AZITA 12/26, EMPTY BOTTLE Azita Youssefi would, in a fairer world, make anyone's short list of the city's most interesting avant-garde musicians. In her noisy early-90s band, the Scissor Girls, the bassist and pianist proved she had nothing to prove as a no-wave revivalist. Her subsequent project, Bride of No No, broke up last year but released an untitled final album this year on Atavistic. Chilly, intelligent, and more suggestive than declamatory, it sounds closer to her solo work than the group's first record did. For this show, she'll be focusing on material from Enantiodromia (Drag City), her inviting if unnerving album of piano-driven, pop-leaning art songs. USURPER 12/26, METRO I'm happy to see that metal is gaining some legitimacy in the rock press--it's taken long enough. But it's the fashionable subgenre dwellers--the jazz-metal bands, the neo-hair-metal bands--that get all the attention. Chicago's Usurper, meanwhile, have spent the last decade-plus honing their classic, untrendy, utterly unhyphenated metal and helping fans of bands from Cradle of Filth to Carcass stay connected to their roots. This year's Twilight Dominion, their sixth album and first set of new material for Earache, opens with a glorious anthem of the old school ("Metal Lust") and goes on to display no pretension whatsoever, just good taste--the acoustic guitar interweave on "Golem," the "Children of the Grave"-like gallop of "Utopian Nightmare." Along with headliners Macabre, Usurper are the standouts on this all-ages Holiday of Horrors bill (which also includes Diabolic, Inflict, and Orion Nine). Be warned, though: longtime vocalist General Diabolical Slaughter has left the band and will be replaced here by a so far unnamed "special guest." ELECTRIC SIX 12/31, DOUBLE DOOR This Detroit band is just begging to be hated, but damn, it's hard. The Six's mix of hard rock, disco, and over-the-top antics is flawlessly calculated to leap out of the crowd of wailing divas, nu-metal mopers, faux-angry thugs, and other assorted pop entities striving oh so hard to be taken seriously. Fire (Beggars Banquet/XL) seemed to be everywhere this fall, and it was as irresistible as the flu. I have no idea if they'll make a lasting mark on the culture, but "Gay Bar" has at least earned a rathergood.com Viking Kittens video. PAPER CHASE 12/31, FIRESIDE BOWL This Texas band won some raves for its last album, Hide the Kitchen Knives (Beatville), which sounded like the work of people who could play nearly anything and chose to play urgent avant-punk that sidestepped the conventions of that genre (which shouldn't have nearly as many conventions as it does). Their new CD single, What Big Teeth You Have, takes a different swerve: it's tense, mostly restrained cabaret prog, applying strangled voice, heavy piano, and nervous theatrics to one original plus songs by Jacques Brel and Roger Waters, who are made to seem here as if they have something deep in common we've just never noticed before. QUINTRON & MISS PUSSYCAT 12/31, EMPTY BOTTLE If you're not jaded about New Year's Eve yet--or perhaps if you are--this could well be the place to be: former Chicagoan Quintron and his partner Miss Pussycat put on a stellar show. As evidenced by the DIY burlesque revival, there's a lot of interest nowadays in entertainment that goes beyond the conventional rock set to spotlight the contributions of all kinds of performers and visual artists. Music is still the bedrock, of course--and Quintron's electrifying alley-cat soul, delivered via organ and his own invention the Drum Buddy, liberates dance music from the clutches of the fashionistas and presents it triumphantly to the working nerd. On Are You Ready for an Organ Solo? (Rhinestone) he's clearly drunk on the ecstasy of playing that thing, and onstage Miss Pussycat's dancing, singing, puppetry, and costumes push the giddy charisma through the roof. Also on the bill are Har Mar Superstar (see Critic's Choice), No Doctors, and a swarm of DJs. WOLF EYES 12/31, TEXAS BALLROOM These Michigan noise tinkerers have kept a lot of labels busy with their Tourette's-like flood of releases: a ton on Hanson and American Tapes, a few on Bulb, one on Troubleman Unlimited, plus various splits with Emil Beaulieu and Metalux, among others. Now they've signed up with Sub Pop (which, wisely, has them down for just one) and have been tapped by Sonic Youth to perform at next year's All Tomorrow's Parties festival. As much fun as their overstuffed discography is, Wolf Eyes are a totally different proposition live, where their ferocity seems superhuman (and it is, I suppose, given their nearly bionic symbiosis with a battery of electronics). They wield Throbbing Gristle-ish waves and pulses like maces and war clubs to smash dance music into a bloody pulp--and they seem so cheerful about it, too.