The holiday season is just about here, which means all the usual cheer, gift wrapping, caroling, sugar consumption, goodwill toward men and five weeks of quality time spent with family and friends. Guest are great and all, but sometimes a pleasant Tuesday evening morphs into a painful eternity over the Scrabble board. Or maybe you— like a significant portion of the Asheville population — work in the service industry, and Tuesday is your Friday.
Never fear: Local clubs, restaurants and listening rooms offer plenty of weeknight activities, many of which are early hours and low-cost or free. Weeknights also offer the added bonus of drink and appetizer specials. Events are geared toward kids, adults, musicians, dancers, wallflowers, comedy fans and people who just want to watch other people get crazy. Can't decide? Try 'em all. We highly recommend that you check out the complete listings of weekly events in Xpress' Clubland, cause there are too many to mention here.
• Contra dance is similar to square dance but without the square formations or the cutesy, his 'n hers outfits. Performed in long lines, dancers get to allamand left, do-si-do and gypsy (a sexy spin that requires locked eyes and zero physical contact) to smokin' old-time/roots music bands. Get some exercise, meet people, have fun. 8 p.m. at the Grey Eagle. $6 at the door. More info at www.oldfarmersball.com or www.thegreyeagle.com.
• Mo Daddy's is home of the Brown Bag Songwriting Competition, hosted by Jenny Greer (of local bohemian folk ensemble Jen and the Juice). Singer/songwriters pay $3 to perform two original songs. The cash gets stashed in a paper bag; three celebrity judges listen to all the crooning and, at the end of the night, award the kitty to the best songwriter. A special installment will be Friday, Dec. 11 for the season finals featuring guest judges. 8-11 p.m. at Mo Daddy's. $3 to enter; sign up at 7:45 p.m. 258-1550.
• Bllled as "Asheville's hometown open mic," this weekly event is both an opportunity for musicians to test drive new material and find an audience, and to jam with one of the area's hardest working singer/songwriters: Pierce Edens. Edens, who usually fronts his gritty Americana outfit The Dirty Work, is also an itinerant solo performer with a faithful following. He acts as host for the Temptations open mic, but is to play his own tunes as well. 9 p.m.-2 a.m. at Temptations' Red Room in downtown Asheville. www.temptationsredroom.com.
• Dedicated to preserving and advancing the big band jazz tradition, the 17-piece Asheville Jazz Orchestra performs everything from swing-era classics to new works by local composers. The group regularly plays educational festivals, but that doesn't mean the ensemble can't get down club-style. In fact, this past August saw the band's one-year anniversary performing Monday nights at West Asheville's Rocket Club. 9-11 p.m. at the Rocket Club. $5. www.ashevillejazz.org.
• If family night sounds a little too kid specific, relax. Asheville Pizza's version offers a little something for everyone. Food and beer for the parents, board games, the Balloon Guy and free sundaes for kids. 5-8 p.m at the Asheville Pizza Company's Merrimon Avenue location. www.ashevillepizza.com.
• Brand new jams: The alternating old-time (first and third Tuesdays) and ukulele (second and fourth Tuesdays) jams at Laurey's Catering and Gourmet to Go provides a casual atmosphere for musicians of all skill levels (at least in the ukulele jam, led by Kon Tiki's Lin Luellyn, beginners are in the majority) to learn a few chords and pick a few tunes. Plus, Laurey's deli-style counter stays open til 8 p.m., providing delectable munchies. 5:30-8 p.m. at Laurey's in downtown Asheville. Free. www.laureysyum.com.
• Think you can dance? Try swing or tango on Tuesday nights at Eleven on Grove, the upstairs part of the downtown Grove House. There are 6 and 7 p.m. dance lessons, followed by live music for you to test your new skills. Also, the venue boasts salsa and mambo dances on Friday evenings, with free lessons at 10:30 p.m. Newbies and pros alike get together to sweat a little and get down. Full calendar at www.elevenongrove.com.
• Bob Hinkle, owner of Black Mountain's White Horse, describes the weekly Irish jam like this: "It's a group of as many as 20 who all show up every week. Fiddlers, guitarists, pipers: Everything it takes to make an authentic Celtic sound." Though the music is exacting and practitioners strive for traditional accuracy, beginners will find the jam a great place to listen and learn, while intermediate to advanced players are welcome to contribute to the sound. Says Hinkle, "I've never seen anyone turned away." Worth noting: The Irish jam is followed by the White Horse open mic at 8:45 p.m. when area singer/songwriters try out new material. 6:30-8:30 p.m. at White Horse Black Mountain. No cover. www.whitehorseblackmountain.com.
• Will Ray's Mountain Jam is, according to Feed & Seed owner Phillip Trees, "a best-kept secret." It's also a bit of a coup for the area: When guitarist Will Ray of The Hellecasters relocated to Asheville, he wanted to give something back to the community. So he created the root music-based jam where he and his house band (Sons of Ralph's Lewis brothers) perform a handful of songs. After that, musicians can sign up to join the band for two songs. "David Holt showed up last week," Trees reveals. The old-time musician and TV host performed on steel guitar. On another occasion an audience member requested "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" and got to play it along with Ray's stellar lineup. 7:30-9:30 p.m. at Feed & Seed in Fletcher. No cover, donations go to the house band. www.feedandseednc.com.
