Critic's Choice for the week of December 20-26, 2006 

This week's cosmic battle of good and evil features pirate Satanists, sweetheart atheists, and an interfaith gospel choir.

Wicked Wiccan

If you believe that December 25 is really a pagan holiday celebrating winter solstice instead of the b-day of Jesus, then this event might be right up yer alley. The Ninth Annual Black X Mass held by Pirate Cat Radio's Karla LaVey (founder of the First Satanic Church and host of the weekly radio show of the same name) promises a bunch of bands and general weirdo debauchery. Belief in Satanism unnecessary. At the Elbo Room in SF Monday, December 25. 9 p.m., $6.66. Elbo.com (Kathleen Richards)

A Chanticleer Christmas

Anyone who has experienced the otherworldly state induced by Chanticleer's annual Christmas celebrations knows why the a cappella male vocal ensemble performs the show ten times in the Bay Area alone. From Chanticleer's version of Franz Biebl's "Ave Maria," a sweet-voiced favorite, to a surprisingly soulful medley of spirituals, this year's concert in Berkeley's First Congregational Church promises to cut through the commercial hype and help us reconnect with the spiritual essence of the holiday season. Thursday, December 21. 8 p.m., $25-$44. Chanticleer.org (Jason Victor Serinus)

'90s Dream

Face it: When Silversun Pickups' "Lazy Eye" comes on the radio, that familiar guitar strumming and distortion wash makes you reminiscence about Gish and your eyebrow piercing and how maybe Billy Corgan wasn't all that bad. The stumble down memory lane is nothing to be ashamed of, even if the early '90s is now considered "classic alternative." Thankfully, the Los Angeles band has a selective memory. See the Pickups at Popscene's Holiday Party at 330 Ritch in SF on Thursday, December 21. 7 p.m., $10. Popscene-SF.com (K.R.)

Shiteous Dance party

Looking for the hipster dance party of the holidays? San Francisco's Sugar and Gold will bring its funky soul to the typical long-haired crowd at Annie's Social Club in SF this Friday, thanks to new booker Sarah Baumann (formerly of the Ivy Room). Accordingly, NPR darlings Honeycut headlines, plus new wave rockers Hard Place and DJ Kitty promise to pack 'em in. Just don't expect anything usual. Try dancing to Sugar and Gold's new single "Workout," with come-hither lyrics like Slowly drown in your own shit. Friday, December 22. 9 p.m., $7. AnniesSocialClub.com (K.R.)

O Faces

The Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir includes Baptists, Buddhists, Jews, and Rastafarians, and has been making a joyous sound unto the Lord for the past twenty years. Terrance Kelly, the ensemble's director, is an award-winning composer, producer, and arranger whose exuberant arrangements have made the choir one of the top groups in the genre and the winner of five Gospel Academy Awards for Best Community Choir. The choir's members have added their powerful sound to albums by Linda Ronstadt and MC Hammer, while their annual Christmas concerts remind us of the true meaning of the holiday by delivering a harmonious message of peace, love, and understanding. Sunday, December 24 at Slim's in San Francisco. 7 and 9:30 p.m., $15. Slims-SF.com (j. poet)

Skankalicious Asbestos

Back in the late '90s students from three East Bay high schools created the band Fireproof, mixing favorite reggae rhythms with hard-edged jazz and rock, and created a stir for a while before the various members shipped off to different colleges six years ago. Home for the holidays, for the first time in two years they're back as Fireproof (complete with horn section) in time for their traditional Boxing Day dance at Berkeley's Ashkenaz. Tuesday, December 26. 9:30 p.m., $12, $10 students. Ashkenaz.com (Larry Kelp)

Alt.Soul Explosion

Dynamic, a four-piece outfit featuring singer Kimiko Joy, brings serious chops and a wide variety of musical influences to what the band calls the "alternative soul" genre — which apparently also includes elements of jazz, hip-hop, and Latin music. Dynamic headlines the Oakland Metro in an all-local bill also featuring singer Femi, dancer Traci Bartlow, and DJ Sake One. Consider it an early Xmas gift for your ears. Friday, December 22. 9 p.m., $10. OaklandMetro.org (Eric K. Arnold)

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