Is the Leonard Cohen classic, "Hallelujah," a Christmas song?
That's what the Arlington, Texas-based a cappella group Pentatonix would have you believe, seeing as their cover of the immortal tune is now creeping into Christmas music playlists. The five-piece that sells a boatload of holiday-themed music and that just performed a sold-out show at the Smart Financial Centre at Sugar Land has somehow blasphemed a song with heavenly themes.
Yes, it's a song about religion. It's also a song about a devastating breakup. It is also a song about sex. The really passionate kind. Which really doesn't fit on a playlist of Christmas tunes.
The sudden pervasiveness of the updated version has irked some music writers, including Sterogum's Chris DeVille, who states plainly why the world's most famous barbershop quintet went a bit too far. We'll leave you to read his piece and decide. Just remember — when you hear the Pentatonix holiday version, you're really listening to a song about knocking boots, and we're not talking the kind that Santa wears.
Meanwhile, the last week of the year is a great time to see Texas acts in a live setting after your fill of food and family. CultureMap's shows of the week are as follows:
Los Skarnales at White Oak
Houston ska legends Los Skarnales have been a going concern for over 25 years. Started in 1994 during the peak of the genre's third wave, they've shared the stage with the biggest ska acts in the world all the while representing the diversity of the city over the course of their long and varied career, drawing from ska, punk, reggae, cumbia, and rockabilly.
For two-tone fans that prefer to skank those Christmas calories away, this is the perfect setting to do so while holding one up for one of the best acts to grace local stages over the last quarter century. And for 15 bucks to see a handful of local acts, the value can't be beat.
Los Skarnales play White Oak Music Hall, located at 2915 N. Main St., on Friday, December 27. Tickets are $15 plus fees. Piñata Protest, Debauche, DJ Big E, and DJ Tropicana Joe open. Doors open at 8 pm.
Roger Creager at Goode Company Armadillo Palace
For a man who didn't start performing in front of an audience until 26 years old, Roger Creager sure made up for lost time in his home state of Texas. One of the most popular country singer-songwriters in the Lone Star State, Creager sells out middle-sized venues with regular ease, evidenced by his three-night run this month at Tomball's Main Street Crossing earlier this month.
Even though guitar is his main instrument these days, the troubadour will concentrate on his first learned instrument — the piano — when he plays the Goode Company Armadillo Palace in an intimate show this weekend. He may not have released an album since 2014's Roadshow, but with tried-and-true regional hits, "Turn It Up," "Rancho Grande," and "The Everclear Song," fans won't really mind.
Roger Creager performs at Goode Company Armadillo Palace, located at 5015 Kirby Dr., on Saturday, December 28. Tickets start at $20 plus fees. Doors open at 8 pm.
CultureMap show of the week: The Toadies at House of Blues
"So help me Jesus" has a completely different connotation when Fort Worth alt-rock faves the Toadies come to town this holiday season. That would be a line from their biggest hit, "Possum Kingdom," a song about a North Texas killer that became an unlikely Top 40 hit and catapulted the album, Rubberneck, to platinum status.
But a years-long label battle set the band back, momentum it would never recover. That said, the Toadies still rock hard, as anyone who saw them at the Love Street Music Fest earlier in 2019 can attest. This show is a must-catch for any '90s alt-rock fan.
Toadies are at House of Blues, located at 1204 Caroline St., on Saturday, December 28. Vandoliers open. Tickets start at $27.50 plus fees. Doors open at 7 pm.
Ghostland Observatory at White Oak Music Hall
Austin's Ghostland Observatory reached epic heights following the release of their 2006 album, Paparazzi Lightning, receiving critical adulation and high billing at festivals for their Queen-meets-Daft Punk inspired sound. Unfortunately, they seemed to be a product of their time when indie rock and EDM beats sold like hotcakes. The band wouldn't reach those heights again.
Even so, the duo of Aaron Behrens and Thomas Turner are still revered by fans for their epic live show that get hips shaking and fists pumping, still drawing crowds to Red Rocks in Colorado and Austin City Limits (the TV show, not the fest) years after they caught lightning in a bottle. Thankfully, after a long hiatus, the band released a new album in 2018, See You Later Stimulator. Their annual pilgrimage to H-town should be hot and sweaty.
Ghostland Observatory headline White Oak Music Hall, located at 2915 N. Main St., on Saturday, December 28. Tickets are $35 plus fees. Doors open at 8 pm.
CultureMap recommends: Charley Crockett at Heights Theater
Talk about a Christmas miracle. This time last year, Charley Crockett prepared to go under the knife for open-heart surgery to repair a congenital heart defect. After months of recovery, the Americana, old-school country crooner released The Valley, one of his best albums that recalled a time when country performers not only could sing, they were unquestionably cool.
Like the best artists, Crockett isn't pigeonholed by a sound, rather pulling various elements of blues, R&B, and jazz, alongside a gritty roots flourish. Simply put, there's no other artist doing what Crockett does so well in front of an audience.
Charlie Crockett performs at Heights Theater, located at 339 W 19th St., on Sunday, December 29. Katie Vincent Neil Emerson opens. Tickets start at $22 plus fees. Doors open at 7 pm.