The War on Drugs
With this year’s Slave Ambient, the War on Drugs moved up into a select group of alternative universe stars, bands that might be huge except that, these days, rock bands don’t ever swell to Zeppelin-esque proportions. Aaron Dessner, who plays guitar in the National (clearly another of these outfits), called the record “ridiculously good” and “incredibly ambitious sonically,” pointing to the way that simple song structures got blown to outsized, anthemic scale. And indeed, WOD frontman Adam Granduciel has a way of hitching road-toughened, working man’s rock to a knob twiddler’s smorgasbord of interesting effects. Live, the band emphasizes its arena-rocking, blue-collar tendencies, though they’re swirled in drone and dipped in haze. -Jennifer Kelly
Sat., Dec. 17, 8pm. $14. With Sun Airway + Ape School. Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St. 215.232.1200. utphilly.com
Sunday, Dec. 18
The Philly Improv Theater house team Mayor Karen has just been accepted to the North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival and to help alleviate the traveling costs for all eight members, the crew is inviting you to test your knowledge of the comedy biz while possibly tinkling a little in your pants. Unlike the cutthroat bar trivia you might be accustomed to, players are actually encouraged to come up and take a prize whenever they feel like they deserve it. Best of all, you’ll be amongst a crew of some of the funniest folks in Philly. So even if you don’t know how many times Alec Baldwin hosted SNL or who the highest paid comedian currently on TV is, you’re pretty much guaranteed to leave feeling like a winner. -Nicole Finkbiner
8pm. $5. O’Neal’s, 611 S. Third St. 215.574.9495. onealspub.com
Sheer Terror was always the odd duck out in the New York Hardcore scene of the late ’80s. Too drunkenly surly for the positive crowd while being too smart-assed for the meathead contingent, the band found a fan base among a very rare breed of kids within that scene; the ones with an actual sense of humor. In between songs that sounded like a malfunctioning bulldozer with a heavy backbeat, vocalist Paul Bearer would bring the pain like a tattooed Don Rickles cutting down any muscle bound skinhead or weekend creampuff punk that dared to step to the front of the stage. Their recent reunion shows have proven that Bearer has not mellowed with age, and neither has the band. Maybe if you’re lucky, they’ll play their cover of Jethro Tull’s “Hymn 43.” If that’s not reason enough to put on your moshing shoes and leave the house, then we don’t know what to tell you. -Tony Rettman
6pm. $15. The Barbary, 951 Frankford Ave. 215.634.7400. facebook.com/thebarbary
The “Philly Support Philly” motto has really gained steam in the past year in the local hip-hop community. At this year’s 2011 AllFlamerz.com and Urban Celebrity Magazine Hip Hop Awards, the city gets to put on for itself instead of waiting for some other award show to recognize them. The show will be hosted by Batcave Studio’s P-Funk and PW fave Tone Trump with DJ No Phrillz on the ones and twos. This year, there’ll be performances by Trump, King of Philly, Gillie Da Kid, Cassidy and newcomer Young Savage, and a new award will be given out named after some guy named Will Smith. MC Breeze and Lady B will present the 2011 Philly Hip Hop Legend Award. -Ryan Smith
5-11pm. $20. Park Avenue Banquet Hall, 4942 Parkside Ave. 215.839.6840.
Monday, Dec. 19
Philly’s Cold Roses borrowed their name from a Ryan Adams song, and their sound from country rockers like Neil Young, the Band and the Kings of Leon. Robert Clancy, the band’s leader, is not afraid of an incendiary, electro-powered guitar solo, nor does he shy away from the sweetness of close, soaring harmonies. His rhythm section Jamie Briggs on drums and Brandon Porter on bass crank a hard-punching, slow-moving beat that embodies perseverance, blunted longing and a wary acknowledgement of the worst-case scenario. “Let Me Go,” the big crowd pleaser, arouses thirsts that can’t be entirely quenched by a longneck, an aching for true love, a good fistfight and the open road. -J.K.
8pm. $5. With Mat Burke, the Holy Mess Ramblin’ Road Show + Corporate Hearts. Kung Fu Necktie, 1250 N. Front St. 215.291.4919. kungfunecktie.com
Tuesday, Dec. 20
Lantern Theater Company is serving up one of Britain’s most deliciously funny comedies with their new production of Noel Coward’s Private Lives. The story focuses on the enchanting duo Amanda (Genevieve Perrier) and Elyot (Ben Dibble). Divorced five years earlier, Amanda and Elyot run into each other again while honeymooning with their respective new spouses. One of the wittiest, silkiest plays ever written, Director KC MacMillan hopes audiences will discover that there’s more to Coward’s script than just its’ sophisticated humor and effervescent dialogue. “Coward’s laughs come out of the absurd truths of his characters, not their shallowness” explains MacMillan, who last season helmed Lantern’s gripping Uncle Vanya. MacMillan says there will be no shortage of glamour in costume designer Mark Mariani’s sparkling evening gowns or Meghan’s Jones’ set, which he describes as “a jewel box with a few elements of magic to it.” -J. Cooper Robb
7pm. $20-$36. St. Stephen’s Theater, 10th and Ludlow sts. 215.829.0395. lanterntheater.org
Slogging it out in the Boston club scene for a few years just wasn’t cuttin’ it anymore, so spunky electro-pop diva-in-waiting Casey Desmond took her auburn hair and four-octave voice to NBC’s The Voice. She sang Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” during auditions. She was coached on the show by Maroon 5’s Adam Levine. And she lost. OR DID SHE? Desmond has parlayed that appearance into a rising national profile and an East Coast tour that hits town tonight. She’ll be decked out in hand-made outfits and Aladdin Sane-inspired face makeup. She’ll bring lots of vintage synths and other electronic doodads. She’ll jump around, get kooky and belt out her new Gaga-ish single “Talking to God,” among other tunes. “I’m a robot-loving, rocket-riding crazy person,” she says, adding that her songs “make people shake their butts.” Sounds like a winner to us. -M.A.G.
8pm, $9. World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St. 215.222.1400. worldcafelive.com
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Calendar: January 14-21