The Birthday Massacre
The Birthday Massacre formed a dozen years ago at an Ontario college, where singer Chibi and guitarist Rainbow met as fine-art students. Originally called Imagica (a nod to a Clive Barker novel), the band rechristened itself after a song on its demo to avoid conflict with a similarly named metal band. Although the Birthday Massacre have rotated personnel over the years, the core trio (which also includes founding guitarist Falcore) still puts as much value in its visual presence — videos, web content, and staging are essential components of the experience — as it does its music. The band's combination of soaring synthesizers, heavy guitars, and Chibi's beautifully powerful voice bridges the gap between '80s synth-pop and contemporary hard rock to create a soundtrack that exudes melodic appeal, lyrical heft, and metallic intensity too. Expect to hear songs from their recently released Imaginary Monsters EP when they come to town this weekend. — Brian Baker
With Lestat and Filament 38. 7:30 p.m. Saturday, December 17. Peabody's. Tickets: $17, $15 in advance; call 216-776-9999 or go to peabodys.com.
Mr. Gnome should be thoroughly primed this weekend when they play the official CD-release show for Madness in Miniature, their latest cabaret of epic and eerie indie rock. After all, they've been on the road for more than a month now. Nicole Barille and Sam Meister continue to explore the gloomy and aggressive goth guitar rock found on their two previous albums, 2008's pummeling Deliver This Creature and 2009's amazing Heave Yer Skeleton. Madness in Miniature beckons fans into an even more twisted rabbit hole, introducing a new masquerade of musical creatures, like the thrashing punk barbarians of "We Sing Electric," the slow-moving psych-rock sirens in "Watch the City Sail Away," and a children's-lullaby creeper in "Bit of Tongue." The Chardon duo creates characters as skillful and surreal as its influences, using mostly guitar, drums, and Barille's darkly angelic voice. Don't miss this one. — Keith Gribbins
With If These Trees Could Talk and All Dinosaurs. 9 p.m. Saturday, December 17. Beachland Ballroom. Tickets: $8; call 216-383-1124 or visit beachlandballroom.com.
Good Old War
Life's been good to the Philadelphia indie-folk trio Good Old War, who haven't had much time to breathe since their debut album, Only Way to Be Alone, came out three years ago. Tim Arnold, Keith Goodwin, and Dan Schwartz have played a number of mesmerizing shows since then, including barn-burning sets supporting Brandi Carlile and Xavier Rudd. But their own headlining tours have been even greater showcases, giving them time to stretch out and explore the campfire soul of their songs. Good Old War take some knocks for being a Fleet Foxes ripoff — and you can definitely hear the similarities — but the Appalachian spirit and human approach to their songs in some ways give them an advantage over the more famous group. They're ethereal but grounded, and that's their main appeal. They're still on the road supporting last year's self-titled record and gearing up for their third album in the spring. — Peter Chakerian
With Levi Lowrey. 8:30 p.m. Sunday, December 18. House of Blues. Tickets: $14, $12 in advance; call 216-523-2583 or visit houseofblues.com.
Arizona indie rockers the Maine have a perfect gift for you this holiday season: their third album, Pioneer, which came out just last week. The aptly titled record builds on the band's emo-pop roots, loading up on hooky melodies and short, fast bursts of chunky guitar. But unlike so many other bands playing around in the same genre, the Maine don't complain about the usual things that seem to bother their peers. There's some substance to their tunes, going all the way back to their debut EP, 2007's Stay Up, Get Down. They've since released a handful of other EPs and three full-length albums, touring with Good Charlotte and Never Shout Never, and building a sturdy fan base over the past few years. Need more incentive to get in a festive mood in advance of their concert at the Grog Shop this week? Check out their 2008 EP ... And a Happy New Year, which includes the oh-so-emo-poppy "Santa Stole My Girlfriend." — Logan Boggs
6 p.m. Tuesday, December 20. Grog Shop. Tickets: $20; call 216-321-5588 or visit grogshop.gs.
If the only thing cooler than a cult favorite is a not-quite-cult-favorite, then Wussy may very well be Ohio's coolest band of the past decade. The Cincinnati quartet's latest album, Strawberry, sounds like it could be their breakout record, with its tight hooks, fervent energy, and a magnetic girl-boy dynamic right out of the Pixies/Yo La Tengo/Sonic Youth playbook. These are dark ages for jangly guitar pop. R.E.M. are gone, club beats rule radio, and Wussy's audience at the Beachland this weekend isn't likely to be much larger than it was the last dozen or so times they've played there. But there's something to be said for persistence. Rather than shifting gears into more trendy indie territory, Wussy's Chuck Cleaver and Lisa Walker have stuck to their guns with Strawberry, and it's probably their finest achievement, recalling just about everything that was good about indie rock in the 120 Minutes era, but free of the dust and grime of time. R.E.M. is dead. Long live Wussy! — Andrew Clayman
With Exploding Lies. 8:30 p.m. Friday, December 16. Beachland Tavern. Tickets: $10, $8 in advance; call 216-383-1124 or visit beachlandballroom.com.
Under the Radar
Guitarist David Bromberg got his start in Greenwich Village coffeehouses around the same time Bob Dylan was graduating from them. By the end of the '60s, he was playing with Dylan. He's gone on to gigs with Willie Nelson, the Eagles, and Ringo Starr. His latest solo album, Use Me, taps a bunch of old friends — like Levon Helm, John Hiatt, and Los Lobos — for a laid-back and reflective work that rings with a freewheelin' spirit. Bromberg brings his quartet to the Kent Stage on Friday. — Michael Gallucci