Our Weekly Picks: December 14-20



The Christmas Ballet

Not everyone is nutty enough to celebrate the nuclear family during the holidays. But that's no reason not to go out and party. Smuin Ballet is a good place to start. The core of the late Michael Smuin's The Christmas Ballet stays pretty much the same — classical music and (more or less) classical dancing in the first half, and a marvelous-fun, stylistically allover the place second half. Some ingredients have become classics: Santa Baby, Surfer, and Drummer Boy, among others. Every year, however, there are premieres. This December they are by Amy Seiwert and Robert Sund. (Rita Felciano)

Through Dec. 23, times vary

8 p.m., $25–$62

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

701 Mission St. SF





Baths is 22-year-old electronic musician Will Wiesenfeld. Like many lumped into the chillwave category, Wiesenfeld recorded his debut album Cerulean (Anticon) in his bedroom. Cerulean is a soft and fuzzy collection of melodic, piano-driven love songs endowed with the contemporary flair of inventive rhythms and eclectic samples. The album features lots of strange, distant vocals and some unlikely cameos by clicking pens and rustling blankets. Weisenfeld's music feels lukewarm, relaxing, laid-back. It's like, well, warm baths. (Frances Capell)

With Dntel and Raliegh Moncrief

8 p.m., $18


333 11th St., SF

(415) 255-0333



Emmett Otter's Jugband Christmas

With the Muppets currently making their highly anticipated comeback in movie theaters, Bay Area fans are in for a special treat, a trip down memory lane to Frogtown Hollow with screenings of 1977's Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas. Featuring a cast of beloved furry and felt-covered magical creations of the Jim Henson Company, the film tells the tale of the adorable Ma Otter and her son, who both secretly enter a musical talent contest to win money to buy each other presents for Christmas. Hosted by Kermit the Frog, the talent show is propelled by a variety of foot-stomping musical numbers, and punctuated by the young otter's heartwarming realization that family is the greatest gift of all. (Sean McCourt)

7:30 p.m.; Dec. 18, 2 p.m., $8

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

701 Mission, SF

(415) 978-2787



Yip Deceiver

Think of Yip Deceiver as Of Montreal's wicked cousin. Of Montreal multi-instrumentalist Davey Pierce has borrowed the band's poppiest elements and let them run wild on his electronic side project. Lots of synthesizers and infectious hooks inform the retro dance blow-out that is Yip Deceiver. It's like an Of Montreal that's been fed party drugs and handed a glowstick. A naughtier, sweatier Of Montreal. "Dance like you've got no soul," Pierce commands on Yip Deceiver's "Sadie Hawkins Day." (Capell)

With Shock, Loose Shus, and Tres Lingerie

8 p.m., $6

Milk Bar

1840 Haight, SF

(415) 387-6455



Loco Dice

Dusseldorfer techno DJ Loco Dice is kind of the alpha male of the underground dance scene. Not just because of his sculpted physique, impeccable five o'clock shadow, forceful opinions, and tendency to fill parties up with expensive sunglasses and hot chicks. No, it's his refreshingly muscular style that elicits awe — he can make anybody's record sound like his body-pumping own during a set, and his residencies on Ibiza helped add some speaker-engulfing German power to the island's signature Spanish-samba techno sound. (The party line on this talent is that his years spent playing hip-hop cultivated a certain transformative energy.) Don't write him off as some Jersey Shore Ibizan, though. Loco Dice also brings a roving ear and polished intelligence to the decks, as well as the kind of improvisatory magic only a live setting, and pulsing psychic conversation with the dancers, can provide. (Marke B.)

10 p.m., $15–$25


85 Campton, SF



Dinosaur Jr.

Of all the pioneering alternative rock groups dragging out their old albums in their entirety, Dinosaur Jr. could easily have kept the past quarantined away. In the seven-odd years since J. Mascis and Lou Barlow put aside a long standing grudge, the band has been operating at peak form, releasing acclaimed albums including 2007's Beyond and 2009's Farm. The current tour, however, finds Dino looking back and performing 1988's Bug, an album remembered for shredded guitars ("Freak Scene") and destroyed vocal cords ("Don't") as much as a tour that resulted in the band's unceremonious break-up. Former SST labelmate, Henry Rollins, will be on hand for a Q&A looking back on the era, and perhaps lay some issues to rest (Ryan Prendiville)

With Pierced Arrows

8 p.m., $32.50


1850 Geary, SF

(415) 346-6000




Slow Hands

Slow food, slow cooking, slow money, slow living ... why not a slow house movement? Well, at least "slow" in the non-metaphoric sense: NYC DJ Slow Hands was at the vanguard of a dance music moment that a couple of years ago began to slow house music tempos down to a sultry 100 beats per minute from the standard 120bpm. Sometimes he'd play slower tunes from outside the usual dance realm, sometimes he'd actually just slow down the records themselves. (The Moombahton genre followed the second method soon afterwards, slowing Dutch Euro-techno down to reggaeton speed.) But Slow Hands slow never equals boring. His mixes move with the hypnotic complexity of a dream machine, full of dubby effects, chugging momentum, and entrancing riffs. He may not even play slow at all, blasting off into wondrously ecstatic underground pop if the room feels it. Read my interview with him at www.sfbg.com/slowhands (Marke B.)

