"We all need a little punk rock & roll," sings Michael McColgan on the Street Dogs' latest album, pretty much summing up his band's decade-long manifesto. The Boston quintet makes populist, pub-packing music that reaches out to and connects with its working-class fans. You can credit McColgan's past gigs as a firefighter and the original frontman of Dropkick Murphys for the Street Dogs' blue-collar roots and straightforward sound. But underneath the group's fierce and confrontational tone are elements of 1950s-era rock and generations-spanning blues. Their songs sound like they were handcrafted for dive-bar jukeboxes, the kind of tunes best served with a cold beer and a shot of nostalgia. The band is currently on the road with its seventh-annual Wreck the Halls holiday tour, bringing along a few other punk rock & roll bands that bridge the divide between raucous good times and solid songwriting. — Matt Whelihan
With Off With Their Heads, Murder the Stout, and Labor Force. 8 p.m. Saturday, December 3. Grog Shop. Tickets: $13; call 216-321-5588 or visit grogshop.gs.
Yacht-rock legends Chicago have released more than 30 albums in their 40-plus-year career. Whether or not they should have called it quits a half-dozen or so times is certainly debatable, especially since they haven't had a Top 40 hit since the year the first web browser was introduced. Still, it's hard to knock their hustle, considering how they've soldiered on despite major setbacks over the years, including the 1978 death of founding guitarist Terry Kath and the departure of main singer and songwriter Peter Cetera, who split for a super-sappy solo career in 1985. But if the loss of their most visible member couldn't stop Chicago, it seems like nothing ever will. The band, which still features four founding members, is now on tour supporting its latest album, Chicago XXXIII: O Christmas Three. They'll also play many of their classic songs when they come to Playhouse Square this weekend, just in case you're not in the mood for holiday jams. — Eddie Fleisher
7 p.m. Sunday, December 4. State Theatre. Tickets: $11-$76; call 216-241-6000 or visit playhousesquare.org.
The non-DJ DJ set, where musicians lay down their usual tools of the trade and take to the wheels of steel, is a relatively new wrinkle in the world of live performance. Born less out of laziness, arrogance, and avarice than a desire to put influences on display, this phenomenon allows fans to get up close and personal with artists. Avey Tare is best known as a founding member of Animal Collective, the indie-rock gods whose sound has shifted from noise-collage glop to synth-pop to psychedelic-twee to a sort of fractured alien-beats-centered music influenced by hip-hop. Tare's 2010 solo debut, Down There, would make a perfect soundtrack to a nightmare about slowly drowning in a swamp. Given the sound palette he's been working with over the years, anything is possible for his set in Oberlin this weekend: Jay-Z bangers, Aphex Twin's epileptic fits, Grateful Dead jams, jangly Pavement rockers ... or maybe something else entirely. — Raymond Cummings
With Eric Copeland. 10:30 p.m. Sunday, December 4. The Sco at Oberlin College. Tickets: $5; call 440-775-8471 or go to oberlin.edu.
Did you know that Staind released their seventh album in September? Do you care? With singer Aaron Lewis launching a country-music career earlier this year, his Massachusetts post-grunge band — which is celebrating its 15th anniversary — almost seems like an afterthought these days. Their new, self-titled album is a reaction of sorts to 2008's The Illusion of Progress, a wheels-spinning exercise in keeping one of the most commercially successful rock bands of the early '00s accessible in the face of growing irrelevance. Staind breaks zero new ground for the group — there's still a mid-'90s alt-rock crunch to the music, and Lewis still spills his guts to the microphone like it's his therapist — but it's the leanest record they've made since 2003's 14 Shades of Grey. That probably doesn't mean much to the band's haters (and there are plenty of them), but at least it's keeping Lewis away from his shitty country tunes. — Gallucci
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, December 6. House of Blues. Tickets: $32-$45; call 216-523-2583 or visit houseofblues.com.
The three new albums Hank Williams III released in September are exactly what happens when a guy has too much creative liberty, too many drugs at his disposal, and an enormous ego working overtime. But you really can't blame Williams — who records as Hank 3 — for celebrating his freedom after finally getting out of a decade-long contract with a record company that wanted his legendary name, not an ornery singer-songwriter whose idea of traditional country music sounds nothing like Blake Shelton's (and who's more of a hell-raiser than his daddy and grandpa combined). The best record of the new bunch, Ghost to a Ghost/Guttertown, is a two-CD epic featuring ambient noise, sped-up vocals, a song about killing the bitch who stole his drugs, and Tom Waits, who lends his gravel voice to a couple of the songs. It's a mesmerizing and sprawling mess, the kind of music Hank would never be able to replicate onstage, no matter how coked up he gets. — Michael Gallucci
9 p.m. Friday, December 2. House of Blues. Tickets: $18-$25;
call 216-523-2583 or visit houseofblues.com.
Under the Radar
Sonia Leigh has a pretty big fan in Zac Brown, who not only took the singer-songwriter on the road with him this year and featured her on his live album, but also signed her to his label. The buzz is starting to pay off. Leigh was recently named CMT's Artist of the Month, and her reflective new single "1978 December" is starting to pick up steam on country radio. She plays House of Blues' intimate Cambridge Room on Tuesday. — Michael Gallucci