Winter has finally arrived, and I’m a little sad. Sure, snow is nice to look at and all, but I was really enjoying the extra days of mildness. Global warming? El Ni§o? I don’t care. People who know me, or have even just seen me around town, know that once the time comes to wear hoodies and stocking caps, I can’t seem to help myself. Now I have to wear a damn coat. The worst part about wintertime is the drop in attendance at shows. Pete Yorn put on an excellent show (okay, his bass player might have ruined it a little) last week, but the turnout was way lower than I expected. It’s just so much more appealing to stay in and not fight the cold and the ice and the snow. I do it too, but there are some shows this week that are worth braving the elements. So, get those ice scrapers, scarves and gloves ready.

Thursday night in the twin cities is a very excellent example of how great we have it in terms of musical variety. Great shows from several different genres are happening all over the place. For jazz, Zorba’s (as I often mention) is the place to be on Thursday nights. Gyros and crinkle fries will be in abundance, and Kwyjibo (with what I hope is a great Simpsons reference, from before the show went to shit) will be playing from 9:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. with only a $5 cover. Looking for some hip-hop? The Courtyard (in the Illini Union) will be hosting Once Upon A Rhyme with Krukid, Moses and Sasha for only $4 with a 9 p.m. start. Come on, who doesn’t want to park twelve blocks away and walk in the cold? Want some bluegrass?

A new local grass group, The Flatland String Band, will be playing at Urbana’s Iron Post at 8 p.m. for $5. At the Canopy Club, former Lenny Kravitz sax-man and current leader in the jam band scene, Karl Denson, will be playing a funk/jam set with his trio (9 p.m., $12). For a bit more rocking, Chicago’s Buddy Nuisance will play at Cowboy Monkey with locals The Dakota and Molehill (10 p.m., $5). That’sa pretty impressive lineup around town.

Back and recovering from a nationwide tour, Headlights will pop up on Friday night to play a set at the Courtyard. The Polyvinyl Records band, which will head over to Europe in the new year, is one of the best CU success stories of recent memory – a veritable “combat action force,” if you will. Drummer/programmer Brett Sanderson, with his chiseled features and the beard of a Texas Ranger, has become quite the local sex symbol, often needing security to escort him to the van after the show to keep the screaming girls at bay. Pair him with CU’s newest sex symbol-filled band, Santa, at a show full of youngsters all hopped up on free pizza – you just never know what might happen. “We’ve been keeping an eye on things, and this show could end up being the perfect storm,” said cheesy-snack lover and Headlights member Erin Fein. Guitarist Tristan Wraight was unavailable for comment, but another skinny guy in a trucker hat told the Revue that he’s excited about the free pizza. Headlights and Santa will share the stage with Canadians Shapes and Sizes (Asthmatic Kitty Records) and Chicago band Light Pollution. The show starts at 9 p.m. and is free for UIUC students and $3 for everyone else.

The other big show on Friday is at Cowboy Monkey, where Wisconsin band The Wandering Sons will have a CD release show. The Sons have made quite a name for themselves in CU with excellent songwriting, musicianship and frontman Cory Chisel’s outstanding voice. They will offer their new CD, Little Bird, for the first time. It is an outstanding CD that will surely catapult them to a new level as a band. If you haven’t seen this band yet, now’s the time to do it. This time around they’ll be joined by Cameron McGill and the Quartet Offensive, Noah Harris (of the Elanors) and Ryan Groff (of elsinore). Devotees will recall that in my first week with buzz, I wrote an article about Cameron and his work with the string quartet. You can look that article up at buzz’s online’s archive! Needless to say, this is going to be a night full of outstanding talent. And while no single person on the bill holds a candle to the Brett Sanderson caliber of sexiness, the gross tonnage of man goodness is higher than the Courtyard show. Cory Chisel can pole-dance with the best of them. The show starts at 9:30 p.m., and is $8 – and this is one that I booked.

If you only want to go out for happy hour on Friday, the Iron Post will feature Desafinado, the area’s premier Latin/world beat outfit. It’s even free (5 p.m.). People looking for something a little harder for their evening will find the area’s best hard rock cover band X-Krush at the Highdive with a $5 cover and a 10 p.m. blastoff.

Saturday night at the Iron Post there will be a show with The Beauty Shop, The Tractor Kings and Triple Whip – all three are among my favorite local bands. If you have yet to see the outstanding new Beauty Shop stickers, check out the Champaign of Blogs at http://champaignofblogs.blogspot.com. Triple Whip is coming off of a collaborative Rehearsal Space with hip-hopper Krukid, and the Tractor Kings are at the top of their game lately. Showtime is 10 p.m. and the cover is $5.

Right down the block at the Independent Media Center (IMC), there is a pajama party featuring 15 DJs. The IMC is in the space of the old Urbana post office at Lincoln Square Mall, and for the night they’ll host a BYOB (with ID) show full of pajama-clad people. The cover is $8 ($5 with PJs on) and the shebang will start at 10 p.m. You can bet that Beauty Shop lead singer and gossipmonger John Hoeffleur will be hightailing it from the Iron Post down to this event with PJs and bells on. He gets all giggly when you get him in PJs, I tell you.

Community radio station 90.1 WEFT will host a benefit with Jack Straw and Little Big Fat at the Highdive early on Saturday (6:15 p.m., $8/10). The proceeds from this show will benefit the station’s attempt at finishing a new studio booth. Tune into the station for more details.

Lots of reasons to go out this week (and if you’re in Seattle over the weekend, openingbands.com has listed the show for you!), so take a break from studying and risk the chance of busting your ass on some ice for the chance to see some great live music.

Mike Ingram hates precipitation. He’s a musician and booking agent, and the local music director at 90.1 WEFT. He can be reached at forgottenwords@gmail.com.

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