CL's picks for the week's best shows

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Jimbo Mathus, Fake Problems


TONY BENNETT If you were 80 years old, whose life would you want to have — besides, perhaps, your own? For me, it would have to be Tony's. He's sharp as a razor, still has his singing chops, paints beautifully (and for big money), plays tennis and is pretty much loved by everyone. The ageless one will no doubt enchant yet another Bay area audience. NOTE: Tony Bennett will also be making a Sarasota appearance at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall on Sunday, Dec. 17. (Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater) —Eric Snider

THE PRESERVATION HALL JAZZ BAND New Orleans' Preservation Hall has long been the epicenter of traditional Crescent City jazz, and this touring ensemble upholds the legacy with love, care and a whole lotta fun. (Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center) —ES

THROUGH THE EYES OF THE DEAD/FROM A SECOND STORY WINDOW/THE ACACIA STRAIN/IF HOPE DIES These guys are angry so the kids don't have to be. It's a slate of death/screamo/metalcore from such rage-filled townships as Florence, S.C. and Springfield, Mass. WORTH NOTING: Through The Eyes of The Dead employ at least one sample from Tombstone on their album The Scars of Ages. (State Theatre, St. Petersburg)

THE MOSCOW BOYS CHOIR The voices in this famous, prestigious and famously prestigious choir are chosen from among the 400-odd hopefuls who are schooled at the choir's educational facility. (Insert veal joke here.) The ensemble boasts a wildly varied catalog that runs the gamut from favorite classical works and traditional holiday music to material by contemporary Russian composers and folk songs. (Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center, Tarpon Springs)

FRED JOHNSON FOR THE KIDS Former Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center artist-in-residence and respected veteran jazz-vocalist-for-hire Johnson stages a free afternoon voice-and-percussion exhibition for the kids of Sulphur Springs. This event takes place at George Bartholomew North Tampa Center (8608 12th St.) and begins at 4 p.m. (George Bahrolomew North Tampa Center, Tampa)

PALEO/SEAMONSTER Ambitious indie-folk troubador Paleo (real name: David Andrew Strackany) is on his second solo tour of the States. But the impressive news is his current mission — to write, record and make Internet-available a song a day for an entire year, from April '06 until April '07. The stuff's pretty good, eccentric lo-fi singer-songwriter fare. Along for the ride is kindred (though more psychedelic) art-folk spirit Seamonster, who hails from Virginia Beach. (Transitions Art Gallery @ Skatepark of Tampa, Tampa)

FRIDAY, Dec. 15

MELISSA FERRICK w/BITCH Passionate, political folk-rock singer-songwriter Ferrick makes another WMNF-instigated Tampa Bay appearance; her latest album, In The Eyes of Strangers, dropped a few months back. Bitch, formerly one half of cult-beloved art-grrrl duo Bitch & Animal, opens up; her solo stuff for the lauded Kill Rock Stars label has been consistently good. (Skipper's Smokehouse, Tampa)

TONY SUNSHINE Famed for his association with oversized MC Fat Joe's Terror Squad crew, DJ Tony Sunshine makes a rare Ybor City appearance in the booth at Code, the Seventh Avenue nightclub formerly loved as Twilight and The Rubb. (Code, Ybor City)


RED ELVISES/JIMBO MATHUS' KNOCKDOWN SOUTH I'm beginning to believe that the Siberian-surfers-in-kitschy-Russian surf-a-billy spectacle Red Elvises have been holed up in a house in North Tampa for the last couple of years, lugging their gear across the street to the Skipperdome whenever the hell they feel like jamming. The real attraction here is former Squirrel Nut Zippers principal Jimbo Mathus and his miles-deep swamp of bluesy, loud-ass, electrified Southern twang. NOTE: Jimbo and his band will also be making a Bradenton appearance at Fogartyville Café tomorrow, Sunday, Dec. 17. (Skipper's Smokehouse, Tampa)

MICHAEL W. SMITH The celebrated, enduring contemporary gospel/Christian pop icon makes a two-night holiday-season stand at Ruth Eckerd Hall, a perhaps slightly more intimate venue than the arenas he's filled in the one-night-only format for years. Longtime fans will enjoy his latest studio disc, Stand, which delivers exactly what they expect from the singer-songwriter. (Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater)

JUKE CARTEL FEAT. TOBY RAND Toby Rand. Toby Rand. Where have I heard that name before? Hmmmm ... oh yeah. He was the tall, heavily mascara'ed Aussie who should've won Rock Star Supernova instead of that tool who looked like he mugged Deadsy for their clothes before stealing Jonathan Davis' identity. (The Tamiami @Jannus Landing, St. Petersburg)

