Christmas cheer is a cash cow for some musicians, who remake holiday standards in every style from metal to soft jazz and roam the country performing show after holiday show. So where does that leave pop fans this month? Scrounging for some edge.
Thankfully, there's little to no chance we'll hear "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" from mercurial rhymer Lauryn Hill or from the pop-punks of NOFX. One exception: The sight of Paramore at the Jingle Ball might inspire the slightest twinge of joy.
Hot 99.5 Jingle Ball
No one could quibble with last year's inaugural Jingle Ball, which brought Justin Bieber, K-pop phenom Psy and a parade of other stars to the Patriot Center to headline one big aural holiday get-together. This year, we're faced with what might prove to be coal in our Jingle Ball stocking: Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke on the same bill. Again. Stunt casting aside, there's promise in girl-power hero Hayley Williams and her resurrected power-pop band, Paramore; the reunited Fall Out Boy; and sugary R&B singer Jason Derulo.
Buzz factor: 8. Several of the year's major acts on a single bill, plus a few mom-pleasers, add up to a must-see show. Cyrus had one of the biggest records of the year; here's hoping she can keep her tongue in check in the spirit of Christmas and give the kids in the crowd the show they deserve.
Dec. 16 at Verizon Center, 601 F St. NW. www.ticketmaster.com. $50-$250.
After more than 20 years together, NOFX, the sneering elder statesmen of pop-punk remain in a state of suspended adolescence, cranking out one-minute jams and insulting their fans with all the irreverence of 13-year-old boys. They're likely to tell you to take your holiday and shove it, but would you have it any other way?
Buzz factor: 4. NOFX relishes its status as the fame-shunning, heavy-drinking punks to mainstream heroes Green Day. But that also means there's little new to report.
Friday at the Fillmore, 8656 Colesville Rd., Silver Spring. 301-960-9999.
A recent wave of bold, female- fronted punk bands - think Savages, Speedy Ortiz and the Julie Ruin - has made us feel like we're trapped, happily, in a noisy echo chamber from the '90s.
The latest act in this vein is Upstate New York's riotous Perfect Pussy, whose frontwoman, Meredith Graves, is a magnetic combination of feminine and malevolent. The band has released only a four-track recording (and it's on cassette), so to catch a listen of Graves's punk bellowing, you'll have to head to the Black Cat on Monday (a far better option than hunting down a boombox).
Buzz factor: 6. Critics are taken with the band, but without more than a few thrilling, muffled tracks, it's hard to tell whether Graves and Co. can rouse the crowd like the next Bikini Kill.
Monday at the Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW. 202-667-4490. www.blackcatdc.com. $10 in advance, $12 at the door.
Ms. Lauryn Hill
Lauryn Hill's incisive rhyming made for some of the 1990s' most beautiful, cutting rap and R&B. Today, however, any discussion of the Grammy Award-winning singer, whose singular solo album turned 15 this year, is inevitably mired in her enduring public image problem. This time, Hill is hitting the road after being released in October from a Connecticut prison, where she served three months for failing to pay taxes. With the blessing of a judge who agreed to postpone her house arrest, Hill is launching a six-date microtour that lands at the 9:30 Club mid-month.
Buzz factor: 8. After a long silence, Hill dropped two singles the past year, the messy manifestos "Neurotic Society," which she released under reported pressure from her label, and "Consumerism," which hit the Web just before she left prison. All signs point to a comeback for the much-missed rhymer. It's hard to justify Hill's asking price - $75 a ticket - but her kickoff shows in New York last month won raves, so consider scaling back on the Christmas gifts to save up for this concert.
Dec. 15 at the 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW. 202-265-0930. www.930.com. $75.