Countdown to Midnight

Peel yourself off the couch, quit your crying, and revel in the festivities at one of these fine events.

Audrye Sessions

Oakland’s Audrye Sessions has proven itself to be a tenacious indie-rock band. Since coming together in 2002 in the coffee shops of Livermore, the quartet has played stages big and small — from Oakland’s defunct all-ages spot iMusicast and San Francisco’s Bottom of the Hill to the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View for Live 105’s BFD — with an equally diverse range of artists. Audrye Sessions’ Brit-pop-influenced self-titled debut appeared earlier this year on Black Seal, an imprint of Sony BMG, with promise to propel the band toward further adventures. Take this New Year’s Eve show at the Uptown, for example — the band will headline a strong local lineup featuring electro-dance outfit Hottub, breakout pop-rock band Manatee, and soulful rock quintet the Soft White Sixties. At the Uptown (1928 Telegraph Ave., Oakland). 9 p.m., $12-$15.

Eclectic Fever 2010

When Uptown Oakland’s the New Parish opened its doors in early October, it became the city’s newest live-music venue and a beacon of progress in a neglected stretch of San Pablo Avenue. Yet, even more importantly, its opening has played a role in the ongoing transformation of Uptown (witness the Fox, Flora, et al) and in Oakland’s evolving club scene (the Layover followed only one week later). Over the last few months the New Parish has hosted artists including the Coup and Meshell Ndegeocello — and next Thursday it gets into the New Year’s Eve spirit with a world-music-centric lineup of top-rate local acts. Fela Kuti-inspired ensemble AphrodesiA has helped define the Bay Area as a locus of the Afro-beat revival, San Francisco sextet Boca do Rio filters traditional Brazilian music through contemporary Californian sensibilities, and stalwart ten-piece hip-hop/soul/funk fusion band the Kev Choice Ensemble requires no introduction at all. Plus DJs Santero and Jeremiah at the New Parish (597 18th St., Oakland). 9 p.m., $40-$50.


Like Tupac and Elvis, Jerry Garcia is a music legend who will never die — literally or figuratively, depending on whom you ask. It’s been nearly fifteen years since the San Francisco icon moved on to that festival circuit in the sky, but his band, the Grateful Dead, and, more importantly, the music it spawned, continues to captivate fans in the Bay Area and around the world. So, too, do his old bandmates Phil Lesh and Bob Weir, who’ve honed their chops through a number of side projects since 1995, including the Other Ones, the Dead, and RatDog — all connected in spirit, if not in personnel, to the Grateful Dead. Furthur, the latest incarnation — founded earlier this year following a Dead reunion tour — finds Lesh and Weir reuniting in earnest with help from Jeff Chimenti, John Kadlecik, Jay Lane, and Joe Russo, all of whom have their own connections to the Dead. At the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium (99 Grove St., San Francisco). 7:30 p.m., $45-$65.

Laughter Against the Machine

Seldom do homegrown comedians have as much personal magnetism or shrewd observations as W. Kamau Bell, who is best known for his ever-evolving one-man show, The W. Kamau Bell Curve. Bell and Kevin Avery used to have a weekly radio spot on Live 105 called Siskel and Negro, which they mostly dedicated to film reviews — with some pop-culture miscellany mixed in. At this point, though, Bell has busied himself with an ongoing critique of race politics, integration, sanctimoniousness, silent hypocrisy, and glaring inequity in the so-called Obama Age. Bell constantly recobbles his material to stay on top of the news cycle, so it’s a different show from month to month. This New Year’s Eve he’ll revisit the big stories from 2009, and examine pop culture from a racy angle. Aptly titled “Laughter Against the Machine,” Bell’s night of “guerilla comedy” also features the equally incisive Hari Kondabolu, and local favorite Nato Green. It runs Wednesday, Dec. 30 (7:30 p.m.), & Thursday, Dec. 31 (7:30 p.m. & 10 p.m.) at the Phoenix Theatre (414 Mason St., 6th Fl., San Francisco). $20-$40.