MAYLENE & THE SONS OF DISTASTER/INHALE EXHALE/TWELVE GAUGE VALENTINE I really dig on Maylene, the band featuring former Underoath vocalist Dallas Taylor. They're as heavy as any metalcore outfit, but they've also got melody, attitude and fucking swagger to spare. Who says personality doesn't count any more? Ohio's Inhale Exhale treads much more familiar (read: generic) metalcore ground, though some of their grooves are respectable, while Louisianans Twelve Gauge Valentine sort of split the difference between the two other bands on this bill — shuffling charisma and some killer grooves, reminiscent of a redneck Every Time I Die. (State Theatre, St. Petersburg)

ESTEBAN Zorro plays Segovia. The one-man acoustic-guitar cottage industry invites all the middle-aged moms who think he's enigmatic and sexy, and all the middle-aged dads who enjoy his recycled blues, classical and flamenco licks, to join him in person. At Wal-Mart. In Oldsmar. A custom-tailored condom couldn't be more fitting. The marketing begins at 2 p.m.; the Oldsmar Wal-Mart is located at 3801 Tampa Road. (Wal-Mart, Oldsmar)

A CELTIC YULETIDE Irish Tenor Michael Londra, aka That Guy Who Sang in Riverdance on Broadway, fronts a program of traditional Emerald Isle holiday music and dance. (Largo Cultural Center, Largo

SKAFEST 2006 & 1/2 Sometimes the fans just can't go a whole year between SkaFests, and really, who could? OK, OK, lots of people could, but still, here's another full helping of syncopation and skanking for the faithful, courtesy of Skacore Records. The lineup: The Taj Motel Trio; Matt Wixson; Is It Safe?; local favorites Carnivorous Vegans; The Pants and C.I.O. The hefty bill means an early start time, so get your porkpie hat and your plaid whatever on and be there by 6 p.m. (Brass Mug, Tampa)

BODOG BATTLE OF THE BANDS CITY FINALS Twelve Bay area rock, metal and punk bands are one step closer to winning something from Bodog Music; this round will decide who goes on to the next round, and who goes on to put in their band bio that they made it to the finals, without mentioning it was only the city finals. The hopefuls: A Nova Prospect; And Then There Was You; Another Vain Intention; Audiology; Empty; Lush Progress; MuRdoK; Providence; Spacebrain; Strength Thru Discipline; The Trojan Warfront and Weszt. Thank God it's not a band-name contest, eh? (Jannus Landing, St. Petersburg)

Sunday, Dec. 17

BT/THOMAS DOLBY At first this may look like an odd pairing: BT, an American electronica artist that the major labels tried to break during the genre's brief heyday in the mid/late '90s, and Dolby, an '80s stalwart best known for his hit "She Blinded Me With Science." Turns out, both are electronic-music pioneers. BT's latest project, This Binary Universe, is an ambitious melding of music and animation; he'll bring a rendering of it to the stage. Dolby, who is working on his first new album since the early '90s, will perform material new and old on vintage oscilloscopes and ex-Royal Navy field test equipment. And here's a neat bonus: The two plan to jam together for the encores. (State Theatre, St. Petersburg) —ES

Tuesday, Dec. 19

CHRISTMAS ON BROADWAY Half a dozen Bay area actors and singers kick off the Largo Cultural Center's American Songbook Series with a program of Broadway-type holiday tunes. In addition to the only Christmas song written by Rodgers & Hammerstein, "Happy Christmas Little Friend" (get your mind out of the gutter), patrons will be treated to works by Meredith Wilson, Jason Robert Brown, Jerry Herman and others. Tonight's performance begins at 7 p.m.; there will be a 2 p.m. matinee and another 7 p.m. show tomorrow, Wed., Dec. 20. (Largo Cultural Center, Largo)

Wednesday, Dec. 20

BAND MARINO/FAKE PROBLEMS/LOOK MEXICO The dashing duo that is BeccaMay Events welcomes this excellent trio of indie rock bands back to town, this time at the up-and-coming Pastimes rather than the usual haunt, the Tavern. Orlando's Band Marino is the headliner this time, though, probably because the band recently released a CD, The Sea & the Beast. I can't vouch for the whole thing, but the clips sound just awesome — winsome indie-folk of exceptional quality. (Pastimes Pub, Sarasota) —Cooper Levey-Baker


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