We'll be straight with you, North Texas. With the holiday season at full throttle and everyone excited for a mostly forgotten pandemic holiday gathering for the first time in a couple of years, there really isn't a whole lot going on in the coming week. However, what we do have is sure to brighten your holiday week. No, there may not be any stadium-big names on the list this week, but this is a good time to check out some local talent, whether that means new bands or some of our favorite area residencies. Of course, the holidays also mean traveling to see old friends, which is exactly what local favorites like Dale Watson and Mike Zito will be doing as they return to the area for some holiday festivities. We will also have a couple of touring acts making their way through North Texas at the beginning and end of the week — you've likely never heard of one and Christmas wouldn't be complete without the other. Mom Rock 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 22, Three Links, 2704 Elm St. $15 at seetickets.us
With a sound not unlike Bleachers or Walk the Moon, Boston indie-pop outfit Mom Rock is one of the hottest bands you haven't heard of yet. Named Rolling Stone's 2022 "Hot Band," Mom Rock has more than 50,000 monthly listeners on Spotify with stream counts that are rising steadily. The National Independent Venue Association nominated the band for its Artist Development Story of the Year award alongside Billy Strings and Phoebe Bridgers. This is a band that is known for its wildly energetic show, built on a solid foundation of incredibly talented musicians. Being able to see a band on the rise in a small club like Three Links (for the small price of 15 bucks, no less) is an opportunity you'll wish you'd seized upon in the near future when Mom Rock's music becomes as inescapable as Walk the Moon's. Denton indie-rock outfit Wish Kit will be providing the local support. Itchy Richie and the Burnin' Sensations 4 p.m. Friday, Dec. 23, Southside Preservation Hall, 1519 Lipscomb St., Fort Worth. $10 at prekindle.com
Some Christmas shows offer the whole family a night of festivities and cheer. Others, like A Very Itchy Christmas, are for indie rockers interested in food trucks and beer. Now, it's hard to say what exactly the solo project from Richard Keller will have in store for the audience when Itchy Richie and the Burnin' Sensations take the stage in Fort Worth. The project ranges in sound, being influenced by pop, metal and electronic music, but whatever Richie brings to the stage is sure to be entertaining. Joining Itchy and his Sensations for a little bit of indie-rocking around the Christmas tree are some of the best up-and-comers on the Fort Worth music scene. The evening kicks off with a solo set from a Fort Worth musician who daylights as a middle-school science teacher, Daryel Sellers, followed by synth-pop band Big Heaven. Then after a set from the Sensations, Fort Worth-based indie rock band The Troumatics close out the night. Dale Watson 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 23, Ruins, 2653 Commerce St. $25 at squadup.com
At around the age of 14, Texas country singer Dale Watson became an emancipated minor. Going to high school in the daytime and playing Houston clubs and honky tonks at night, Watson spent eight years with his brother Jim in The Classic Country Band before moving to Los Angeles on the advice of friend and fellow country singer Rosie Flores. Between his singles, EPs, full-length records and live albums, Watson has put out nearly 40 releases since 1989 — his most successful record being 2013's El Rancho Azul with its classic country throwback "I Lie When I Drink." Coining the term "Ameripolitan" to describe his authentic country sound, Watson's music goes hand and hand with the outlaw country of Merle Haggard, George Jones and Waylon Jennings. Together with his band The Lone Stars, Watson will host a Christmas party Friday night in Deep Ellum with some special guests who have yet to be announced. Tanner Usrey 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 23, Billy Bob's Texas, 2520 Rodeo Plaza, Fort Worth. $16+ at axs.com
Tanner Usrey is an emerging singer-songwriter hailing from Prosper. A soulful Americana-rock artist with heart-wrenching lyrics and soul-touching vocals, Usrey writes songs inspired by the rigors of touring life, drawing on influences from country and heartland rock. Usrey's 2020 single "The Light" was played on the fourth-season finale of Paramount Networks' hit drama series Yellowstone. In 2021, Usrey's EP SOL Sessions showcased the diversity of his songwriting with energetic songs such as "Time Bomb" and the more intimate and melodic song "With You." Over the last year, Usrey has released a series of singles, beginning with his live duet with Graycie York, "Beautiful Lies," the nostalgic rocker "Take Me Home" and last month's slow-burning ballad "Pick Up Your Phone." Usrey goes on at 10 p.m. after an opening set from JD Myers on the Honky Tonk Stage. ManifestiV 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 23, Reno's Chop Shop Saloon, 210 N. Crowdus St. $10 at eventbrite.com
There's something sinister brewing in Deep Ellum on the eve of Christmas Eve. While some venues may have ugly Christmas sweater themes or just encourage Christmas attire, Reno's Chop Shop Saloon will host a black carpet event Friday night, encouraging masks, goth attire and costumes. The event will be headlined by experimental industrial band ManifestiV. As a follow-up to its 2020 Dallas Observer Music Award-nominated video "Just Wait," the band debuted its latest animated music video for new song "Business as Usual" at the end of last year. The crowdfunded video was a project on which the band spent many months, painstakingly distilling the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Sixth Assessment Report into 2D animation. Interested listeners can find an annotated version of the video on the band's YouTube channel. The band's new album is expected February 2023. BLACK TAFFY 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 23, at Double Wide, 3510 Commerce St. $15 at prekindle.com
