There's a big calendar on the front window of the downtown Old Navy store. I know its sole purpose is to pressure procrastinators like myself into getting our holiday shopping done faster, to thoughtlessly stuff mittens and pleated vests and pastel-colored "Cozy Crocs" (the Ugg-liest in this season's lazy footwear) into baskets so we don't have to think about what our step-parents and second cousins really want this year. This season, there's so much buying to get through that my checkbook starts bouncing the second I flip it open. But instead of emptying our bank accounts on puffy outerwear and woolly shoes, I offer a gift guide of unusual December performances as replacements for predictable holiday packages.
The gift on their list: Guitar Hero III; Rock Band
What they're gonna get: Hesher
Video games are for misanthropes with a hankering for tendinitis. The best way to make believe you're rich, famous, and fabulously rocking is to be a) drunk, so you can pretend you're not tone deaf; and b) in front of a crowd of drunks who are probably tone deaf as well. On Friday, Dec. 14, Thee Parkside hosts the finals for Hesher, a heavy-metal air-guitar and karaoke contest. As opposed to the fancy- pants Air Guitar battle that happens in the spring, this lowbrow, Pabst- and Jäger-friendly version tests your mettle (and butt-rock and shredcore) as a full "air band." Make sure your singer can hit those hi-yi-yi notes.
Alternate package: If your pal is more "YMCA" than Winger, then don you now your polyester apparel and grab a couple of tickets to the Castro Theatre's "A Very Merry Disco Christmas" on Saturday, Dec. 22. The Village People's cowpoke Randy Jones will perform live, conduct a group sing-along of "YMCA," and host a screening of his movie Can't Stop the Music, among the various activities making the Yuletide pretty damn gay.
The gift on their list: A menorah
What they're gonna get: Good for the Jews
New York's Good for the Jews brings its annual "Putting the Ha! in Hanukkah" tour here on the last night of the holiday. On Wednesday, Dec. 12, at Great American Music Hall, the Hebrew incarnation of They Might Be Giants sums up its religious convictions with ditties like "They Tried to Kill Us" and "Good to Be a Jew at Christmas." Plus, the press loves them! (Because, the duo points out in its bio, the media is all Jewish-owned anyway).
The gift on their list: A Maxim subscription
What they're gonna get: Anti-Feminism
A brief survey of Japanese pop band Anti-Feminism's Web site reveals that past shows have included band members setting off fireworks, swinging baseball bats, crushing fluorescent lights, and making proclamations of anarchy. I'm not sure what any of this has to do with protesting a woman's right to vote, but Anti-Feminism's site encourages, "Only the guy who can become CRAZY must come!" Okay, then! Anti-Feminism will be, in its own words, "raishin' at the crazy bash" at the DNA Lounge on Saturday, Dec. 15.
The gift on their list: iPod Shuffle
What they're gonna get: Rock Lotto Benefit
Why shuffle songs when you can shuffle the memberships of entire bands? Oakland's experimental-music-friendly venue 21 Grand hosts a fund-raiser with a lofty premise on Saturday, Dec. 15. Two dozen musicians from the worlds of rock, jazz, and noise pulled names from a hat last month and had 30 days to prepare new songs with their temporary partners. Their creative chemistry will be on display this evening — although if a noise band swaps musicians, can you really tell the difference?