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In the Spirit

A Lucero homecoming party leads a slate of local Christmas concerts.

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This week, a healthy portion of the Memphis rock scene will embrace the spirit of the season and stage Christmas-themed gigs at various venues around town. Perhaps the highest profile of these holiday shows is this Thursday, December 23rd, when the notoriously road-dogging local favorites Lucero make a now relatively rare appearance in town for their "First Annual Lucero Family Holiday Party" at Minglewood Hall.

Lucero has spent the better part of 2010 supporting their latest record, 1372 Overton Park, on the road. The band played approximately 200 shows this year, capped off by a highly successful nine-week run with Orange County punk legends Social Distortion.

"We didn't know what to expect going out with them," says guitarist Brian Venable. "It was a different experience for us, being the opening act for a bigger band. It was weird at times, playing so early and with heavy barricades between us and the fans. But it was great to play in front of so many new people."

After a brief break for the holidays, the band will return to the road for a seven-week West Coast run (five weeks of which will also be with Social Distortion), starting in mid-January. After that, they hope to quickly record a new album in Memphis before cranking it back up again for a spot on the WARPED Tour this summer.

For now, however, the band is looking forward to a homecoming gig in Memphis.

"It's always fun to be able to come back and see people," Venable says. "Every once in a while, it really sinks in that this is not just another town. This is our home."

It also will be a homecoming gig of sorts for singer-songwriter Cory Branan, who opens the show for Lucero. Branan, a Southaven native and former Memphian who was most recently based out of Austin, has also toured extensively this year, performing more than 150 dates in the U.S. and Europe, including stints with Dashboard Confessional, Drag the River, and Austin Lucas.

"I basically haven't been home since May," Branan says. "I honestly don't even know where I'm going to live once all the shows are over."

Branan currently is shopping his newest studio record to labels and hopes to have it released by the spring. He's also contemplating a possible return to Tennessee sometime next year, albeit to Nashville.

"I've met a lot of interesting and successful country songwriters from Nashville, and I think I might want to throw my hat in that ring," Branan says. "I wouldn't mind being a part of making mainstream country radio better."

Also on the books for Thursday is the free "Girls of the Gravitron Christmas Extravaganza" at the Hi-Tone Café.

Girls of the Gravitron is the slightly more tuneful and conventional (in a good way) incarnation of local indie/art-rock scene fixture Cole Weintraub (also of Drugwars). The group's debut record, Magnetic Mountain (released earlier this year by the Danish label Miss Lonelyhearts Records), may be the year's most overlooked and underrated local music product. The band's live show can be hit-or-miss, but for the low-risk investment price of zero dollars, it's more than worth the gamble. Joining Girls of the Gravitron will be up-and-coming psych/garage-rockers Kruxe and lo-fi mainstays the Limes.

Christmas Day presents three diverse options for local music fans looking to get out of the house after a day of familial obligations (or what have you). Local indie rockers Snowglobe will once again pick up the gauntlet for their annual Christmas show, now an eight-year tradition at the Hi-Tone Café. Quirky indie-poppers Star & Micey will play the Blue Monkey in Midtown, along with This Is Goodbye. And the venerable local jam/roots institution the Minivan Blues Band will hold court at Newby's.

Christmas Concerts

• The "Lucero Family Holiday Party" with Cory Branan is Thursday, December 23rd, at Minglewood Hall. Showtime is 8 p.m. Admission is $18. A portion of the proceeds goes to MIFA's Meals on Wheels program.

The Cody Dickinson Project plays a free after-party at the 1884 Lounge at 11:30 p.m.

• "Girls of the Gravitron Christmas Extravaganza" with Kruxe and the Limes is Thursday, December 23rd, at the Hi-Tone Café. Showtime is 10 p.m. Free.

• The "8th Annual Snowglobe Christmas Show" with the Pirates is Saturday, December 25th, at the Hi-Tone Café. Showtime is 10 p.m. $7.

• This Is Goodbye and Star & Micey play on Saturday, December 25th, at the Blue Monkey (Midtown) at 10 p.m.

• "25th Annual Newby's Christmas Night Party" with the Minivan Blues Band on Saturday, December 25th. Showtime is 9 p.m.

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