BLACK TAFFY, the 2019 Dallas Observer Music Award winner for Best Electronic Act, will take over Double Wide on Friday night with support from Stan Fransico and Still Do. BLACK TAFFY's Donovan Jones has been quite prolific since winning the DOMA for Best Experimental/Noise Act at the end of 2018. After the release of the Elder Mantis album in February, BLACK TAFFY went on a nationwide tour this past summer before returning home and, in November, releasing Half Light, a themed beat tape utilizing scores from original Twilight Zone episodes. Born into a family of Pentecostal music ministers, Jones grew up with a deep understanding of music's ability to entrance audiences and enliven their spirits. Composed with a vibraphone, cassette decks and other outmoded mediums, BLACK TAFFY's music occupies the space between peace and paranoia — a space where you'd like to sit down and chill, but there's just something calling you to get up and move. IronVine 10 p.m. Friday, Dec. 23, at Harwood Arms, 2850 Harwood St., No. 100. Free at eventbrite.com
Formed at the start of the pandemic lockdowns of 2020, retro-soul band IronVine came rolling out of Dallas with a classic R&B sound from that time in music history when rock 'n' roll and R&B were the same thing. Known for high-energy performances, IronVine mixes up original songs with covers of classic songs from the '50s and '60s with a creative twist. Last year, the band released a series of five singles after working with Grammy-winning mix engineer and producer Nahuel Bronzini, gathering thousands of Spotify listens in the process. Fans can expect a full-length album from the band to come out in the coming year, but for now you can catch them stomping around their hometown starting with a Friday night show at the Harwood Arms in the Harwood District of Dallas. Entry to the show will be free, but seating will be determined by staff the night of the show. CoLab 9 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 27, at Three Links, 2704 Elm St. $10 at seetickets.us
Without a whole lot going on this holiday week, music lovers have a chance to check in with one of Dallas' favorite residencies Tuesday night. For the last 15 years, the jazz-funk-R&B-hip-hop collective CoLab has gathered its rotating cast of about 40 musicians somewhere in the Dallas area on Tuesday nights, canceling only a handful of times because of severe weather. The residency first started at Zubar, then moved to Prophet Bar, then Wits End, and for almost five years now, they have been welcomed at the punk club Three Links. For many of the #3Links2sdays regulars, attending CoLab’s performance is like going to church, and it’s hard not to understand their sense of worship. While the music brings fans together, it’s the fellowship that keeps them coming back to CoLab's shows. Every Tuesday night around midnight, CoLab finally takes the stage with their signature opening, followed by originals or improvisations of whatever they feel sounds good. Trans-Siberian Orchestra 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 28, American Airlines Center, 2500 Victory Ave. $59.50+ at ticketmaster.com
While Christmas Day may come and go, the spirit of Christmas is sure to stick around for at least a few more days for a double shot of neoclassical Christmas metal. Founded in 1996 by producer, composer and lyricist Paul O'Neill, who was known primarily for his work with the operatic heavy metal band Savatage, the American rock band Trans-Siberian Orchestra is one of the highest ticket-selling bands in the world today. With is rotating cast of musicians and large body of Christmas-related music, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra is known for its dazzling, elaborate concerts. Presented by the Hallmark Channel, this concert will include a string section, a light show, lasers, moving trusses, video screens and effects all synchronized to music. The band will put on two performances on Wednesday, a matinee show at 3 p.m. and an evening show scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Mike Zito 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 28, at The Kessler, 1230 W. Davis St. $22+ at prekindle.com
One of the most lauded artists in the contemporary blues arena, Mike Zito began playing guitar at the age of 5. By the time the young musician was in his late teens, he had made quite the impression on his local St. Louis music scene. From the late 1990s until the early 2010s, Zito recorded his music independently, releasing eight albums before signing with Electro Groove in 2011. In 2013, Zito signed with Ruf Records and released Gone to Texas with his band The Wheel. The album conveyed the story of how Zito gained his sobriety while offering an emotional homage to the state that had left its imprint on the singer-songwriter for the rest of his life. His next two albums, 2016's Make Blues Not War and 2018's First Class Life both entered Billboard's blues charts in the No. 1 spot. Zito will have opening support from special guest Mike Morgan & The Crawl Wednesday night at The Kessler.
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David Fletcher writes about music, arts and culture for the Dallas Observer. You can usually find him at a show in Deep Ellum whether he's writing about it or not. A punk scholar and local music enthusiast, David focuses his attention on the artists screaming in the margins of Dallas' music scene.