Lash LaRue’s Toy Drive for the children on the Pine Ridge reservation kicks off in earnest this week. If you’re reading this Wednesday, Dec. 1, head over to The Waiting Room at 7 p.m. for the free CD listening party. Christmas for Pine Ridge: Vol. III Live at The Waiting Room will be spinning on the sound system and available for sale. Many of the 15 local musicians who donated original tracks to the disc will be on hand. The disc was recorded and engineered by Jim Homan from Screen Door Studio. It will be available for sale at the events and at Garage Guitar at 50th and Dodge. Here’s the line-up of Toy Drive shows. Admission to most events is $10 or a new, unwrapped toy of equal value. Cash donations will also go toward keeping the reservation clinic heated and providing propane heat for the elderly. Thursday, Dec. 2, the acoustic show that started LaRue’s Toy Drive efforts happens at Slowdown at 9 p.m. Dustin Clayton, Korey Anderson, Kyle Harvey and Matt Cox perform. Saturday, Dec. 4, it’s the rock show at The Waiting Room with All Young Girls Are Machine Guns, Vago and Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship. Sunday, Dec. 5, there are two big shows, one at The New Lift Lounge and the other at Lincoln’s Zoo Bar. The New Lift Lounge event begins at 2 p.m. with 112 North Duck. Brad Cordle Band plays at about 3:30 p.m. and headliner Coco Montoya goes on at about 5:30 p.m. Alligator Records artist Montoya is one of the biggest guitar stars on the national blues-rock scene. Please note, there is a $15 cover charge for this show, but toy donations will also be accepted. The Zoo Bar joins the Toy Drive this year with a Sunday, Dec. 5 show. Beginning at 6 p.m. catch Really Rottens, followed by Son of 76 & The Watchmen (7 p.m.), The Amalgamators (8 p.m.), Lash LaRue (9 p.m.), Lil’ Slim Blues Band (10 p.m.) and Machete Archive (11 p.m.). Find details on all the events at lashlaruetoydrive.com. Sunday, Dec. 12, 9 a.m. till noon, LaRue, yours truly and some special guests will join Rick Galusha for an always memorable Toy Drive edition of his P.S. Blues show on 89.7 The River. Music Issue Each year The Reader ’s music journalists meet to decide on the “Top 20” and “Next 15” bands lists you’ll find featured in this issue. There is discussion, give and take and generally a consensus. As the writer who covers the roots-Americana-blues genres, sometimes I face an uphill battle trying to educate my fellow writers about bands I’m enthused about, though I know there are also groups out there that other writers like that I haven’t heard. I am happy that this year’s “Top 20” list includes both the Matt Cox Band and Son of 76 & The Watchmen, two of the top roots bands with two of the best songwriters in the metro. I realized as I walked away from the meeting that another band that belongs on that list in my mind is the Kris Lager Band. They’ve been working as a four-piece this year and hit the road for several lengthy tours to expand their fan base. At home, they pack local clubs with audience members of all ages. Their high-energy original music is more and more indie rock than blues, but they still get pigeonholed in the blues category. Check krislagerband.com for more info and to find out when the band is playing near you. Mixed in with a month of touring in nearby states, the band has an acoustic gig at Havana Garage cigar bar in the Old Market Thursday, Dec. 16, after 9 p.m. The group rounds out the year with a New Year’s Eve show at Lincoln’s Zoo Bar. Hot Notes Son of 76 & The Watchmen, led by occasional Reader contributor Joshua Hoyer, gigs at Lincoln’s Zoo Bar Thursday, Dec. 2, after 9 p.m. Matt Cox Band plays McKenna’s Friday, Dec. 3, and heats up the Zoo Bar’s 6 p.m. blues show Wednesday, Dec. 8. Blues-rock guitar star Coco Montoya plays at Lincoln’s Zoo Bar Monday, Dec. 6, at 6 p.m. The Thursday 5:30 p.m. blues shows at The New Lift Lounge present Trampled Under Foot from K.C. Thursday, Dec. 2. Thursday, Dec. 9, it’s a special showcase of New Orleans R&B with the Joe Krown Trio featuring three iconic players: Krown on Hammond B-3, the legendary Walter “Wolfman” Washington on vocals and guitar and Russell Batiste Jr. on drums. The trio took home the 2009 Big Easy Award in the “Best Rhythm & Blues Band” category. Both Thursdays, catch free blues dance lessons by Merinda and Frank from the Omaha Jitterbugs during the break.