Every season has a soundtrack, but none is more poignant and evocative than the one that accompanies the winter holidays. From traditional jingling bells and voices raised in harmony to imaginative reinterpretation of classics and down-home originals, here’s a selection of shows offering musical merriment this holiday season.
A FEW HIGHLIGHTS
Dec. 7: A Charlie Brown Christmas at Stateside at the Paramount. A recent office discussion about great Christmas albums hit an unconquerable peak when pianist Vince Guaraldi’s 1965 classic "A Charlie Brown Christmas" was mentioned. Perhaps it’s because the instrumental approach bypasses any era-specific designation that famous singers give to holiday classics; these piano-centered renditions still feel timeless. The Austin Chamber Music Center, with pianist Michelle Schumann in the Guaraldi role and a supporting cast that includes bassist Utah Hamrick and drummer Scott Laningham, serves up this annual holiday favorite with two shows. Pro tip: Snoopy will be in the lobby. $22. 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. 713 Congress Ave. austintheatre.org — P.B.
Dec. 9: Conspirare Christmas at the Long Center. Austin’s Grammy-winning choral group, led by 2013 Texas State Musician honoree Craig Hella Johnson, promises a program "bridging everyday songs with seasonal favorites." This year’s special guests are Nicole Joseph and the African Children’s Choir, joining more than two dozen Conspirare singers and an instrumental support cast including renowned jazz guitarist Mitch Watkins. 701 W. Riverside Drive. thelongcenter.org — P.B.
Dec. 9-10: Graham Reynolds Ruins the Holidays at Long Center Rollins Theatre. Reynolds, one of Austin’s leading independent composers for well over a decade, promises to "wreak musical havoc on a set of holiday favorites" in the concert hall’s intimate Rollins Theatre. Reynolds converts many of the classic carols into minor keys, casting his introspective renditions in a haunting light. $29. 7:30 p.m. 701 W. Riverside Drive. thelongcenter.org — D.S.S.
Dec. 13-24: Armadillo Christmas Bazaar. The long-running Austin holiday tradition combines artisan shopping with live music from a diverse selection of (mostly) local artists. This year’s lineup includes everyone from Texas piano man Robert Ellis to blues standouts Jackie Venson and the Peterson Brothers. Dreamy R&B artist Mélat, honky-tonker Dale Watson, Wild Child member Kelsey Wilson’s side project Sir Woman, Latin rockers Del Castillo and Grammy-nominated bluegrass outfit Wood & Wire are also among the performers. $10 (ages 12 and younger free). Concerts at noon, 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. daily; check website for schedule. 900 Barton Springs Road. armadillobazaar.com — D.S.S.
Dec. 14: Bruce Robison & Kelly Willis 20th Annual Holiday Shindig with Patty Griffin at Paramount Theatre. Austin’s first couple of country music got this party started way back at the tail end of the last millennium. To celebrate the two-decade mark, they’ve called in one of our city’s most prominent and beloved musical artists. Griffin’s self-titled album, released earlier this year, extended a stellar career that has included a Grammy Award, and her contribution to a new Tom Waits tribute album is magnificent. Willis and Robison will play songs from their 2006 "Happy Holidays" record plus other seasonal favorites; if we’re lucky, they’ll roll out those family home movie clips again, too. $30-$48. 8 p.m. 713 Congress Ave. austintheatre.org — P.B.
Dec. 20-21: Robert Earl Keen Countdown to Christmas with Shinyribs at ACL Live. For fans of Texas roots/country/Americana music, it’s hard to fathom a better holiday bill than this one (especially since Willie Nelson is skipping his usual New Year’s Eve shows this year). Fresh off hosting the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame gala at this same venue last month, Keen and his ace band will trot out his crowd-favorite singalong, "Merry Christmas From the Family," and more seasonal fare, to follow what’s bound to be a high-energy opening set of yuletide feel-good swampy soul from Shinyribs. $29-$49. 8 p.m. 310 Willie Nelson Blvd. acl-live.com — P.B.
Dec. 21: A Motown Christmas with Tje Austin at Geraldine’s. The silky R&B singer, who once thrilled national audiences with an appearance on "The Voice," hosts a sprawling holiday extravaganza with a live band and multiple special guests. He begins obsessing over which carols to cover months before the family-friendly bash and carefully curates a set list that mixes soulful versions of the classics with poppy faves and more. No cover (capacity permitting). 9 p.m. 605 Davis St. geraldinesaustin.com — D.S.S.
Dec. 21: A Very Scary Xmas: The Unholiest Holiday Party in Austin at Texas Mist. Oh, hey there, Ebenezer, this shindig ditches the merriness you detest for a melee of monstrous thrills designed to spark a tremor of fear in your cold, dark heart. Worm Suicide and the Devil Club lead a roster of seven punk and metal bands who will play while live zombie actors roam the club’s haunted backyard. The event also will feature holiday horror movies, paranormal teams, a fire pit and more. $8-$10 (21 and older). 7 p.m. 1115 Old Bastrop Highway. scaretx.com — D.S.S.
