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Mannheim “Steamrolls” Into Anchorage

Mannheim Steamroller is coming to Anchor Town, performing Thursday and Friday, December 29 and 30, in Anchorage’s Atwood Concert Hall. This is just in case you’re not so very sick and tired of Christmas music, four days after Christmas, that your hands itch to snap a candy cane whenever you hear “Deck the Halls”.

Founded and produced by Chip Davis, Mannheim Steamroller is one of those gigs you either love or hate, nothing in between, sort of like anchovies or Hillary Clinton. On the one hand, Mannheim Steamroller has sold 27 million Christmas records and is the biggest selling Christmas artist of all time, according to their website. On the other hand, my Google search of “I hate Mannheim Steamroller” (sans quotes) yielded more than 2.2 million hits, including endless, venting blog posts and an “I Hate Manneheim Steamroller” Facebook page. They hate the band so much—they misspell the name.

Even if you don’t recognize (or can’t spell) the band’s name, you may recognize the music. Just listen to their rendition of “Joy to the World”, which you probably heard last time you were in a shopping mall. It’s like Santa with a synthesizer. Mannheim Steamroller has released 12 Christmas albums over the last 26 years, most of which went platinum, but their sound still classically smacks of 1984, when they released their Christmas debut.

As much as the band members appear to love making their music (seriously, watch the keyboardist in this video), Mannheim Steamroller and Chip Davis seem mostly proud of their commercial success. Their website talks more about marketing than music. They’ve developed a whole product line of Steamroller kitsch: Christmas tree ornaments, cookie cutters, Mannheim (bloody) Mary Mix, shampoo, and cinnamon hot chocolate (which actually sounds delicious). “Chip Davis owns Christmas,” said Sean Compton of Clear Channel Communications, as quoted in the New York Times. That’s coming from the company that owns the radio.

Judge Mannheim Steamroller for yourself: do you love them or hate them? Anchorage tickets run from $49 to $92 and are available from CenterTix. Bring a credit card and a candy cane to the show, just in case you’re compelled to shop—or snap.