Neil Zaza returns with his ear-piercing holiday show

Shredding for Santa 

Neil Zaza returns with his ear-piercing holiday show

Know what makes Neil Zaza's annual One Silent Night infinitely cooler than similar-themed holiday projects by Mannheim Steamroller and Trans-Siberian Orchestra? It's homegrown, for one thing. For another, it actually rocks. The virtuoso guitarist celebrates the 10th anniversary of his not-so-silent Christmas concert by reworking some old favorites, adding new mash-ups to the mix, and shredding some seasonal joy. "You used to have to be a guitar player to get it," Zaza says of the show's earliest days. "I didn't dumb it down, but we really focused the attention of the music."

One Silent Night's formula may seem familiar (holiday classics get a contemporary spin, thanks to lightning-fast guitar moves and lots of wah-wah), but Zaza's enthusiasm and inspired combinations ("Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" with "Baba O'Riley"? Yes, please!) make things more ear-splittingly awesome than any other Christmas show you'll see. "It's crazy that this has become a holiday tradition for some people," says Zaza, who led the eponymous Cleveland hair-metal band in the late '80s before going solo with an ambitious catalog that shows off everything from classical to Broadway to hard rock influences. "But I'm hesitant to tinker with the set a lot. The highs and lows always trigger stuff, so I try to add around it."

This year's concert takes place Saturday at the Hanna Theatre — the 10th straight year Playhouse Square has served as host. A 30-piece orchestra, a gospel choir, and guest vocalists will join Zaza and his trio onstage. He says he'd like to take the show on the road eventually — the dude has a rabid following of guitar geeks across the globe — especially since it's such a fine-tuned machine at this point and a shame to waste all that energy and talent on one performance. "Every year it's like a juggling act," he says. "You hope you don't drop something or another." Tickets are available at playhousesquare.org.

GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PRESENT:

Homecoming shows are a holiday tradition as old as your single aunt who sends out those unwearable knitted gifts for Christmas. There may be more buzz-worthy concerts happening over the next couple of weeks, but for sheer volume, it's gonna be hard to beat Ghost Laboratories' 4th Annual Christmas Party at Peabody's on Friday. It may be the largest local-band showcase of the season. The Missing, Battlestar, Burning Down Broadway, Jackie, Social 66, Cantankerous Dingos, Curse the Gods, Glow Pop Jiggly Jams, Cicada Sunrise, Snotrockets, Zup, and Trap House Rave (whew!) will all manage to perform. Best of all, you can go to peabodys.com and download a free ticket.

BANDS NEED TO FEED: Rapper Micah La gives some love back to the community this weekend when he hosts Ears 4 Hunger 2011 at Rockstar. Bring canned goods or other nonperishable foods to the club on Saturday, and you can check out Micah and a bunch of pals — including Chief Network, Vonnie So Louded, Sambo Slice, E Grip & Jedd Clampett, Ghost Da Don, Wild Boyz, Carma DeLane, and Big Marv — doing their thing onstage. The show benefits local families, but you can get something out of this too: Your donation automatically enters you in contests to win a gift card, a TV, an iPod, or a bottle of Diddy's favorite vodka, Ciroc.

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