Christmas music has a special place in the heart of Debbie Davis, and she’s now got one of the city’s holiday music traditions to her name. For the fourth year in a row, she and husband/musical partner Matt Perrine are building a show around their gem of a seasonal album, Oh Crap, It’s Christmas! This year’s show happens at Cafe Istanbul on Sunday, December 16 and features the usual mix of special guests, warm spirits and just a little cynical humor between the lines.
“We’re not the traditional Christmas show, and we’re not the cynical, too cool for school Christmas show,” she says. “We’re the island of misfit toys, and I want everyone to feel like they have a place here. You find the humor in the seriousness, and the seriousness in the humor—that’s how you keep a joyous time from getting overblown, and how you keep what may be a hard time from getting too sad. You don’t have to be a total Christmas nerd to enjoy the show, and you don’t have to be a cynical pain in the ass to get all the jokes.”
This year’s show is very much a family affair. Both of Davis and Perrine’s kids will be performing, as will her sister—Dallas-based steampunk performer Darwin Davis—and even her mom, soprano Barbara Davis. Also set to play are newlyweds Beth Patterson and Josh Paxton, along with singer/guitarist extraordinaire Spencer Bohren and his son Andre. The finale will include Johnny Sketch and the Bandicoot 4—actually a reunion of the original Dirty Notes lineup. Perrine leads the house band which features familiar names like guitarist Alex McMurray, keyboardist Richard Scott, string players Harry Hamlin and Jack Craft, and the younger Bohren on drums.
Expect a mix of well-loved Christmas tunes and more left-field choices, like the Tom Lehrer and Elvis Costello songs that appear on the album—plus a couple of newly added surprises. “We have a couple of songs that people never attempt in New Orleans, because they’re not as ambitious or not as crazy as we are.”
Davis and Perrine have been doing these songs since they started sending audio Christmas cards to friends back in 2002. And Davis is glad to admit that she still loves both the songs and the holiday. “As music become more compartmentalized, it may be the one thing we all share. We don’t have folk or blues as a common musical language, but every four-year-old still knows ‘Jingle Bells.’”