HOLIDAY CHEER: Melissa Etheridge
Let's clear up one thing: Melissa Etheridge's Christmas tour isn't really a Christmas tour.
"There is this time of year that everyone kind of has the same feeling," Etheridge said in a recent phone interview. "We all call it something different, but historically through ancient times, it's always been around the winter solstice. There's this common theme of peace and goodwill that we have."
And if there was ever a time when the world needed peace on earth and goodwill toward men, it's the end of 2016.
"Now, we need it more than ever," she said. "I'm really looking forward to speaking on that level to people, saying, 'This is when all good people come together.' "
Etheridge, 55, is performing with a trio on this tour, which means fans might not get the beefed-up versions of I'm the Only One or Come to My Window they're used to, and they certainly won't get the stacked horns and organs of her new album Memphis Rock and Soul. But they'll hear her hits and selections from her 2008 holiday album A New Thought for Christmas. And hopefully that'll bring some holiday cheer.
"My whole point, the purpose of the whole show, is that people leave feeling better than when they came in," she said.
8 p.m. Thursday at the Mahaffey Theater, 400 First St. S, St. Petersburg. $49.50 and up. (727) 892-5767. themahaffey.com.
For more of our interview with Melissa Etheridge, see tampabay.com/soundcheck.
STRANGER THING: 97X Next Big Thing
There was a time when 97X Next Big Thing was the sole dominion of guitar-rock acts like My Chemical Romance, 30 Seconds to Mars and Rise Against. But as commercial alt-rock has shifted from its angsty roots, the St. Pete station has shifted with it.
But that's okay, considering the enormous crowd that will turn out for a lineup of synth-pop acts and mellow folkies at Saturday's Next Big Thing. Headlining this year's affair are British pinups the 1975, above, who hit superstar status in 2016 with their acclaimed album I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It. They'll be joined atop the bill by Americana outfit the Head and the Heart (All We Ever Knew), glitch-pop duo Phantogram (You Don't Get Me High Anymore) and dance-popsters Capital Cities (Safe and Sound).
The key to Next Big Thing is getting there early and discovering someone new. You might be familiar with Kongos (Come With Me Now) or the Naked and Famous (Young Blood), but how about electro-folk singer Bishop Briggs, who spent part of this summer opening for Coldplay? Or adventurous Nashville group Judah and the Lion, whose Take It All Back just hit the Top 5 of radio's alternative airplay chart?
Lewis Del Mar, Weathers, Coin, 888 and more round out a lineup designed to get you dancing, not thrashing. Shimmy along at 10 a.m. at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre, 4802 U.S. 301 N, Tampa. $37.45 and up. (813) 740-2446. 97xonline.com.
X FACTOR: Lauryn Hill
Lauryn Hill is not the same artist she was in 1998, back when her debut solo album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, became a culture-sweeping sensation. Today the singer and rapper even goes by a new handle: Ms. Lauryn Hill, a formalization that demands a degree of respect from a world that doesn't know quite what to make of her. For years, she has steadfastly refused to give Miseducation a proper follow-up, instead focusing on her personal life and legal affairs, and delivering sporadic, erratic tours and one-off performances. Hill's latest effort is the MLH Caravan: A Diaspora Calling tour, a celebration of African and Caribbean music through which she filters her own solo and Fugees hits. It's foolish to expect the woman you see on stage in 2016 to sound just like the L. Boogie of 1998, but you'd do well not to bet against her — Hill remains a compelling live performer, albeit one who insists on following her own muse. She'll perform with Seun Kuti, the son of Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti, at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Mahaffey Theater, 400 First St. S, St. Petersburg. $61.50 and up. (727) 892-5767. themahaffey.com.
FOUR-STRING FUN: WMNF Uke It Out Festival
Don't let your opinion of the ukulele be tarnished by recent pop-chart success of easy-listening hits like Jason Mraz's I'm Yours, Vance Joy's Riptide or Train's Hey, Soul Sister. In the right hands, there's much more to the humble, quirky uke. Community radio station WMNF-88.5 FM will prove it from 4 to 10 p.m. Saturday at the second annual Uke It Out Festival. Local acts like the Applebutter Express, right, Ronny Elliott, Rebekah Pulley and more will team up for a uke-heavy session featuring Beatles and Led Zeppelin jam-outs and an all-star finale. $12 advance, $15 at the gate. Cage Brewery, 2001 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg. (727) 201-4278. wmnf.org.