Holiday music beyond the orchestras

Friday, December 8, 2006

I didn't go see the Heartland Pops Orchestra's Christmas concert Dec. 1. Nor did I watch the Southeast Missouri Symphony's holiday concert Nov. 28.

No offense to those groups -- they're both great at what they do, and I've heard nothing but good things about their concerts. The thing is, orchestras just don't do it for me. They're about as exciting to me as watching a documentary about the construction of municipal water systems. Yawn.

Remember, I pledged to be straight with you, so that's what I'm doing. I hope my orchestra buddies don't get offended.

So when I'm looking for some entertainment around the holidays, I look for something that's going to rock my teeth out of my head. And if I can help a good cause while enjoying some loud, sweaty rock 'n' roll, it's that much better.

Being that I am a child of the modern age, one who loves the "low" art forms of "popular" music, my tastes are much more likely to take me to the Christmas Hoot on Dec. 17.

Don't know what the Hoot is? Here's a crash course:

Sometime, many years ago, probably about 15 of them, local musician Bob Camp started a downtown nightlife event to raise money for charity -- a way to bring local musicians together for a good cause around the holidays. The thing was so successful, he gave it a name -- Christmas Hoot -- and made that Hoot an annual event. Each year the Hoot returns in the form of the "Fourth or Fifth Annual Christmas Hoot," "The Umpteenth Christmas Hoot," "The Nearly 20th Christmas Hoot." Camp likes funny names, so you get the picture.

Several local bands and venues take part in the action, and they donate money to Cottonwood Treatment Center, so those at the center may have a gift to open on Christmas morning. Heart-warming, isn't it?

While the bands don't always play Christmas music, the atmosphere is always tinged with holiday spirit, Camp tells me.

"It's kind of like Halloween, some people come in costumes, some people don't," Camp said.

Bands at this year's Hoot include Bruce Zimmerman and the Water Street Band, the Mike Renick Band, Fill, the Hulk Dugan Band (made of members from Fusion Blue and others) and Moodminder at three venues -- Port Cape, Buckner Brewing Co. and Broussard's. And the band with the best name of all, All-Original Interchangeable Internationale Harvester Playboy House of Pancakes (not the Beatles) Blues Band will also play. For those of you who don't know, that's Camp's band -- he loves those crazy names.

Renick's going to be extremely busy with the charitable rock shows this season. His band is playing another one Thursday at the Rude Dog to benefit Toys for Tots.

Before the Hoot or the Toys benefit, there's another downtown nightlife Christmas entertainment offering happening tonight that. It falls somewhere between those screaming rock shows and the symphony, if you want to look at it that way. The SEMO Acoustic Musicians Guild, fronted by people like Jerry Swan, Dale Haskell and Dan Wiethop, will perform from 7 to 10 p.m. today at the Broadway Books and Roasting Co., in a concert they're calling "An Old Fashioned Acoustic Christmas."

The sound is unplugged, the air is smoke-free, and the place smells of coffee. Sounds like a good time for you less-rowdy folks.

Swan tells me the members of the guild will perform traditional Christmas tunes in an extremely informal atmosphere. Wiethop will take up his autoharp, there will be djimbes and sleigh bells. The music, says Swan, is "rustic."

The slogan for the concert: "No cover! Just a lot of goodwill."

Goodwill abounds downtown this Christmas season. Nightlife people aren't always known for their charitable giving -- like me they don't have a lot of excess cash after paying $3.50 each for good beer downtown. But here's a chance for those people, and I include myself, to spread that goodwill.

335-6611, extension 182

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