Silent Night

B-Sides sends our parents to see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, finds songs to make stray partygoers leave and geeks out with the technological geniuses in Hyperbubble

Cold as Ice
My parents are no concert slouches: They saw the Who in their 1960s heyday and have accompanied me to R.E.M. and U2 shows. But since my dad delights in playing the rock-i-fied holiday tunes of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra every Christmas, B-Sides decided to grant his holiday wish and send him and my mom to one of the band's three Cleveland shows to report back on what they saw.

B-Sides: How many people were onstage?

Dad: I think there must be eight of them? There was the narrator, three guitarists, a violinist, two keyboards....

Mom: Drummer.

Dad: And a drummer. An excellent drummer.

Mom: And then an orchestra.

What does the narrator narrate?

Dad: Each year there's a different story that they put their music to. The story was about an old man going into a bar on Christmas Eve, sitting all alone. Then he starts talking to this other gentleman, and a gentleman relates a story about an angel going around the world on Christmas Eve.

What was surprising about the concert you didn't expect to happen?

Mom: They went into this long rock concert [after the Christmas portion].

Dad: I think they were trying to spread their wings, because they were playing non-Christmas music.

Did you like it?

Dad: It was OK. But I came prepared to hear their Christmas music. I wasn't prepared for other music. Two-thirds of the way through the second set of songs, he [a band member] says, "OK, Cleveland, let's see how many people out there have cell phones — light 'em up! Wave your cell phones!" That was really neat. All you could see is these little blue screens waving....

Mom: Of course, you know your dad couldn't wave his because his doesn't...[Laughs]

Dad: Oh, shut up.

Because his doesn't what?

Dad: I've got my little green screen. I've got my old little phone, the ancient one? [Laughs]

Mom: It doesn't light up. So he pretended that he had one.

Mom, which Christmas song did you like the best?

Mom: Um...

Dad: She liked the one with the strings.

Mom: That was their opening one.

Was it all downhill from there?

Mom: [Laughs]

Dad: For your mom it was.

Mom: It's not like a Christmas concert where you're actually hearing Christmas songs. Like if you go see the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes: If you see that one, you have things that you recognize. But the variations they do on these songs...it's so much rock. And so much guitar and headbanging, that you don't recognize it.

Headbanging?

Mom: Headbanging with "O Come All Ye Faithful."

Dad: No, they run up and down the stage, Annie. They're all longhairs. Longhairs in tuxes.

Mom: When they were doing "O Holy Night" — which is one of my favorite Christmas songs anyhow — it was this rock version of it, where they're doing the dueling guitars right next to each other and swinging the hair.

Dad: Think of Jimi Hendrix. The way they did it on the guitar. They know how to play their guitars, believe me.

Mom: It was so rock. As I said, it reminded me a lot of Beavis and Butt-Head doing AC/DC.

Dad: The thing is, though, Gerri, people who like Trans-Siberian Orchestra recognize their music the way they do it that way. You're not into that. I enjoyed that.

Mom: Right. All I could think of was Beavis and Butt-Head. Annie Zaleski

Trans-Siberian Orchestra at the Savvis Center, South 14th Street and Clark Avenue. Two shows start at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Friday, December 23. Tickets are $35 to $45; call 314- 241-1888 for more information.

Get Out!
The cinnamon-flavored potpourri, the delightful eggnog and the crackling fire; nice work, Martha. In fact, you've done such a great job staging the perfect holiday scene that your guests won't leave, and it's damn near 2006. Assuming you don't want to drag the cops into it and arrest the stragglers for trespassing, include these tunes at the end of the night's soundtrack and deliver the universal message of "get the hell outta my house" — the musical way.

Arlo Guthrie, "Alice's Restaurant": Yes, it clocks in at more than twenty minutes. It's repetitive, even catchy. But it'll force even the most rooted to the couch and hammered guest to think, "Hey, wait a minute. I've heard this before. Like, just a few minutes ago. Damn, how long have I been here?" And if even your sober attendees can make it through the first ten minutes, they should be able to get the hint. And maybe even take the drunkies home. But like "American Pie" and anything by Meat Loaf, people won't ask you to play it twice.

Johnny Cash, "Hurt": Sure, the Nine Inch Nails version of "Hurt" was no uplifting joyfest. But few voices are more haunting than Cash's anti-cheer baritone on his cover. Note for plicky-plucky note, the guitar strings themselves seem at once lonely, desperate and off-key. Kind of like the lives of those at your party! This antithesis of holiday cheer should break up the crowd faster than police showing up at a post-prom, Boone's Farm-soaked fête.

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