Spokane is a great place to spend the holiday season. Snow is falling, fireplaces are ablaze, and it just feels good. In the Graham household there is cookie-baking, tree-decorating, gift-buying and present-wrapping aplenty… It’s Christmas-movie quality stuff, and the very idea that it has arrived makes me feel absolutely… joyful!

Snowfall volume pending, there are a ton of great events happening this month that are sure to increase your holiday spirit. We’ll start out with my personal favorites…

Back when I was living in Spokane full-time, my best friend Sarah and I attended Rock for Tots, which was a phenomenal yearly tradition by a local band called Vertigo Bliss (I say “yearly” without knowing precisely how long that lasted, though fairly certain it was a few years). TOYS FOR TOTS is an amazing organization that is so closely tied to the positive vibe of many children’s Christmas mornings (and who can resist their commercials, oh-em-gee), and it’s great to see the Bliss’ tradition upheld this year at the Knitting Factory’s benefit show with PLASTIC SAINTS on December 17. Admission is free with a $10 toy donation, or $5 in advance, $7 day of show.

Two days later they’ll host ROCK FOR FOOD, a benefit for the Second Harvest Food Bank featuring a grab-bag of punks including Character Flaw, In-Flux, Illusion 33, and Sixth Hour Storm. KNITTING FACTORY SPOKANE’S GENERAL MANAGER MATT JUDGE gets the sentiment just right, telling me recently, “These are events we try to host annually, featuring local bands putting on a great show for great causes. The holidays can be a tougher time of year for some… It’s nice to see local talent care about the people in their community, putting their best note forward and giving back to it.” Each of the bands are selling tickets for $5, or you can get in free the night of the show with any non-perishable food item for the donation barrels in the lobby.

I also just got clued into the 4TH ANNUAL BING CROSBY FILM FESTIVAL at the Bing Crosby Theater, which sounds terrific. Free to the public (with suggested donation), the all-day film fest begins at noon with Holiday Inn, and includes a screening of Road to Zanzibar, followed by appearances by Carolyn Schneider (Bing’s niece), and Howard Crosby (his nephew), and finishes up at 7:30 p.m. with a showing of holiday classic White Christmas, which also features the amazing Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney, and the best high-waisted pants scene in all of cinema (watch for it, I love it). There is perhaps no better way to get in the holiday spirit than this!

Unless you’re one that likes to WEAR your spirit, in which case you might enjoy Caterina Winery on December 10, where a show featuring Brett Hite, Anthony Hall and Austin Jenckes takes place for $10, or $8 WHEN YOU SHOW UP WEARING CHRISTMAS COLORS OR A HOLIDAY-THEMED SWEATER. Somewhere in my parents’ cedar chest is a puff-painted sweatshirt PERFECT for this night…

THE BLVD. hosts “THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS” on December 19 which features the TOTALLY CHRISTMAS-y sounds of Spokane’s best metal bands (I kid, I kid), among them Doom Lit Sky, Rutah, and Odyssey. As well, there’s the always-solid investment, THE NUTCRACKER at the INB Performing Arts Center, December 18-20.

And please, PLEASE, don’t let the season pass you up without at least one listen to BOB DYLAN’S CHRISTMAS IN THE HEART. I’d like to dedicate “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” to the 39.86% of you who voted to approve Referendum 71, because I love you. Happy holidays!

CD of the Month

Julian Casablancas
Phrazes for the Young (RCA)
There’s been a noticeable absence in the mix of Strokes solo projects—in their three-plus years of inactivity, singer Julian Casablancas has enjoyed relative obscurity, popping up only to lend his talents to one-off projects. His solo debut, long-awaited and now largely-adored, is worth all of that wait. In many ways Phrazes is a continuation of what we’d come to know and love of the Strokes—painstaking unpredictability, all the while with underlying, absolutely predicable cool. It jumps, it leaps, and it never falls short. We’re just under 2 years from Is This It’s 10th anniversary—holy crap—and while it remains uncertain the timing of the 4th Strokes album, it’s good to know that the ambition of the band’s primary songwriter is in such a good place. Here’s hoping there’s much, much more to come.