Sounds of the Season: Festive Concerts of All Genres Pack the Winter Schedule. Grab a Ticket and Set Your Holiday Soundtrack.

The concert business virtually grinds to a halt during the month of December as holiday shopping takes precedent over rocking and rolling, and cold weather makes travel difficult. But don't let that get you down. There are still a slew of shows — national and local — worth checking out between now and Valentine's Day. Here's a run-down of some of the top concerts coming up.

Saturday 12.14

Chris Isaak

When Chris Isaak played House of Blues last year, he proved he's just about ready for Vegas. He had the flashy attire (a bright red Western suit that was exchanged at concert's end for a metallic silver one), the band (a bunch of old guys who could play just about any classic early rock tune) and the charisma (at one point, he walked into the crowd to serenade the people in the pit). Isaak demonstrated the degree to which he's become a showman, something that was only amplified by crowd-pleasing songs such as "Blue Hotel," "All I Want is Your Love" and "Wicked Game." Isaak kept things rolling when he dipped into a few choice covers from the Sun Records catalog (his latest album is a collection of covers by the likes of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash), and you can expect the same from tonight's show, albeit with a few holiday gems tossed into the mix.

175 E. Main St., Kent, 330-677-5005,

Ryan Humbert's fifth Annual Holiday Extravaganza

For the past five years, Akron-based singer-songwriter Ryan Humbert has put together a holiday show featuring some of the region's top talent. This year is no different. Winslow's Maurice Martin, Cody J. Martin, Red Sun Rising's Mike Protich and Scarlet & the Harlots' Scarlet all share the bill with Humbert and will sing lead vocals on at least one holiday tune. Proceeds will benefit the Akron-based charity Mobile Meals, Inc. The show starts at 8 p.m. at the Akron Civic Theatre, and tickets are $15 to $20.

182 South Main St., Akron, 330-253-2488,

Trans-Siberian Orchestra

For 13 years, prog rockers Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) have toured in support of the same album, 1996's Christmas Eve and Other Stories. Granted, the theatrical shows have shifted to include bigger and better visuals, but the content didn't really change. And yet, the group turned into a touring juggernaut. Last year, however, the tour featured the live debut of 2004's The Lost Christmas Eve, a concept album about a businessman who abandons his newborn son. The new storyline was a hit with fans. And the light show just keeps getting bigger and better. The band comes to Quicken Loans Arena today at 3 and 8 p.m. Tickets are $32 to $71.50.

1 Center Ct., 216-420-2000,

Sunday 12.15

Saves the Day

Formed in New Jersey (before it was cool for punk bands to come out of Jersey) nearly 20 years ago, the punk-pop band Saves the Day has proven to have tremendous staying power. Though numerous personnel changes have meant that only singer Chris Conley remains from the original line-up, the band has soldiered on and just released a self-titled album with snotty vocals and catchy pop hooks. The band is promising to play both hits and "deep cuts" for this special acoustic show at Musica, and the guys will switch up the set lists from date to date. The show starts at 7 tonight and tickets are $15.

51 East Market St., Akron, 330-374-1114,

Monday 12. 16

The Breeders/Speedy Ortiz

How time flies. It's been 20 years since the Breeders made a huge splash with Last Splash; the noise-pop group formed when the Pixies Dayton, Ohio-born Kim Deal started writing songs while the Pixies were on a European tour. Deal originally hooked up with Throwing Muses' Tanya Donelly, but eventually also brought her sister Kelley into the fold for Last Splash, the album that featured the band's most popular single, "Cannonball." To mark the album's twentieth anniversary, the group is reissuing the disc as a three-CD package (and seven-disc vinyl box set) and has reconvened the original Last Splash line-up for a U.S. tour that started over the summer with a show in Oberlin and touches down at the Beachland Ballroom tonight at 8:30. Tickets are $22 in advance.

15711 Waterloo Rd., 216-383-1124,

Wednesday 12.18

"Jingle Bell Swing" Xmas Cabaret starring

Helen Welch

British singer-songwriter Helen Welch has lived in Northeast Ohio for the past five years. During that time, she's slowly built a loyal following of jazz enthusiasts. Her annual holiday show is such a draw that the Akron Civic Theatre has added a second night. Expect to hear tunes like "Jingle Bells," "Baby, It's Cold Outside," and a Dixieland version of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" when Welch performs tonight and tomorrow night at 8 at the Akron Civic Theatre. Tickets are $25.

182 South Main St., Akron, 330-253-2488,

Mushroomhead/One Eyed Doll/Ionia/Unsaid Fate

Last year, Mushroomhead, arguably the city's most popular metal band, went head-to-head with local heroes Chimaira. Both bands traditionally play Christmas concerts so the fact that they were playing the same night suggested some kind of rivalry. This year, Mushroomhead plays the night before Chimaira's show so metal fans who want to see both acts will have the opportunity to do so. There's good reason to see Mushroomhead these days: Jason "JMann" Popson has recently rejoined the group. He sings alongside Jeffrey Nothing and Waylon Reavis. A new album is on the horizon so expect to hear some new tracks as well. The show starts at 6 p.m. at the Agora Theatre. Tickets are $20 in advance.

