Photo courtesy of Dan Kelley
The Dan Kelley Christmas band with the late Otis Woodard, for whose organization DK Christmas raises money.
Yep, it’s that time again. The weather is getting colder and Christmas carols are popping up on the radio. You listen to them for a while with a pleasant nostalgia, then, soon into December, move to patient tolerance, and then finally, in the weeks before the holiday, outright annoyance.
St. Louis punk musician Dan Kelley felt the same way back in 2004. “This time of year is when the radio stations start playing Christmas music, and I get really tired of that crap,” he says. “A lot of these songs haven’t been updated since the '50s.”
Of course, you can’t really escape the songs during the holiday season, so Kelley decided to record his own versions.
“I decided I wanted to put more of a punk spin on it,” he says. “So I did, and now I like Christmas music again.”
He made one Christmas record of his own the first year, which energizes hymns like “Silent Night” and brings in heavier guitars for others like “Feliz Navidad.” In the decade-plus since, Kelley has put out three more such albums.
But in 2005, the year after his first album, Kelley’s laptop crashed before he could record a sequel. A friend offered the idea that they could play a Christmas show instead. That’s how the Dan Kelley Christmas Show was started.
This year will be the eleventh installment of the Dan Kelley Christmas show, taking place at the Heavy Anchor on Saturday. Alongside the Dan Kelley Christmas Band, St. Louis groups the Holy Hand Grenades, Shark Dad and Heel Turn will perform. There’s a $10 charge to get into the bar, but all of the proceeds that would usually go to the bands will be donated to the Lutheran Outreach and Peace Park
near the Fairgrounds neighborhood in north St. Louis, the center operated by civil rights activist, preacher, and advocate for the poor Otis Woodard, who recently died. The event usually raises up to $1,000 for the cause, Kelley says.
They also collect clothing and canned goods for the community center. “Usually we end up sending them home with a minivan full of coats, blankets and food,” Kelley says.
Though Kelley plays in different original and cover bands throughout the year, including as drummer of the long-running Bassamp & Dano, these Christmas shows have become a tradition for him and his bandmates, even though he says, “There are songs I’m sick of playing, but people always want to hear them. If I could not play Silent Night or Feliz Navidad again, that’d be nice.”
Yet, Kelley, in the spirit of the season, understands how he can give people what they want. “People get real excited to hear stuff like that,” he says.
Whether the originals or the punk versions, you can’t avoid the Christmas classics. So, like Kelley, you’ll just have to enjoy them.
Listen to some punkified Christmas songs below:
11th Annual Dan Kelley Christmas Show
8 p.m. Saturday, December 10. The Heavy Anchor, 5226 Gravois Avenue. $10. 314-352-5226.