As touring schedules slow to a trickle with the approach of Dec. 25, music clubs make do with indie-rock holiday celebrations. There are two good ones at Johnny Brenda's this week. Smooth-grooving Philadelphia band Work Drugs headlines on Saturday, armed with a satisfyingly sweet new song, "Never Gonna Be Alone on Christmas," which they describe as "sedative pop." Teen Men, featuring members of Delaware's Spinto Band, are also on the bill. Work Drugs' new album, Insurgents, is due in February.
On Tuesday, Brooklyn honky-tonk band the Sweetback Sisters bring their own Country Christmas Singalong Spectacular, in support of their holiday album, appropriately titled Country Christmas Singalong Spectacular. It's an enticing rockabilly and country-swing affair, with perky standards spiced with originals like "Christmas Island," which imagines opening presents under a coconut tree in the Indian Ocean.
- Dan DeLuca
The Sweetback Sisters Country Christmas Singalong Spectacular, with the Highwater Preachers and Brad Hinton, starts at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Johnny Brenda's. Tickets: $10.
Back in October, Drake's Would You Like a Tour? was supposed to play its second date at the Wells Fargo Center, but the show was canceled an hour after it was supposed to start due to a technical difficulty with the circular catwalk that allows the Canadian rapper to move above the crowd on the hockey arena floor. A bummer, but we don't want Drake falling on our heads from above, do we? Miguel, the exemplary R&B synthesist in the opening slot, made do with an impromptu show at Ortlieb's that night. On Wednesday, he'll be back in town at the Wells Fargo with Drake, whose Nothing Was the Same is one of the strongest hip-hop releases of the year, and who spread some positive karma last week when he announced he'll be paying for a recording studio for students at Strawberry Mansion High School after seeing a Diane Sawyer special on ABC News about the school. Tickets are still available.
- Dan DeLuca
Cass McCombs' Big Wheel and Others fits the classic mold of a double album. It strives for breadth rather than coherence. It makes room for both brief diversions and extended immersions. And it pushes in several directions. Most of all, it is an impressive display of McCombs' talent for writing perceptive, intense, and slightly off-center songs. Over Big Wheel's 85 minutes, McCombs, who appears Friday at Boot & Saddle, quotes Hamlet and covers Thin Lizzy; he channels Lou Reed ("There Can Be Only One") and Bob Dylan ("Angel Blood"). He drafts the actress Karen Black to sing (in one of her final performances). He writes murder ballads and love songs, country-flavored road songs, and an intense rocker with a free-jazz sax solo ("Satan Is My Toy"). Big Wheel is the itinerant songwriter's fifth album, and one of his best.
- Steve Klinge