Dec. 22: A Merry-Achi Christmas at ACL Live. Fifth-generation mariachi musician Jóse Hernàndez formed his acclaimed ensemble, Mariachi Sol de México, in 1981. Over the years, the group has played high-profile performances in concert halls around the world, logged collaborations with the Beach Boys and Willie Nelson, and serenaded four U.S. presidents. For the past several years, they’ve forged a new holiday tradition, infusing favorite Christmas tunes with mariachi music’s signature passion and drama. $29-$49. 8 p.m. 310 Willie Nelson Blvd. acl-live.com — D.S.S.
29: Peter White Xmas with Euge Groove, Lindsey Webster, Vincent Ingala at One World Theatre
30: 101X Indie Xmas with Catfish & the Bottlemen at Emo’s
30: Dumpstaphunk's 2nd Annual Phunksgiving at Antone's
1: "Nutcracker Suite by Duke Ellington" with Adrian Ruiz at Parker Jazz Club
3: "Handel’s Messiah" by Austin Symphony Orchestra & Chorus Austin at Hyde Park Baptist Church
4: "Handel’s Messiah" by Austin Symphony Orchestra & Chorus Austin at Emmaus Catholic Church
6: Ian Moore’s Family Christmas at Stateside at the Paramount
6: A Holiday Evening With Bob Schneider & the Moonlight Orchestra at ACL Live
7: David Archuleta at One World Theatre (two shows)
7: Brian Kremer's Christmas Show at Parker Jazz Club
7: Old 97's Holiday Hoopla, CaseyMagic at Mohawk (outdoor)
7: K-LOVE Christmas Tour with Matthew West, Matt Maher, I Am They at Promiseland Church
7: Misfit Toys 10th Anniversary at Dive Bar & Lounge
8: McMercy Family 12th annual X-mas show with the Frauliens at Radio Coffee & Beer
8: Holiday Charity Rocktacular for Austin Pets Alive with Big Wy’s Brass Band, more at Sahara Lounge
8-9: Wild Bill’s Honky Tonk Holidaze at Santa’s Stash Pot (777 Shady Lane #7)
10: Merry Mix Show with X Ambassadors, Walk Off the Earth, Dean Lewis at ACL Live
11: Il Divo’s A Holiday Song Celebration at ACL Live
13: Molly Burch’s Holiday Party at Scholz Garten
13: Ho-Ho-Homie Holiday Show at Come and Take It Live
13: Messer Holiday Party with Big Britches, Memphis Strange, more at Hole in the Wall
14: Albright Family Christmas at One World Theatre
15: Rock & Roll Playhouse performs Music of White Stripes for Children Holiday Celebration at Mohawk (two shows)
15: Courtney Santana Christmas Show at Parker Jazz Club
15-16: Wild Bill’s Honky Tonk Holidaze at Sam’s Town Point
16: ACL Radio’s Starry Night with Kaleo, Devon Gilfillian, Adam Melchor at ACL Live
17: Saturnalia Celebration with Children of the Sun at Sahara Lounge
18: Sunny Sweeney's Dysfunctional Family Christmas at Saxon Pub
19: Dr L & the All-Star Chaps Christmas Show at Parker Jazz Club
20: Michael Martin Murphey: A Cowboy Christmas at Paramount Theatre
20: Norman Brown’s Joyous Christmas with Bobby Caldwell, Marion Meadows at One World Theatre
20: Celtic Christmas at St. Mary’s Cathedral
20-21: Christmas with the Mrs. at Parker Jazz Club
21: Diamond Smugglers Holiday Extravaganza at 3Ten
21: Merry Kinkster Tour with Kinky & Cleve at Continental Club
25: Dale Watson's Annual Christmas Show & Dance at Continental Club
25: Mazel Tov Kocktail Hour Chanukah Concert at Barrel O’ Fun
28: Holiday Jam-Bo-Ree with Flyjack, Josh Pearson, Purple Bee Players at Stubb’s (indoor)
NEW YEAR’S EVE
Austin’s New Year (performers TBA) at Auditorium Shores
Ghostland Observatory, Golden Dawn Arkestra at ACL Live
Grupo Fantasma, Superfonicos at Carson Creek Ranch
Bob Schneider at Paramount Theatre
Chk Chk Chk (!!!) at Empire Garage
Mike Flanigin Trio with Jimmie Vaughan at C-Boy’s
Tameca Jones at Antone’s
Tomar & the FCs, Ray Prim at Continental Club
Delta Spirit, PR Newman, Glass Grapes at Mohawk
New Year’s Eve 1959 at Hotel Vegas
ERA NYE 2019/20: Bring on the 20s at Austin American-Statesman
Akina Adderley, Lex Land Trio at Geraldine’s
Henry + the Invisibles, Sunrise Police, Casual T at North Door
Guy Forsyth, South Austin Moonlighters, David Grissom at Saxon Pub
CandiPop at Parish
Body Rock ATX at Sahara Lounge
Flora & Fawna, Megafauna at Hole in the Wall