Old Home Night
You'll be spending way too much time with your relatives this week. So why not spend a night on the town with your other family on Thursday? It's that time of year for local musicians to share a stage with former bandmates, old pals visiting town, and guys who left music behind altogether. The Beachland's ninth-annual Old Home Night brings them all together for a show that's more than just a sentimental revisit of a time when your hairline wasn't so thin and your waistline was. Home and Garden return as headliners and to host other adventuresome artists in town for the holidays. With the sonic pioneers' ability to seamlessly segue from angular rock to avant-jazz, Home & Garden's inventive minds will confidently improvise their way through the winter darkness. And thanks to a lineup that includes Scott Krauss, Tony Maimone, and Tom Herman, it will also approximate a Pere Ubu reunion. — John Patrick Gatta
With Home & Garden, Cats on Holiday, Kidney Brothers, and Nicholas Deveney.
8 p.m. Thursday, December 22. Beachland Ballroom. Tickets: $10; call 216-383-1124 or visit beachlandballroom.com.
The Afro-Cleveland Orchestra could be the Cleveland jazz scene's best-kept secret. The ever-elusive ensemble doesn't even have a website. But perhaps that's what makes them so genuine. In keeping with the traditions of early jazz artists, the ACO are local celebrities in their own right — famous around town for their gigs in smaller venues. But there's a twist: The Orchestra incorporates sounds and concepts distinctive to '70s funk, resulting in an innovative hybrid that's become their signature style. Their sound is also perfect for the holiday season, because really, nothing says "Christmas" like a lively jazz show. And after a few days stuck with the family, you'll want to get out to the Grog Shop to shake off the yuletide rust. We can't say for sure what they have planned for this week's show, but don't let all that mystery keep you from checking them out.
— Logan Boggs
7 p.m. Tuesday, December 27. Grog Shop. Tickets: $5; call 216-321-5588 or visit grogshop.gs.
Every conversation about Smoking Popes seems to return to one key point: The group called it quits in 1998 because frontman Josh Caterer was unable to mesh his newly formed Christianity with his band duties. But they've been an anomaly since the early '90s, their peppy teen tenacity and bright, fuzzy riffs aligning them with bands like Superchunk. But that's where the comparisons end. What Smoking Popes — who reunited in 2005 — have that others don't is Caterer. An unabashed fan of classic Hollywood and old-school crooners like Sinatra, the singer and songwriter brings a lilting dramatic delivery and lyrical content that sounds a little like a heartbroken barbershop quartet. Imagine Morrissey singing over early Green Day, and you start to get the idea. It may initially sound more like a mash-up than the work of a singular group, but this juxtaposition continues to make Smoking Popes an interesting and nuanced band. — Matt Whelihan
With the Sidekicks, the Honor Role, and Northwestern. 8 p.m. Wednesday, December 28. Grog Shop. Tickets: $12, $10 in advance; call 216-321-5588 or visit grogshop.gs.
Are Steel Panther the greatest heavy metal band ever? Meh. But they certainly can help glam-metalheads get their ya-yas out one last time before 2011 closes. So set your time machine to 1988, put on a sleeveless shirt, and break out the Aqua Net: The band that penned "Death to All but Metal" is comin' to town. Best known for their wild stage shows and awful fashion sense, Steel Panther's shtick is total Spinal Tap. But if you've ever seen them live, you know that everything about the band — from the power chords to the riffs to the pyro — really does go to 11. Frontman Michael Starr, lead guitarist Satchel, bassist Lexxi Foxxx, and drummer Stix Zadinia may be legends in their own minds, but the way they play suspends disbelief, for better or worse, in ways so many other bands can't. They nail the homage, and it's all original, in a Steel Panther kinda way. And that sure beats seeing any group that identifies itself by the words "cover band." — Peter Chakerian
With Hawkeye. 8 p.m. Wednesday, December 28. House of Blues. Tickets: $18-$25; call 216-523-2583 or visit houseofblues.com.
The Modern Electric
The Modern Electric are tired of the cultural black cloud hanging over Cleveland. With their shamelessly sincere, energy-filled pop songs, the quartet would rather help fuel a local renaissance. Their recently released holiday single "North Coast Christmas" is filled with nostalgia and regional familiarity, but "it's not exclusively about Cleveland," says guitarist Matt Childers. "It's about the triumphs, strife, and joys of Christmas in the Rust Belt cities. The Midwest is an honest bond we all share." The Modern Electric's soulful roots are evident in their music. When Childers and singer Garrett Komyati formed the band, they were tapping blues and Motown influences. But their signature song, "David Bowie (Save Us All)," grabs inspiration from the titular glam-rock pioneer and is a driving force behind the Modern Electric's self-described "cinematic pop" these days. "We like his charisma, stagemanship, and the cinematic quality," says Childers. You can hear it all explode onstage when they play the Grog Shop this week. — Jackie Bon
With Tom Evanchuck & the Old Money, the Ruby Spirit, and Plastic Hearts. 7 p.m. Thursday, December 22. Grog Shop. Tickets: $6; call 216-321-5588 or visit grogshop.gs.
Under the Radar
Honeyhoney may call Los Angeles home these days, but, if you didn't figure it out from their show here next week during one of the slowest concert times of the year, they have local ties. Singer Suzanne Santo grew up in Parma and Strongsville; her family owns Santo's Italian restaurant in Middleburg Heights. But their music is pure Americana, complete with banjos, fiddles, and Dust Bowl twang. They play House of Blues on Tuesday. — Michael Gallucci