5000 Euclid Ave., 216-881-2221,

Saturday 12.21


Shortly after forming in 1998, local metal band Chimaira signed a deal with Roadrunner Records that effectively launched the group's career. It achieved national and international fame as albums such as 2003's The Impossibility of Reason and 2005's Chimaira were every bit as heavy as anything by Slayer or Metallica. The group was on Ozzfest in 2003 and joined the European Road Rage tour that same year. Even after parting ways with Roadrunner in 2006, the band was still a major draw on the metal circuit and its albums still sold well. But last year, the band splintered, leaving only Mark Hunter as the sole original member; the group only made one U.S. appearance in 2012. This year, it returned with Crown of Phantoms, its first studio album in two years. The wailing guitar solos and hoarse vocals are classic Chimaira and suggest the new line-up is every bit as potent as the old one. This year, the concert has moved from House of Blues to the Agora where bands will play on stages in both the ballroom and the main theater. The show begins at 6 p.m. and tickets start at $10.

5000 Euclid Ave., 216-881-2221,

Mr. Gnome/If These Trees Could Talk/Leah Lou & the 2 Left Shoes

A dynamic hard rock group that's hands down one of the best bands in Cleveland, Mr. Gnome has been on the road so much throughout the year that it's hardly had a chance to play a hometown show. It did play a terrific set on the Scene stage at this year's Ingenuity Fest, but that was weeks ago. Expect the abrasive duo to be in fine form for this show. And given that a new album is in the works, it's a good bet you'll hear some new tracks tonight too. The show starts at 9 p.m. at the Beachland Ballroom. Tickets are $10 in advance.

15711 Waterloo Rd., 216-383-1124,

Monday 12.23

Boys from the County HeLL

When the Boys From the County Hell first got together in 2000 as a Pogues cover band, it was supposed to be just a one-night stand. But after selling out their first show at the Euclid Tavern, the group's popularity escalated. As you can imagine, the band is pretty busy by the time St. Patty's Day rolls around. But it regularly plays a special holiday show this time of year too. The band's been working on blending some horns into the mix so expect to hear a bit of R&B as it plays a selection of Pogues tunes as well as some seasonal covers tonight at House of Blues. The show starts at 7 and tickets are $10.

308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583,

Tuesday 12.31

Wesley Bright & the Hi-Lites

New Year's Eve Party

Akron's Wesley Bright & the Hi-Lights played their first gig just over two years ago and the band has been going strong ever since. Because of its terrific live show — sharp-dressed Brent "Wesley Bright" Wesley is a real dynamo on stage — the soul/old-school R&B band is suddenly in high demand. The band has been touring regionally too and teamed up with the like-minded, Northern soul-obsessed Vallures to play a gig in Indiana recently. Their terrific new single, "Tell Me," is a retro-sounding number with a soulful vibe. Should make for a good NYE bash. The show starts at 9 tonight at the Beachland and tickets are $15.

15711 Waterloo Rd., 216-383-1124,

Wednesday 1.8

Jay Z: Magna Carta World Tour

Though his new album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, received lukewarm reviews, Jay Z is still one of hip-hop's best rappers. Consider these crowning achievements: He's sold more than 50 million albums worldwide; he's a certified NBA and MLB sports agent; he holds the record for most No. 1 albums by a solo artist. He penned a terrific memoir about this life and he's married to the super-hot Beyonce. He's got it going on. The set will be heavy with Magna Carta tracks, but you can still expect to hear hits such as "99 Problems" and "Big Pimpin'" as Jay Z will play nearly 30 tunes. The show starts at 8 p.m. at Quicken Loans Arena. Tickets start at $80.

1 Center Ct., 216-420-2000,

Friday 1.10

18th Annual Tri-C High School Rock Off

Now in its 18th year, the annual Tri-C High School Rock Off pits high school bands against each other for prizes that, in the past, have included recording studio time and the chance to open for a national act. Last year, bands from as far as Erie, Pa., came in to compete. The event kicks off tonight at 6 at House of Blues; several preliminary rounds follow. The top three acts from tonight will make it to the Final Exam, which takes place at House of Blues on Feb. 1. A panel of judges rates the bands at each concert. Tickets are $10.

308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583,

Friday 2.7

G. Love & Special Sauce

Not many of the alt-rock and hip-hop acts that MTV made famous in the '90s are still kicking. G. Love & Special Sauce is the exception. Nearly 20 years ago, the singer-guitarist G. Love and his two-piece band released their self-titled debut and had an instant hit with the woozy blues-meets-hip-hop number "Cold Beverage." In the two decades since that album's release, Love and crew have consistently toured and recorded; they received a good second wind in 2003 when Love and singer-songwriter Jack Johnson collaborated on the Johnson tune "Rodeo Clowns." Love played Cleveland twice last year and received terrific responses both times. He's back at House of Blues tonight at 9; tickets are $20 in advance.

308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583,

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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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