Critics' Picks 

Local appearances by Sara Bareilles and Good Old War, plus holiday affairs with Phat Man Dee and Alive In the Underground


ChristmaChannaKwanzaa is Pittsburgh legend Phat Man Dee's answer to December sectarian strife: Each year, she has a show centered around the catch-all holiday. This time around, she's releasing an EP, Merry ChristmaChannaKwanzaa Vol. 1.1, so that you can keep the holiday spirit all season long. The CD opens with "Picksburgh Xmas," which posits the Steelers as a unifying holiday theme. ("Rudolph's a yinzer, or maybe yinz ain't been told / When the Steelers are in the playoffs, his nose blows black and gold," she warbles in a Pittsburgh accent.) It's followed up by five more tracks with help from friends like Miguel Sague III, Geña and Tony DePaolis -- spanning numerous languages, styles and denominational boundaries. Tonight is the celebration of the disc's release, with two shows (replete with planetarium visuals) at the Buhl Digital Planetarium at the Carnegie Science Center. Andy Mulkerin 8 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. 1 Allegheny Ave., North Side. $15-20. 412-237-3400 or www.carnegiesciencecenter.org

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[POP] + THU., DEC. 15

The success of Sara Bareilles' 2007 single "Love Song" said a few things about pop music at the time. One was that commercial promotion -- the tune was an iTunes featured free single, and ended up in a Rhapsody ad -- does wonders. Another was that there was still room at the top of the mainstream charts for a solo artist with a piano, a good voice and simple, catchy pop songs. The song went to No. 1 on the Hot 100, and Bareilles became a household name. (She now co-hosts NBC's The Sing-Off, having replaced Nicole Scherzinger, another coup of sorts.) Tonight she plays Stage AE, headlining the Holiday Q Ball (sponsored by Q92, a radio station owned by CP's parent company). Parachute, The Cab and Mat Kearney open. AM 6:30 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Side. $20-25. 412-229-5483 or www.stageae.com

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Local post-grunge outfit Alive In the Underground -- which mixes sludgy metal guitars with pop-punk energy -- might not be the first local act you think of when you think Christmas. But the hard rockers are putting together tonight's holiday show and party at the Loose Moose Saloon in Baldwin: In addition to the headliners, the night will include sets from Fallen Monument and acoustic duo Soon Rodgers, and all manner of holiday festivities. It's all for charity, too. AM 9 p.m. 5185 Brownsville Rd., Baldwin. $5. 412-665-3553

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Sweet vocal harmonies inform the pop-folk of Good Old War, the three-piece from the Philadelphia area that's released two full-lengths through Sargent House. The vibe of the contemporary Avett Brothers-and-Mumford & Sons folk revival (with a little Fleet Foxes prettiness thrown in) is noticeable, but Good Old War has a tendency to go full-out pop-rock at times as well. Tonight the band plays Altar Bar; Val Emmich and Gypsy and His Band of Ghosts open. AM 7:30 p.m. 1620 Penn Ave., Strip District. $12-14. 412-263-2877 or www.thealtarbar.com


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