Meat Puppets

Arizona's Meat Puppets spent the '80s evolving from offering frantic spurts of hardcore to a sleepy cosmic-country jangle. Founding brothers Curt and Chris Kirkwood stumbled upon mainstream success in the next decade when they backed Kurt Cobain on several acoustic Meat Puppets covers shortly before his death, soon after scoring a fluke hit with the smoky "Backwater." A subsequent pair of breakups and reunions yielded 2000's affably middle-of-the-road

Golden Lies

and last year's even sleepier

Rise To Your Knees.

Once Curt Kirkwood has lulled you with his stoned-sounding voice and big-sky strum, he'll kick up some piercing noise that will immediately remind you of the band's motley punk roots and a caginess undiluted by the decades.

- Doug Wallen

Aimee Mann/Bela Fleck

This is the season for still-touring musicians to spread a cup of good cheer, or maybe just a glass of melancholy eggnog. Los Angeles singer-songwriter Aimee Mann brings her Christmas tour to the Philadelphia area Saturday for the first time.

One More Drifter in the Snow,

Mann's 2007 holiday album, is an exquisite downer of a holiday record, so it's a good thing that she'll be bringing along merry elves - Grant Lee Phillips, Paul F. Tomkins, and scene-stealer Nellie McKay.

Banjoist Bela Fleck and his marvelously inventive band, the Flecktones, have also gotten into Santa's musical bag with their new

Jingle All The Way.

Starting with a rendition of "Jingle Bells" enlivened by Tuvan throat singers, the freewheeling disc playfully moves from jazz to klezmer to country, as it devilishly essays J.S. Bach and Mel Torme. It ought to be a delight to hear Fleck and his cohorts, Victor Wooten, Jeff Coffin and Future Man, bring it off live.

- Dan DeLuca

Neil Young/Wilco

Neil Young looms as such a monolithic presence in rock that it is easy to trace the roots of nearly any guitar-based band back to him. Take Everest and Wilco, who open for the 63-year-old tonight. L.A.'s Everest shares Young's proclivity for trudging rhythms and plaintive singing (amid its twangy indie-pop songs). Wilco shares his restless experimentalism and fondness for guitar jams that plunge into noisy splashes before locking back into a rousing riff. Wilco is one of rock's best bands, especially live, but tonight the group rightfully takes second-billing to Young. Touring on the heels of several archival releases (such as the new

Sugar Mountain

), Young has been mixing a healthy dose of favorites with old obscurities and recent tracks from last year's

Chrome Dreams II

. He's unpredictable, but hey hey, my my, the signs are promising.

- Steve Klinge