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Holiday Pops 

DO IT FOR THE KIDS, JERK

Head downtown to Spokane's big rock venue and hear various takes on the big, corporate rock sounds of tomorrow. Four bands will rock relatively hard, but the fun part will be deciding which has the best shot at "making it": each aims to distill its mildly variant pop-rock (dark and cool or bright and cool) into shots of MTV buzz-worthiness. The bands appear to be composed entirely of Warped Tour attendees.

Or head downtown to support Spokane's Change the World, a local nonprofit (www.changetheworld.org).

Change the World curates this event and the idea is pretty simple: The bands make noise, the tickets pay for toys, the toys go to kids who need them, and everyone goes home happy.

"Noise for Toys": Lucid, Seven Cycles, One Fall, London Get Down at the Big Easy on Friday, Dec. 14, at 7 pm. $6. Visit ticketswest.com or call 325-SEAT.

CHRISTIAN POWER POP PUNK

Take a look at Stellar Kart's press photo (myspace.com/stellarkart): four good-looking guys fake-choking each other and flexing their biceps, "just horsing around." With haircuts that fall or swoop up in straight, diagonal lines, the blond one, the chestnut one, the streaked one and the dark-haired one look like *NSYNC just got back from punk rock boot camp.

When Stellar Kart does Christmas music, it sounds like "Punk the Halls." Power chords pummel riff-y mini-anthems, trading between slick Blink-182 verses and fake thug-punk chorus chants. "Punk the halls, three cheers for Christmas -- HEY! HEY! HEY! -- and a ho, ho, ho." Then comes the palm-muted breakdown into "O Come All Ye Faithful." This is what Christmas music sounds like in shopping malls in Phoenix, Arizona.

Stellar Kart at the Service Station on Saturday, Dec. 15, at 7 pm. $15. Call 466-1696.

CHESTNUTS ROASTING ON AN OPEN MIC

Musical open-mic nights are generally mixed bags, but this one is different. Everyone will know every song and everyone will be drunk on wine.

Christmas songs transcend Christianity. They are melodically and lyrically familiar and everybody loves to sing along to them. Sure, they're ostensibly about Jesus. But really, Christmas songs are for average people to experience the sublime comfort of singing perfect, simple songs. Christmas songs are "oldies" -- feel-good music -- but they're not your parents' oldies.

They aren't even your grandparents' oldies. Whether traditional German jam or mid-century pop jingle, all Christmas songs are timeless and they all belong to everyone equally.

At Caterina, people will come out of the audience to cover Christmas hits. Here's betting everyone starts singing along by the end of the night.

All-Ages Open-Mic with host Jacob Butcher at Caterina on Thursday, Dec. 20, at 8 pm. Call 328-5069.

SPOK-FOLK COFFEE CLIQUE

If you live in or around Spokane and care about music, you either know Karli Fairbanks or just aren't paying attention. You'd be forgiven, though, for not knowing about this little yearly project she's been doing since -- well, last year -- getting together her friends (singer/songwriter-types, mostly), but at least one blues band, an alt-country band and a noise/shoe-gaze project made up of former members of TeeVee, to record a Christmas album and put on a holiday show.

Fairbanks has written an excellent Christmas song, "Now That It's Christmas Time." The others on the bill don't seem to be as on the ball -- a few admitted that they hadn't even started -- but we're sure they'll get their act together by next Friday.

Yuletide Songs with Karli Fairbanks, Kaylee Cole, Caroline Fowler, Joel Smith, Zac Fairbanks and the Booze Fighters, Wayne Patrick, Robert Dunn and the North Country, Oil of Angels, Seven Years' Absence and Thomas Bechard at Empyrean on Friday, Dec. 21, at 8 pm. $3-$10. Call 838-9819.

BLACK CHRISTMAS AT the BABY BAR

James Pants and Belt of Vapor are not MySpace friends.

Signed to world-famous rap label Stones Throw Records, the former is Spokane's best DJ, a genre-jumping purist equally obsessed with funky beats and head-scratching novelty gems. A well-listened musicologist with a spiky sense of what makes a "good" record, Pants sees a DJ set as long-form art. He especially enjoys working within skewed parameters of various oddly themed mixes.

Belt of Vapor does metal-math, a garage version of hardcore, angular prog-metal. Guitar lines interweave like cheesecloth, except Belt of Vapor's "cheesecloth" is most people's "lead pipe to the face."The Baby Bar is extremely small, but James Pants and Belt of Vapor like sounds that are extremely large. Cram entirely too much musical voltage into one room and what do you get? Blackout, bitches.

Black Christmas: James Pants and Belt of Vapor at the Baby Bar on Saturday, Dec. 29. Price and time TBA. Call 847-1234.

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