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Friday, December 26

“We gotta have faith. It’s one of the most powerful forces. You create your life through what you believe,” Gift of Gab declared while introducing the new song “Blacka” at a Blackalicious concert this summer in Atlanta. “Belief and faith can work for you or it can work against you. So, be positive, think positive, do positive things.” Gab and his musical partner, DJ/producer Chief Xcel, have long employed “the positive tip” in their rapid-fire tracks, instead of glorifying thuggery and materialism as do so many other rappers. But it has been difficult for longtime fans to remain positive after waiting almost a decade for the Sacramento duo to release something new since 2005’s spellbinding word-fest, The Craft. With its shout-along chorus, “Blacka” is an intriguing tease from Blackalicious’ long-awaited, upcoming album, Emoni. — Falling James


Los Pinguos
Los Pinguos got their start in their hometown of Buenos Aires, Argentina, fusing rock and pop harmonies with Spanish acoustic-guitar flourishes and reggae and flamenco rhythms. But these high-flying penguins are essentially locals, having lived in L.A. since 2001, when they began playing on the streets in places like the Third Street Promenade. Los Pinguos’ stature has grown considerably since then, and their sinuous world music is expansive enough to fit in at the Montreux Jazz Festival and alongside such disparate performers as Suzanne Vega and Ozomatli. While the band might not have quite the same political intensity and social impact as their inspiration, Manu Chao, their music is nonetheless a similarly enchanting blend of breezy melodies and wide-ranging influences. — Falling James

Munyungo Jackson & Karen Briggs
Percussionist Darryl “Munyungo” Jackson and violinist Karen Briggs both are blessed with a rare musical intangible — the ability to add much more to almost any musical performance than merely another instrument. Jackson’s lengthy career includes a stint with Herbie Hancock’s reformed Headhunters, which toured the world a decade ago, as well as tours or recordings with Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, Sting and many more. Karen Briggs’ wide-ranging career has included appearances with Diana Ross, Yanni, Stanley Clarke and Wu-Tang Clan, while also touring and recording as a leader of her own groups. Tonight Jackson and Briggs pair in leading a group at H.O.M.E. (House of Music & Entertainment) in Beverly Hills, for an evening almost certain to exceed expectations. — Tom Meek

The Thingz play Alex's Bar on Sunday.; Credit: Photo by KRK Dominguez

The Thingz play Alex's Bar on Sunday.; Credit: Photo by KRK Dominguez

Saturday, December 27

R. Kelly
This multiple Grammy-winning vocalist, songwriter and super-producer defined the 1990s and mid-2000s with his signature erotically imbued sound, heard on such slow jams as “Bump N’ Grind,” “Seems Like You’re Ready” and countless others. Throughout his nearly 30 years in the business, the Chicago native has sold more than 100 million records worldwide, penned hits for such music icons as Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston and wholly redefined the contemporary R&B genre. But his scandal-ridden personal life has garnered just as much, if not more, attention than his musical propensities. While attendees can expect a pristine live vocal performance from the self-proclaimed “R” in R&B, they should not be surprised if Kellz stays true to form and simulates sex, disrobes and/or touches himself during his performance. — Jaqueline Michael Whatley

Agent Orange
People throw around the term “surf punk” a lot these days, mostly if the band in question happens to have a few reverbed leads over a few more power chords. But O.C. legends Agent Orange practically invented the genre at the dawn of the ’80s — and directly inspired locals from The Offspring to Fidlar, too. Songs such as their immortal “Bloodstains” wedded hot-shot surf leads to that timeless SoCal punk sound, and they come off as vital and vicious now as the day they were originally committed to tape. Classic-era bassist James Levesque — who left the band in ’88 — sadly died in October, but founder Mike Palm and the touring lineup he’s maintained for more than a decade are still out there slicing through the waves. — Chris Ziegler

Sunday, December 28

The Thingz
For more than a decade, The Thingz have been one of Long Beach’s catchiest garage-punk bands, but their music often has been overlooked, perhaps because in their early days it was so supremely and defiantly silly. Back then, just about every song was about food (“Manicotti Massacre”) or the life aquatic (“I’m Glad I’m Not a Mollusk”), but even the trio’s goofiest tendencies were fully powered by Jason Cordero’s relentlessly punishing drums, bassist Kim Morris’ punchy bass lines and the controlled savagery of guitar riffs from her husband, Mike Morris. The Thingz finally come into their own on their new album, Red Future. Most songs clock in at a Ramones-y two minutes or less, yet the group reveals new emotional and sonic range with balefully uplifting anthems such as “Not Mean (Just Soured)” and the unexpectedly rootsy and morbidly poignant “Julia Brown.” — Falling James

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