Steer your holiday off the beaten path

dmenconi@newsobserver.comDecember 15, 2012 

  • Last-minute gift ideas Rosebuds, “Christmas Tree Island” ($7.99 at This year’s holiday-music cash-ins include high-profile Christmas albums by Lady Antebellum, Michael Buble, Rod Stewart and “American Idol” Scotty McCreery. But the best one out there is this wonderful little record by local indie-rock duo the Rosebuds. “Christmas Tree Island” is a digital-only release with no corny holiday standards, just catchy pure-pop goodness on 13 originals that hold up to repeated listens. Worth downloading as soundtrack for your Christmas party. Scrap-metal sculptures by Brian Mergenthaler ($30-$100, Buy a literal piece of the Triangle with these very cool figures. Durham sculptor Mergenthaler forages for parts at yard sales, where he buys cast-off appliances. Adding metal he finds out and about, he crafts sculptures that look like bone-machine creatures from the movie “Wall-e.” You can also see his work at the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts (see the “Artists” link at Autumn L.N. Cobeland’s “Greenway Project” posters ($39-$90 each, If you frequent Raleigh’s greenways, you might have a favorite spot. Chances are good you’ll find that spot among the dozen brightly colored landscape paintings by local artist Cobeland, who became familiar with the in-city nature trails while training for triathlons. A portion of the proceeds go to support the greenway system. “Annie: The Musical” walk-on role ($30,000, Alas, you’ve already missed your chance for the ultimate excessive 1-percent Christmas gift – a package including a walk-on role in a Broadway production of the fabled musical and dinner with one of the show’s producers. But only one was available, and it’s been sold. No doubt, next year’s Nieman Marcus catalog will have something similar.
  • More information Staff writer David Menconi

With the holiday season entering the home stretch as Christmas approaches, you might think your entertainment options between now and New Year’s Eve would be nothing but highly solemn Yuletide rituals. Not that there’s anything wrong with seasonal solemnity, but why not try marking the holidays with something a bit less conventional? Like these:

“A Trailer Park Christmas” (through Dec. 23 at Common Ground Theatre, Durham;; $15-$17)

Equal parts “Greater Tuna” and Robert Earl Keen’s bawdy “Merry Christmas From the Family,” “A Trailer Park Christmas” offers a blue-collar take on holiday mayhem. Calamities include tornadoes, ghosts, fruitcake and, of course, families. This is the fifth year it’s been offered at Common Ground.

“Joy – An Irish Christmas” (7 p.m. Tuesday, Durham Performing Arts Center;; $35.25-$66.75)

Here’s a somewhat different spin on holiday music from Keith and Kristyn Getty, best-known as the writing pen and performers behind “In Christ Alone” and other modern hymns. The show will have hymns as well as traditional carols, but also new Irish holiday songs.

“Buy Local Bazaar” (6 p.m. Thursday, Kings Barcade, Raleigh;; free)

Spending your gift-giving dollars locally is always an excellent idea, and here’s the perfect opportunity to do just that. House of Swank, Jade Owl Jewelry and Woodcrafty will be among the area artisans showing and selling their wares.

The Evil Wiener Christmas Show (9 p.m. Thursday, The Cave, Chapel Hill;; free, donations accepted)

Even if you’re terminally jaundiced toward the holidays, the Evil Wiener Christmas Show is an irresistibly charming indie-rock spectacle. For more than a decade, Billy Sugarfix has been dressing as an elf to preside over a holiday extravaganza with his band Evil Wiener. This year’s model includes appearances by Le Pere Fouettard (the French “anti-Santa” who punishes naughty kids) and Krampus the Christmas Devil. But it’s not all lumps of coal. There will also be abundant quantities of candy, carols played on theremin and singing along.

Chatham County Line Electric Holiday Tour (8 p.m. Friday, Haw River Ballroom, Saxapahaw;; $15-$18)

In recent years, Chatham County Line’s annual bluegrass-Christmas show has gotten big enough to outgrow several club venues across the Triangle. This year’s edition moves west to Saxapahaw’s Haw River Ballroom, and it features some good ringers and associates sitting in: Johnny Irion, plus Jay Brown and Zeke Hutchins from Tift Merritt’s band.

Nnenna Freelon/John Brown Christmas (8 p.m. Friday, Carolina Theatre, Durham;; $24-$44)

In the mood to sing along on some Christmas carols? Well ... this won’t be the show for that, because jazz really isn’t sing-along music (just try it sometime in the privacy of your own home, preferably when no one else is around). But it should be mighty fine nevertheless, a live-show version of Brown and Grammy nominee Freelon’s new big-band album, “Christmas.”

Jim Watson, Annual Christmas Show (7 p.m. Friday, The Cave, Chapel Hill;; $8; 7 p.m. Dec. 23 at the Depot, Hillsborough;; free, donations accepted)

Here, however, is where you can get your sing-along ya-ya’s out. This will be the 27th straight year that original Red Clay Rambler Watson plays his Christmas shindig at The Cave, which makes it one of the Triangle’s longest-running annual holiday events. In recent years, Watson has added a satellite version at Hillsborough’s Depot. At both, expect sheet music to get passed around and to do some singin’.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The first day mentioned for Jim Watson's show has been corrected to Friday.

“A Pink Martini Christmas,” Pink Martini with the N.C. Symphony, Von Trapp Family Singers and Ari Shapiro (Friday-Saturday, Meymandi Hall, Raleigh;; $35.25-$88.75)

Pink Martini is a mini-orchestra that plays a highly idiosyncratic style of music drawing from jazz, classical and pop. This show teams the Portland, Or., ensemble with the N.C. Symphony for a holiday show based on “Joy to the World” – Pink Martini’s hyper-eclectic 2010 album featuring oddities such as a Japanese version of “White Christmas,” and “Silent Night” sung partially in Arabic. With the Von Trapp Family Singers (of “The Sound of Music” fame) and Ari Shapiro also on the bill, this is sure to be one of the most unusual holiday-music shows of the season.

Terry Anderson’s OAK Team (9 p.m. Dec. 25, Pour House, Raleigh;; $5)

As it happens, Dec. 25 is the birthday of both Terry Anderson – drummer in a series of iconic local bands including the Woods – and his late bandmate, guitarist David Enloe. So every year, Anderson marks the occasion with a show that is equal parts birthday blowout, wake and wind-down to the day’s festivities. It’s the perfect Christmas nightcap, and it always draws a good crowd since it’s pretty much the only game in town that night.

Menconi: 919-829-4759 or

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service