• Songwriters in the Round is not exactly a new concept, but it is a new weekly installation at Jack of the Wood. (Other offerings at Jack of the Wood include a Thursday bluegrass jam and a Sunday Celtic jam; some jams have been going for 12 years). Music booker Peggy Ratusz, a performer herself, realized that so many local singer/songwriters were vying for just a handful of gigs at Jack, that adding the weeknight event gave up-and-coming musicians a platform while also providing a traditional music-and-socializing atmosphere for pub patrons.
"Every now and then somebody gets it right and just stops the moment," says owner Joe Eckert. For him, it was a recent song by Leigh Glass. How the new weekly session works is, two male and two female singer/songwriters — often players who've never worked together before — are selected by Ratusz. They each take a turn playing an original tune, though there are no collaborations on stage. The Songwriters in the Round evenings mean with four performers on stage, there's probably a perfect song for every listener — and it's strictly local.
And there's crossover with another The Dec. 15 installment will bring the winners of November's Brown Bag Songwriter's Competition at Mo Daddy's. For performers looking to participate in the Jack of the Wood songwriter nights, contact Ratusz at firstname.lastname@example.org. 8-10 p.m. at Jack of the Wood. Tips encouraged.
• Part open mic, part "The Gong Show," Tomato Tuesdays are an audience participatory comedy event. Stand up comedians get a set amount of time to perform. If the comic runs long, the audience can throw a tomato (relax, they're stuffed) at a gong set up on stage. The audience can also toss tomatoes early, but there's a price: The tomato thrower has to buy the offed comedian a drink. Everyone is welcome to perform or watch. 8 p.m. at the New French Bar. $3 gets you in + a basket of tomatoes.
• Hosted by local musician Mars Farris, Bluesday Tuesday has turned out more than a few good blues licks. Local singer/songwriter Dave Wendelin just released a debut album with songs inspired by the jam session. Tween guitar prodigy Zeppelin Murray cut his teeth (perhaps literally) at the jams. 9:30 p.m. at Westville Pub. www.westvillepub.com.
• You may not have known that Asheville has its own weekly Funk Jam, but the smokin' session (featuring members of the Asheville Horns, Strut, Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band and Laura Reed & Deep Pockets) happens each Tuesday. Sometimes a touring musician makes a showing (check out YouTube for video of Zach Deputy setting in earlier this year); sometimes it's just the cream of the crop of local artists, laying down deep grooves and bawdy beats. 10 p.m. at Emerald Lounge. www.myspace.com/emeraldlounge.
• Looking for jazz in all the wrong places? Try Tressa's on Tuesdays for Chuck Lichtenburger's regular "Evening of Jazz" event, featuring a bevy of special guests and taking on the music of different jazz greats every week (think: Sonny Rollins, Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock). Free. www.tressasdowntownjazzandblues.com.
• According to the group's MySpace page, "The Screaming Js boogie the night away." In-person reports confirm this. An open jam starts things off from 8-10 p.m., followed by celebratory mayhem with the Js. A super group of sorts, the Js include the Blue Rags' Jake Hollifield, Mike Gray and Henry Westmoreland from Firecracker Jazz Band, Mad Tea Party's Jason Krekel, and J.P. Hess of the Greenfields. The evening brings an interesting mix of deep cuts from ragtime and old blues to country and rockabilly, all given a Screaming Js spin. Wear your dancing shoes. 8 p.m. at Mo Daddy's. Free. www.myspace.com/screamingjaysday.
• Sweaty dancing, synth pop, that one song by Modern English… it's more than a Wednesday night happening, it's an institution. It's also Asheville's longest-running '80s night. In fact, this particular '80s night has been running since not all that long after the 1980s ended, and remains packed, sweaty and a place to see and be seen. 10 p.m. at Broadway's. 285-0400.
• The bluegrass jam at Marshall's Zuma Coffee is noteworthy enough to be listed among BluegrassBanjo.org's jam locations. Bobby Hicks (formerly of Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys; currently the fiddler with Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder) is a regular at the sessions — so regular in fact that a Zuma's representative insisted "He's here every week unless he's out of town." Hicks has a following, too — expect a crowd of up to 20 musicians packing Zuma's modest space. Want to eat first? Aim to arrive by 6:30 p.m. to order dinner. 7 p.m. at Zuma on Main Street in Marshall. zumacoffee.blogspot.com or 649-1617.
• Strains of exotic music, the scent of toasted cumin, spicy chutneys and cool lassi drinks — what better to accompany an evening of India dining than live belly dancing? Mela Indian restaurant thought the same thing. Sure, Bollywood films go a long way toward setting the far-flung/well traveled mood, but Mela goes a step farther with musicians and dancers performing one night each week. 7:30 p.m. at Mela www.melaasheville.com or 225-8880.