Saturday 25

ROY DAVIS JR. In the past couple years, house producer Roy Davis Jr. has lost his mother and struggled through a divorce. He’d hoped to release Chicago Forever (Ubiquity), a musical homage to his hometown, in fall 2003, but with all the turmoil in his life it didn’t come out till this September, after he’d moved to LA. The four-on-the-floor kick of house pulsates through every track, but Davis also dives headfirst into 70s soul and disco, adding lush layers of keyboards, guitar, and strings. With a guest vocalist on nearly every track, this is easily Davis’s most substantial recording–a lot of this stuff holds up just fine outside the club. Davis will spin at “Boogie Down Christmas 6,” a night of dance music at Metro and Smart Bar that also features DJ Funk, Derrick Carter, DJ Heather, Mike Dearborn, and others. 10 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $21 in advance, $26 day of show, 18+. On Thursday, December 23, Davis spins a headlining set at Zentra, 923 W. Weed; see listings for details. –Peter Margasak

Tuesday 28

DANIEL GIVENS On his second album, Dayclear & First Dark (Aesthetics), producer and ex-Chicagoan Daniel Givens uses more purely electronic settings than he has in the past for his somber, quasi-poetic musings. Fellow Chicago expat Matana Roberts plays sax on one track and Semay Wu plays cello on two more; but mostly stuttering beats, liquid synthetic bass, and spare ambient drift envelop his spoken-word meditations on the twin psychic obstacles that gay black men face in America. His phrasing is sometimes wooden and clunky, but his soundscapes are more sympathetic than the predominantly live instrumentation on Age, his 2000 debut album. It should be interesting to hear how Givens’s new material is handled at this show, which reunites him with some old collaborators: bassist Josh Abrams, guitarist Jeff Parker, and flutist Nicole Mitchell. DJs Bunny Ears and Joel Kriske (Pulseprogramming) and DJ Bob (Pal:ndrom) play opening sets. Givens also DJs January 3 at Danny’s. 9 PM, Sonotheque, 1444 W. Chicago, 312-226-7600, $5. –Peter Margasak

MUSTARD PLUG The rise and fall of fads is a natural part of pop-music ecology; it’s at low tide that you can really sort out the true believers from the dilettantes. Mustard Plug’s first album came out 12 years ago in the midst of the third-wave ska hype, and now, dogged as any Deadheads, they’re still at it, headlining the Midwest Ska Fest. They’re also still working Yellow #5 (2002), but roof-raising live shows are what it’s all about with this lot anyhow. Deal’s Gone Bad, Dan Potthast, Los Vicious de Papa, Plunket, and DJ Chuck Wren open. 6 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $12. All ages. –Monica Kendrick

Wednesday 29

GREG CAHILL & DON STIERNBERG Banjoist Greg Cahill and multi-instrumentalist (but mostly mandolinist) Don Stiernberg go all over the place on Blue Skies (1992) and Night Skies (1999), the two albums they’ve recorded together. Playing swing, hot jazz, and quick-flashing mutant jams, the duo shoots well beyond Bill Monroe’s blue moon of Kentucky. Cahill is a member of the three-decade-old bluegrass institution Special Consensus and a teacher at the Old Town School of Folk Music; Stiernberg also teaches and has accompanied everyone from Johnny Frigo to Robbie Fulks. 8 PM, FitzGerald’s, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn, 708-788-2118 or 312-559-1212, $10. –Monica Kendrick

THE NEW UP Formerly known as Sunfire Pleasure, these San Franciscans are plugging a self-released debut CD, Sunfire Pleasure. They’re resourceful–on record, trippy eruptions, retro-funk wacka-wacka, dance thumps, and Pretenders-ish new wave combine busily and at odd angles. But though they’ve got the skills and the ideas, they haven’t yet synthesized them into a unique voice. Bill Smith Band opens. 9 PM, Martyrs’, 3855 N. Lincoln, 773-404-9494 or 800-594-8499, $6. –Monica Kendrick

REDWALLS People talk about the Beatles-ish leanings of this Deerfield band’s 2003 debut, Universal Blues, but I hear other antecedents too: there’s a certain polished rambliness–a bit of Small Faces here, maybe a sprinkling of Bowie there–to some of the extremely coverlike originals. This quality is a little more prominent on the two rough cuts I’ve heard from their forthcoming major-label debut (due mid-2005 on Capitol), but the overall effect is more of the same: young guys playing stuff that sounds much older than they are with a spooky ease and confidence. Baby Teeth, the New Constitution, and DJ Poseur open. 7 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $10. All ages. See also Thursday. –Monica Kendrick

VIRGINIA COALITION These four high school buddies from Alexandria put a regional spin on the standard jam-band model: their second album, Rock and Roll Party (DCN/Koch), shows a willingness to customize their tentacled, oscillating Technicolor with a little DC go-go and some NASCAR-rally boogie. But their first allegiance is to the jam itself, in all its honky-funky, wet-noodling, group-hugging, instrument-switching, taping-encouraged glory. Pomeroy opens. 7 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, $13.50 in advance, $15 at the door. All ages. –Monica Kendrick

Thursday 30

ASSASSINS This mostly local band–whose songwriting process involves the exchange of audio files between several Chicago members and a New York contingent–made a really good album for Arista in 2002. Then their deal evaporated, and they’re still trying to find the disc a good home. It straddles 80s synth fizz, 90s trip-hop, and good old-fashioned candy-apple-red pop, and a few tracks are as lethally catchy as Animotion’s “Obsession”–sometimes you can’t tell if you love ’em or hate ’em, and yes, that’s a compliment. Plastic Crimewave Sound and Woman Is the New Man open. 7 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $10. A Members of the Assassins spin upstairs at Schubas after the show; it’s free, but you still have to be 21. –Monica Kendrick

PLASTIK EXPLOSIVES This quintet rose from the smelly, lung-choking ashes of the Mashers, one of the area’s most violent garage bands. On a three-song demo, ex-Mashers Matt V. and Paul D. hook up with veterans of the Repos, Tall Dark Strangers, and the Hobo Knives for some deceptively sloppy post-post-post-MC5 dirty rock that sounds like it’s being played with appendages besides hands. The Dutchmen headline; Locked Sound plays second. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $7. –Monica Kendrick

REDWALLS See Wednesday. Manishevitz and DJ Matt Fields open. 9:30 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433, $10 suggested donation.