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Monday, December 1

De La Soul
For many hip-hop fans, it’s hard to believe that it’s been 25 years since Long Island’s De La Soul released their seminal 3 Feet High and Rising, showcasing the trio’s laid-back flow, eclectic samples and carefully crafted lyrics. Earlier this year, on Valentine’s Day, in celebration of 3 Feet High’s silver anniversary, the group gave away all of their music via free download as a love letter to their fans for years of loyalty. While they haven’t released any new music since 2012’s Plug 1 & Plug 2 Present… First Serve, a new album titled You’re Welcome reportedly is in the works. But for now, De La Soul are touring behind their landmark anniversary, which is reason enough to see them live. — Daniel Kohn


Tuesday, December 2

Cass McCombs, Meat Puppets
Cass McCombs was still a baby when the Meat Puppets began chasing tumbling tumbleweeds in their Phoenix hometown in the early 1980s. But the California singer’s hazy reinventions of Americana make for an oddly simpatico combination with the Puppets on their co-headlining tour and new split 7-inch single. “You’re no ordinary girl/My mind is in a whirl,” McCombs confides coolly on “Night of the World” as a ropey riff uncoils and flicks its tail. Meat Puppets counter with their joyously fuzzy remake of the Everly Brothers’ eternally lovelorn “Cathy’s Clown” and “(Hey Baby) Que Paso,” an uptempo barn burner in which singer Curt Kirkwood braids together Tex-Mex fire and bluegrass sizzle into an especially fast and juicy guitar solo. It’s the Puppets’ unusual combination of hardcore intensity and loping, countrified idylls that have mesmerized fans including Kurt Cobain. — Falling James

Wednesday, December 3

The Aimee Mann Christmas Show
You can actually see the joy in Aimee Mann’s face as she exchanges riffs and vocals with Ted Leo in their new collaboration, The Both. The former ’Til Tuesday chanteuse has always been a smart, thoughtful songwriter but she seems much less restrained with Leo, whose punky power chords supply the wildness and energy that’s sometimes missing from Mann’s more cautiously arranged solo recordings. Leo appears revitalized as well, and his singing and wit feel more focused and passionate as he twines his harmonies with Mann’s on poppy tunes such as “Milwaukee.” Mann’s annual Christmas show at Largo has become such a big deal that it’s been expanded to two nights. The singer will stave off saccharine sentimentality with visits from her celebrity friends and her arch version of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” Also Thursday, Dec. 4. — Falling James


In the Valley Below are at the Troubadour on Wednesday.; Credit: Photo by Eddie Chacon

In the Valley Below are at the Troubadour on Wednesday.; Credit: Photo by Eddie Chacon

Wednesday, December 3 (cont'd)

In the Valley Below
Apparently blissfully unaware of the past two decades of pop culture, In the Valley Below drape classic Fleetwood Mac coed call-and-response, squelchy Alan Wilder–era Depeche Mode synths and heyday Phil Collins melodicism in a shroud of bluesy, woozy, out-in-the-woods mystery. Visually, they’ve cultivated a cult-ish, folk-country aura: Angela Gail with broad-brimmed hats and floor-sweeping dresses, Jeffrey Jacob with button-down shirts and perma-suspenders. It’s a look that enhances the mesmerizing “Hymnal” and strummy single “Peaches” (from debut album The Belt) yet feels disconcertingly incongruous with the Alt 98.7–ready “Neverminders” and the Tegan and Sara–like “Last Soul.” Ironically, for all of their aesthetic affectation, this are-they-or-aren’t-they Echo Park couple connects most effectively when seemingly singing not for us but solely for one another, as on the ominously gorgeous “Palm Tree Fire.” — Paul Rogers

Crash Kings
As a keyboards, bass and drums power trio, L.A.’s Crash Kings take a pretty stripped-down approach to their anthemic pop-rock. But they’ll strip down even further for this special Hotel Cafe set. For what’s billed as “An Intimate Set With Crash Kings,” they’ll debut brand-new songs from an upcoming, live-in-the-studio EP called Live Nudes, which sets aside lead singer Antonio Beliveau’s signature whammy-bar-equipped Clavinet in favor of some good old-fashioned piano. Even without those funky, distorted Clav riffs, Crash Kings are a force to be reckoned with live, as Beliveau’s soulful wail soars over brother Michael’s thundering bass and Tommy Rose’s arena-ready drums. Besides Live Nudes, expect the Kings to revisit some of the more piano-based tracks from their first two albums, such as “Come Away” and the Elton John–worthy breakup ballad “All Along.” — Andy Hermann

Thursday, December 4

Ron Dante, Bo Donaldson & the Heywoods
Talk about your guilty pleasures. Ron Dante was once a famous cartoon character — or, to be more accurate, he was the human voice behind The Archies’ ridiculously catchy ’60s pop hit “Sugar Sugar.” But he was far more than a one-hit wonder, working with Barry Manilow in the 1970s and producing albums for Pat Benatar and Cher. He also has produced Broadway hits including Children of a Lesser God and Ain’t Misbehavin’. But tonight Dante steps out from behind the curtain and takes the mic for a relatively rare live performance of songs from his long career. Bo Donaldson & the Heywoods, who had their own variety series in the ’70s and were responsible for unforgettably silly songs including “Billy Don’t Be a Hero,” also provide an unexpected flashback. — Falling James

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