"A Joyful Noise"
8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10
The Howlin' Wolf, 907 S. Peters St., 522-WOLF; www.thehowlinwolf.com
We will probably be inundated with benefits in the coming months, but there will hardly ever be any sense of overkill when it comes to the notion of restoring this city to any sense of normalcy (however THAT's defined). So hopefully, the bands will keep playing on. And we're eternally grateful, as we're suddenly starved for local music and flock to wherever it is. This benefit, "A Joyful Noise: Musicians for the Children of New Orleans," features a stellar lineup: Anders Osborne, George Porter Jr., Galactic's Stanton Moore, Cowboy Mouth's Fred LeBlanc, the funky Meters' Russell Batiste Jr., Bonerama's Mark Mullins, Shannon McNally (pictured), Brian Coogan, Mack Starks, Lauren Bennett, and a special appearance by Drivin N Cryin's Kevn Kinney, among others. The benefit, presented by Don Kelly Productions, will use proceeds to buy gifts for kids at Children's Hospital and other nonprofit groups. Tickets $25. — David Lee Simmons
Media Darlings Showcase
9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10
One Eyed Jacks, 615 Toulouse St., 569-8361; www.oneeyedjacks.net
The artists' collective known as Media Darling Records has been carrying the flag for enlightened hip-hop in New Orleans for the last few years. This summer, the label enjoyed a higher profile when Galactic took DJ Quickie Mart, Know-One and Bionik Brown on tour with them to open the shows and join them for part of the funk-rock group's set. This was in addition to regular DJ gigs for Quickie Mart at Nick's and Handsome Willy's, DJ Lady Fingaz at Rasputin's Vodka Bar, and Quickie Mart and Know-One's involvement in the New Libation Orchestra. All this helped make Media Darling artists the kind of major players in the day-to-day New Orleans music scene that better-known rappers haven't been. Unfortunately, Hurricane Katrina washed away some of those venues and all of those gigs, and floodwaters destroyed more than 3,000 of Quickie Mart's albums. Nonetheless, he and Lady Fingaz were invited to Memphis to play on Beale Street as part of the Voodoo Music Experience's weekend festivities. The charms of the Media Darling artists come from old-school rap — wit, verbal and physical dexterity and a clear-eyed, inclusive vision. Sadly, the label is going through some tough changes as it decides what comes next. Some artists have yet to return, and Quickie Mart and Lady Fingaz are moving to Los Angeles at the end of the year. Call club for cover. — Alex Rawls
"An Exultation of Angels" 4 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 11
Christ Church Cathedral, 2919 St. Charles Ave., 895-1972; www.nomdc.org
New Orleans Musica da Camera (MDC), the oldest early-music ensemble in North America, has more than one reason to celebrate its 40th season. Not only is the ensemble just happy to be around as a cultural institution, MDC also welcomes back almost all of its singers — and all but one of its instrumentalists — from the storm to go all Medieval on its listeners. The second holiday concert will be held at Christ Church Cathedral. The concert also commemorates the bicentennial of the church, where MDC has performed over the years. "An Exultation of Angels" should sound pretty familiar to hardcore MDC fans; the piece was last performed more than 30 years ago. This spruced-up version will feature the dulcet tones of Vox Feminae, the troupe's female component, along with a new fledgling men's vocal ensemble, MDC instrumentation and the ringing of sparkling bells. Free admission. — Simmons
Celebration in the Oaks preview party
7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 7; holiday light show Dec. 9-30
City Park, Botanical Garden/Storyland, 722-6505; www.neworleanscitypark.com/cito.php
Why? Because this is what we do. We are creatures of habit, we New Orleanians, and now more than ever we crave the routine, the reliable, the "normal." And the fun, and the É what's the word? Oh, "celebration." If Thanksgiving weekend's second line and party proved anything, it's not only that we New Orleanians can still celebrate, but also that we need to celebrate. And, regardless of our circumstances, we still got it, and know how to use it.
And here comes the holiday season, just in time, really, and for New Orleanians that most often means the Celebration in the Oaks inside City Park. Bruised and battered, City Park sustained $42 million in damages thanks to Hurricane Whatshername, but the remaining staff of 22 (out of 240) along with volunteers will still put on a show starting with Wednesday's preview party from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Fireworks kick in at 8 p.m., food will be provided by local restaurants, with music by the Bucktown All-Stars, the Original Last Straws, Old Man River Band and others.
Then, on Friday, the lights kick on full time with a heartwarming array of familiar sights: James Rice's "The Cajun Night Before Christmas" display, with a south Louisiana version of the classic tale; the "Laser Light Show," with holiday-themed animation and music in the Azalea Garden; the legendary Mr. Bingle, no longer on Canal Street but still going strong; and much more. Yeah, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Oh, and this year's scaled-down version is a walking tour only. With gas prices the way they are, why not? You can even break into a run on Saturday's 4 p.m. Celebration in the Oaks Run/Walk if so inspired. The tour will close Dec. 24-25 but continue through Dec. 30. Tour tickets $5; kids ages 3-under admitted free.
Tickets to the preview party are $50 and are available at the door or in advance between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. at the City Park Tennis Center. — Simmons