room" maintains perfect freshness -- which is kind of funny, considering the song is fantastically grimy. In this gritty, catchy ode to love and lust, Morgan Nusbaum goes primal over her own backing vocals and meowing guitar, while percussionist Jason Potter drives things forward with killer fills and checks. It's all part of a package that's perfectly tied up with a "Woo-ooo-ooo" bow that hasn't lost its color.

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Team Tomato Saturday, December 27 STyLehouse 9 p.m. | $7 By Christian Schaeffer There was a minute somewhere in the mid-2000s when Team Tomato was poised to be a breakout St. Louis band. Some good notices from national outlets, coupled with a few solid LPs that married indie-pop idiosyncrasy with a modern-rock edge, helped fuel the buzz. But the band broke up, as most bands do, though the members kept playing: Brian Wiegert kept busy with solo work and more recently with Picture Day (alongside Team Tomato's Luis Actis), and guitarist Eric Clay planted musical roots in New York. But the holidays are a good enough excuse for a reunion, so the band is saddling up again for a one-off on the western edge of Cherokee Street.

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Rockhouse Ramblers Sunday, December 28 Off Broadway 8 p.m. | $7 By Roy Kasten These days, gigs by the all-but-retired Rockhouse Ramblers are as rare in St. Louis as the kind of honky-tonks the band used to play. The core of the group -- Gary Hunt, Dade Farrar, John Horton and Danny Kathriner -- now play semi-regularly as Colonel Ford, a classic country dance band that focuses on classic country covers. There's exactly zero shame in that. But what set the Ramblers apart was its songwriting excellence and harmonies, aided by co-founder and non-Colonel Kip Loui; songs like "Bar Time" and "Bloody Williamson" are as good as country songwriting gets, and the band's rhythmic drive lived up to its name. When the Ramblers take the stage, the house always rocks.

Note: Though we wish we could, we can't feature every great show happening in town in just one post. Look for plenty more recommendations this Friday in our weekend shows post, peruse the St. Louis concert calendar for more ideas and let everyone know what else you're looking forward to seeing this week in the comments below. To be considered for coverage in RFT Music, submit show info online or drop us a line anytime.

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