As the eye of the storm that is The Holidays inches toward us, millions across the country are ironing out the minute details of their family gatherings. Party hosts are buying stocking stuffers, drawing up Christmas dinner seating charts to avert personality conflicts and planning vegetarian dishes for that one strange grandkid. Meanwhile, Rebelles member Emily Rose Kasinecz is getting ready to welcome a very different sort of family to The Grey Eagle.
This family is bound not by blood, but by music. “Asheville has such a variety of performers, musicians and otherwise. We just thought it would be a good idea to bring them all together,” offers Kasinecz, explaining why she created the “Holiday Showcase Snowdown.” Kasinecz is co-producing the night’s performance with Chris Damiano, an Italian folk musician who performs under the name “The Cristobalman.”
If the show is the music scene’s equivalent of Christmas dinner, it wouldn’t be complete without an out-of-town guest. Damiano fills that role. A native of Manduria, Italy (“in the heel of the boot,” he says), Damiano is on an extended visit to Asheville, a trip inspired by a European meeting with members of the Snake Oil Medicine Show.
“They told me about the musical community in Asheville and I wanted to come here and play here,” he says.
Upon arrival, Damiano began collaborating with different musicians, some of whom will be performing at the Snowdown. Featured in the show will be The Rebelles and their back-up band The Pheremones; Angry Kettle, a side project of old-time act Mad Tea Party; Speedsquare; the Cristobalman; barroom rhythm-and-bluesters the Screamingjays, and one-off acts featuring members of these groups.
“It’s going to be a real cabaret medley,” declares Kasinecz. “One of the most exciting things of it is taking these different bands and melding them with other groups. It’ll be a real smorgasbord.”
A smorgasbord indeed: With each group performing four to six songs and putting on skits and comedy acts between sets, the show promises a much-needed antidote to the ubiquitous Christmas standards that usually serve as the soundtrack for the holiday season.
Jason Krakel, perhaps best known for his work in The Mad Tea Party, will stay busy at the Snowdown, playing violin with The Cristobalman and guitar with headliners The Screaming Jays and Angry Kettle. Krakel is looking forward to the crossover show.
“Our scene is pretty damn diverse,” Krakel says. “As labels create more genres within genres, it gets more diverse everyday: ‘Do you play ’80s metal or dark metal? Do you play round-peak old-time or Kentucky-style old-time? Western swing or honky-tonk? The community atmosphere thrives between bands, but a lot of musicians get tunnel vision, and don’t necessarily interact across genres.”
Krakel reports Angry Kettle will be doing its part to tear down genre walls by unleashing a set of “acoustic goth-metal renditions of sarcastic holiday numbers.”
While goth-metal and a burlesque act certainly aren’t typical yuletide fare, the show itself is awash in Christmas spirit. In accordance with The Rebelles’ credo — “For a Good Cause, Wrongdoing May be Virtuous” — all concert proceeds are going to the YMI Cultural Center’s Youth Jazz Ensemble.
“We went to see them the other day and they sounded pretty good,” Kasinecz reports. “Asheville is a growing community, but I think it’s important that we maintain one of the wonderful reasons that a lot of us moved here: That’s because there’s really cool music and performance art, and it can keep growing. It doesn’t have to become homogenized like any other art scene. Keeping things like this going is absolutely crucial.”
[Freelance writer and cartoonist Ethan Clark is a frequent contributor to Xpress.]
The Holiday Showcase Snowdown takes place at The Grey Eagle on Wednesday, Dec. 20. 8 p.m. $10. Proceeds benefit the YMI Cultural Center’s Youth Jazz Ensemble. 232-5800.