Cheap Cheer


Five years ago downtown musician Richard Barone created an updated homage to Handel's Messiah. Taking a 260-year-old masterpiece and adding elements of rock, jazz, bluegrass, country folk, gospel, and about any other genre you can think of was not easy, but since it was Barone's labor of love, it somehow worked. Now, with a 20-member chorus and a slew of soloists—Dar Williams, David Johansen, Syd Straw, Marshall Crenshaw, and others—along with instrumentalists Randy Brecker, Peter and Tobi Kiesewalter, and Larry Salzman, as well as a choir and chamber orchestra, it will be performed at New York's most sacred site: ground zero. December 17 at 6:30, the Winter Garden of the World Financial Center, 200 Liberty Street, 945-0505. (ABER)


illustration Gina Triplett

Who ever said jungle headz and techno junkies don't care? For the sixth year in a row, Stuck on Earth will be hosting its holiday benefit and food drive, Joy, headlined by Frankie Bones, D.C.'s Scott Henry, X-Dream, DB (takin' you back to old junglist days), Odi, gabber old-skooler Lenny Dee, Heather Heart, and others. Tix are 15 bucks with three non-perishables ($25 without) and all proceeds go to feeding the homeless through City Harvest, so don't be a scrooge! Spread some goodwill and stuff those cargo Illigs with a few cans. December 19 at 9, Club Shelter, 20 West 39th Street, 780-4618, (FRANKLIN)


Afro-futurist all-star big band Burnt Sugar draw the sublime out of what seems like a chaotic freak-out. Shepherded by journo Greg Tate and inspired by electric Miles, Burnt Sugar imaginatively trip through the black diaspora of the last 30 years. The core lineup represents for this holiday gig—Vijay Iyer, Mutamassik, Bruce Mack, Jared Nickerson—and while there are no promises, they may play a Christmas tune if asked nicely. December 20, Galapagos, 70 North 6th Street, Brooklyn, 718-782-5188. $7. (PATEL)


"We have all the hits," boasts blond proprietor Marina Troshina. " 'Love Me Tender.' You know, like this." Actually, the karaoke machine at Uncle Vanya Café has only 500 English-language songs. The other 3000 are in Russian. All the better to soak in the homey, festive atmosphere that's as affable as the nearby Firebird Café and Russian Samovar are glittery. Christmas—banned in Communist Russia for so many years—is celebrated on New Year's Eve as a secular winter holiday. So skip the soulless, capitalist version, and order a giant $5 bottle of Stepan Razin "Krepkoye" (a malt-liquor brew with a 17 percent alcohol content), debate politics, and sing a song from the old country. Karaoke kicks off in the bar area around 11 on weekends, after the late-night diners polish off the last of the blini. D'vashe zdarovye! Uncle Vanya Café, 315 West 54th Street, 262-0542. (SPARTOS)


South Park tyke Kyle Broflofski may have lamented being a lonely Jew on Christmas (" 'Cause there's something wrong with me/My people don't believe in Jesus Christ's divinity"), but you don't have to. The Knit's five-day yuletide Jew-wave marathon begins with singer-songwriter Basya Schechter's Pharaoh's Daughter (December 21) and continues with drummer Ehran Elisha's Kinetic Music Special Project and pianist Burton Green's Klez-thetic (December 22). Sean Altman and Rob Tannenbaum will bust out "Rudolph the Hooknosed Reindeer" and other seasonal delights during their "What I Like About Jew" revue on Christmas Eve, and the Hasidic New Wave will deck the halls with free-blowing balls on Christmas Day. December 21-25, Knitting Factory, 74 Leonard Street, 219-3006. $10-$12. (GEHR)


We queers get swept up in holiday tradition as much as the next Susie or Jane. And for African American homos and trannies (as with the rest of the community), Kwanza is the time for reflection, embracing the Nguzo Saba (principles from self-determination to faith), and communal solidarity. Habari Gani! The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center commemorates the season with the 15th Annual Queer Kwanzaa Celebration co-sponsored by 10 different organizations, including the Audre Lorde Project, Gay Men of African Descent, Black Pride NYC, and the Liberation in Truth Unity Fellowship Church. The event boasts vendors in an African market, performances, and, of course, you know there'll be some fried chicken (vegetarian food, too). Umoja! December 29 from 1 to 10:30 p.m., the Center, 208 West 13th Street, 620-7310. $7. (FRANKLIN)


There's nothing like a free, all-you-can-eat buffet to relieve you of your holiday funk. Toss back a couple of martinis at these complimentary troughs, and you'll swear you're having the time of your life. Or dinner at Sizzler. Orange vinyl, smoky mirrors, and aqua bartender uniforms—it's time to get HoJo'd. Every weekday from 4 to 7 at Howard Johnson's (1551 Broadway, 354-1445), fill 'er up with apps like Swedish meatballs, rice, and surprisingly tasty tuna sandwiches. Cocktails blended with ice cream ($6.50) up the caloric value. Plus: The bartender calls you "Honey." For a fancier spread, try the Wednesday Latin party at Lansky Lounge (104 Norfolk Street, 917-701-0811), where you can gorge on meat loaf, macaroni, rice, salad, chocolate-chip cookies, biscotti, and chocolate cake. They get you with $9 cosmos—luckily, just one gives you a serious buzz. Remember: No jeans or sneakers allowed at this classy, classic salsa dance party. On Thursdays and Fridays from 5 to 7:30 join the other working stiffs at friendly East Side Irish pub T.G. Whitney's (244 East 53rd Street, 888-5772), and pig out on Buffalo chicken wings and cold pasta primavera. Wash it all down with one of the many drinks on special, including $3 pints of Saranac (Thursday) and black-and-tans (Friday). (SPARTOS)

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