The end of the year is the time when the big tours start hibernating through the holidays. But there are plenty of other live-music options around town at the smaller venues from Kansas City-area bands. This weekend’s agenda features some holiday events and several shows from tribute bands.
“Christmas Ain’t a Drag” at the Madrid, 3810 Main St.: Kansas City singer/songwriter David George, leader of David George and A Crooked Mile, has written a holiday musical to be presented for the first time this weekend in his hometown.
The cast features an array of all-star musicians and performers: George, Ben Byard, Giuliano Mingucci, Ryan McCall, Ian Corbett, Ryan Heinlein, Kyle Hall and Nate Nall and vocalists Shay Estes, Pancho Villegas, Doug Brewer, Rhiannon Birdsall and Camry Ivory. Show times are 5 and 8 p.m. Saturday. Tickets start at $25 and are available through Ticketmaster. George this week answered some questions about the event.
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Q: What’s the premise of this project?
A: It’s a rocking musical about four lives that intersect at Christmas. The story centers on a young man that has been dumped right before Christmas and winds up in a nightclub to drown his sorrows in booze. He becomes enamored with the lead singer of a band that is rehearsing for their big Christmas show. It has a bit of a “Some Like It Hot” quality to it. (It) centers on original Christmas music co-written with my partner George Johnsen who lives in Burbank, Calif.
Q: When did you start writing it?
A: I originally wrote a few songs for the Royal Crown Revue when they were looking for songs for a Christmas album but decided to go more traditional instead of original. I had a little Eartha Kitt in mind when I started writing them and was hugely inspired by 1950s/60s versions of Christmas songs — a Brian Setzer Orchestra kind of vibe.
Q: Will it become an annual event?
A: Yes. We are hoping to present this each year and eventually tour the country during the holidays.
David Benoit Christmas Tribute to Charlie Brown at the Folly Theater, 300 W. 12th St.: Benoit, a contemporary jazz pianist, composer and arranger, and jazz vocalist Jane Monheit pay tribute to the music of Charlie Brown and “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” featuring Christmas classics and the compositions of Vince Guaraldi. Show time is 9 p.m. Friday. Tickets are $20 to $50.
The Starhaven Rounders at the RecordBar, 1020 Westport Road: The Rounders aren’t technically a tribute band, but they do pay homage to classic country music — the sounds of George Jones, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Ernest Tubb, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, Lefty Frizzell, Conway Twitty, Hank Snow and others. Show time is 7:45 p.m. Friday. Admission to the all-ages show is $5. This will end the Rounders’ long-running monthly performance at the RecordBar, which will close in early January.
Rude and Reckless: A Tribute to Joe Strummer at the RecordBar, 1020 Westport Road: A small slew of Kansas City musicians have formed several bands for the annual tribute to the late leader of the Clash. Set lists will include music of the Clash and Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros. The performers will feature members of the Big Iron, the Grisly Hand, the Elders, New Riddim, Drop A Grand, Squids KC and others. Show time is 9:45 p.m. Saturday. Admission to the 18-and-older show is $10.
California Voodoo at Davey’s Uptown, 3402 Main St.: The Widespread Panic tribute band celebrates its 10th anniversary. The evening will include an ugly holiday sweater contest. Show time is 9 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $10.
Seattle Royale at the Bottleneck, 737 New Hampshire in Lawrence: Three bands will pay tribute to grunge legends Pearl Jam (Decadent Nation), Alice in Chains (the Hipnecks) and Soundgarden (The Many Colored Death). Show time is 9 p.m. Saturday. It’s an all-ages show.
Double Vision at VooDoo at Harrah’s Casino, 1 Riverboat Drive: Double Vision is a six-piece Foreigner tribute band from Kansas City. The opener will be Sons A B****es, a cover band featuring former members of Head East. Show time is 9 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $10.
A holiday homecoming
Danny McGaw is a native of Manchester, England, who turned to songwriting after his dreams of becoming a processional soccer player were dashed by injuries. McGaw lived in Kansas City for several years, performing and releasing albums as a solo artist and as the founding member of Wells the Traveler.
Last year, McGaw and his family moved to Los Angeles. This weekend they are returning to Kansas City for a holiday visit. And McGaw has scheduled several performances, including a Wells the Traveler reunion.
At 9 a.m. Sunday, McGaw will perform on River Trade Radio, a weekly show on KKFI (90.1 FM). At 7 p.m. Tuesday at O’Dowd’s Little Dublin on the Plaza, he will celebrate the release of his new album, “Lion Street,” a record with some area ties, featuring performances from Eric McCann, formerly of the Lawrence band the New Amsterdams, played bass, and singer/songwriter Lisa Donnelly, a Lawrence native now living in Los Angeles.
Kansas City residents Mikal Shapiro and Chad Brothers, who perform together as Shapiro Brothers, also performed on the album during a visit to Los Angeles. Shapiro Brothers will perform at the “Lion Street” release party.
At 5 p.m. Dec. 27, McGaw will perform at the weekly Here’s to the Roots showcase at the Dubliner in the Power & Light District. And at 7 p.m. Dec. 29, Wells the Traveler will get together for another show. Kristopher and Havilah Bruders of Cadillac Flambe will also perform. McGaw is calling this how a “holiday celebration and farewell show.” Farewell for now, that is.
“Both my boys were born there, my wife is from there and I spent seven years there,” he said. “Kansas City will always be one of my homes.”