9 p.m., $15 before midnight, $20 after

Beat Box

314 11th St., SF.



A Child's Christmas in Wales

Dylan Thomas's prose poem A Child's Christmas in Wales should stand alongside Dickens' A Christmas Carol as one of the seasonal classics. It tells the story of a Welsh boy's Christmas with witty anecdotes and rich language, reviving an earlier time "before the motor car" when everything — even the snow which "came shawling out of the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands and bodies of the trees" — was unspoiled and dreamlike. Originally written for a BBC radio broadcast, the poem became a children's book after Thomas's death in 1953. This short film adaptation from 1963 was produced by Marvin Lightner and uses the bold and theatrical original recording by Thomas. (James H. Miller)

2 p.m., $15


3601 Lyon, SF

(415) 561-0360



"One-Minute Play Festival"

One of the shortest plays on record is Samuel Beckett's Breath — it runs somewhere between 20 and 30 seconds and, from beginning to end, consists purely of sounds of a child crying, followed by heavy breathing, light changes, and a stage cluttered with trash. Not even Beckett attempted to put actors in the terse script. But at the One-Minute Play Festival, they do use actors. With more than 80 one-minute plays written specifically for the occasion, over 30 actors and five directors, the two-day festival provides quite the jarring experience. In 60 seconds, you can probably do little more than read this short article and blow your nose. But by that time at the festival, you would have already seen a contemporary drama. (Miller)

8 p.m.; Dec. 18, 2 and 7 p.m., $20

Thick House

1695 18th St., SF

(415) 626-2176




Growing up, skate-punk trailblazer Lagwagon was a pretty big deal for me. In the band's heyday, Lagwagon's frontman Joey Cape was the poster boy for teenage fuck-ups everywhere. The band may have been made up of a bunch of slackers, but its music became the definitive sound of Fat Wreck Chords and inspired countless skate-punk bands to follow in its footsteps. I'd kind of forgotten about Lagwagon until I found out it was re-releasing five of its albums from the '90s this year. For those of us who downloaded all its music on Napster and spent our allowance money on 40s, it's payback time. (Frances Capell)

With Druglords of the Avenues and Heartsounds

9 p.m., $22


333 11th St., SF

(415) 255-0333




Pinback tends not to burst into moments of wild intensity, but it doesn't dwell on the lower end of things either. It finds, rather, a comfortable space between the two, much like the Sea and Cake, with whom it shares a similar texture and mood. Formed in the late 1990s as a side project by Zach Smith and Rob Crow after Smith's band Three Mile Pilot went on hiatus, the San Diego band released its self-titled debut in 1999. In 2007, the band released Autumn of the Seraphs — an instant classic Pinback album that's spearheaded by Smith and Crow's complementary vocals and rhythmic guitar work. Since then, the band has been relatively quiet on the recording end, but it hasn't yet renounced the tour bus. (Miller)

With Ghetto Blaster

10 p.m., $20

Bottom of the Hill

1233 17th St., SF

(415) 621-4455



"Santa's Cool Holiday Film Festival"

Something is happening to the children of Mars. Hooked on TV programs beamed from nearby Earth, they can't eat or sleep — they've become fixated on foreign concepts like "playing with toys" and "Christmas." After consulting with the planet's resident 800-year-old wise man, Martian leaders come up with a solution: "We need a Santa Claus on Mars." Interstellar kidnapping ahoy! Forget A Christmas Story (1983) — it's all about 1965's Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, an outrageously low-budget fruitcake of spunky kids, robot henchmen, bloop-bloop "space age" sound effects, zapping rays, a German-accented rocket expert, a villain with a mustache, and (naturally) a heartwarming final message about the true spirit of Christmas. This screening also features retro holiday cartoons and trailers, plus a toy drive hosted by the San Francisco Firefighter's Toy Program. Hooray for Santy Claus! (Cheryl Eddy)

1:30 p.m., $7.50–$10 ($5 admission for children who contribute a new, unwrapped toy)

Castro Theatre

429 Castro, SF

(415) 621-6120



Zach Rogue

As an atheist gentile, I don't know much about Judaism. But I do know that by the midpoint of December the bombardment of everything X-mas has me eyeing all the non-Christian events possible. Luckily, the Idelsohn Society has set up the Tikva Records pop-up shop, a non-red and white, non-ringing of the bells oasis. For the beginning of "the Festival of Lights" (Thanks Wikipedia!), local singing songwriter Zach Rogue, of indie-rock outfit Rogue Wave and recent project Release the Sunbird, will inaugurate the festivities with a performance and candle lighting. Candle lighting? I've got to see this. (Prendiville)

7 p.m., donation suggested (RSVP online)

Tikva Records

3191 Mission, SF

(415) 713-0649



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