McCoy Tyner New Year’s Celebration

Famous for this work with John Coltrane’s classic quartet (Jimmy Garrison played bass while Elvin Jones held down drum duties), pianist McCoy Tyner is, in many senses, a specter from a bygone era. Yet he’s managed to attain real longevity, amassing a huge discography while solidifying his career as a composer and leader. (SFJAZZ dedicated its 2009 season to rearranging Tyner’s material.) Many of his pieces have become standards, including “Speak Low” and the bewitching “Ballad for Aisha.” At age 71, Tyner still tours and records frequently, making annual appearances at Yoshi’s. He’ll return this New Year’s Eve with saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and the precocious 25-year-old bassist Esperanza Spalding, who plays a fetching trio version of “Body & Soul,” which she sings in Spanish. Each represents a different tradition: Tyner is the old-world Goliath with creative energy to spare; Coltrane is an explosive post-bop artist; Spalding hews to Latin and Brazilian styles. Put the three together and you’re guaranteed a phenomenal show. Dec. 29-Jan. 3 at Oakland Yoshi’s (510 Embarcadero). New Year’s Eve show Thursday, Dec. 31, at 9 p.m., $100.

Mind-Blowing Comedy Countdown

George Carlin helped push stand-up comedy into the realm of performance art, but his modern counterparts are pushing it several steps further. Whereas Carlin dealt with big social issues (e.g., free speech, capitalism, and the military industrial complex), the best current comedians are trafficking in abstract concepts and philosophical ideals. San Francisco humorist Will Franken poaches material from real life, but recontextualizes it within some kind of parallel universe. (A joke about trying to date a local theater critic leads to a call-in radio show parody.) William Burroughs might be his only historical antecedent. The similarly eccentric Brent Weinbach launched his career by impersonating Oakland public high-school students and making fun of his own neuroses. Recently he’s devolved into weird, free-associative humor that relies on vocal intonation and wordplay rather than traditional joke structure. (He’ll get a laugh by repeating the word “prego” over and over again.) His friend Moshe Kasher is the most sardonic in the bunch, with bits about guy sensitivity, Jewishness, fecal matter, body hair, and parochialism. They’ll all join forces this New Year’s Eve at the Mind-Blowing Comedy Countdown, hosted by Jill Bourque of the Purple Onion. At the Herbst Theatre (401 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco). 10 p.m., $25-$40.

Craig Robinson

Famous for playing warehouse foreman Darryl Philibin on NBC’s The Office, comedian Craig Robinson has an unlikely mix of personality traits. He’s dry-witted and coarse with office manager Michael Scott, flirty with ex-fling Kelly Kapour, and sometimes sensitive — when he’s feeding squirrels or talking about his daughter. Robinson inhabited the character so well that he went from being a bit player to having his own cult of celebrity, and a lot more prominence in the show storylines. In the meantime, Robinson worked on advancing his film and stand-up career. He started out as part of the Judd Apatow cabal, with roles in Knocked Up and Pineapple Express, then moved on to play a barista in the Kevin Smith film Zack and Miri Make a Porno. Last year he took the stage on Jimmy Kimmel Live in full Prince regalia. Robinson celebrates New Year’s at Cobb’s Comedy Club (915 Columbus Ave., San Francisco) with fellow comics Natasha Leggero and Al Madrigal. 7 p.m. ($35.50) & 9:30 p.m. ($50.50). Their run continues through Jan. 2.

The Roots

Philadelphia’s the Roots have always done things a bit differently than their peers. Touring in support of their debut record, Do You Want More?!!??!, they appeared at Lollapalooza 1995 alongside alternative acts like Sonic Youth, Hole, and Pavement. Their 1996 release Illadelph Halflife established them as a forebear of live, frequently jazz-based instrumentation in hip-hop, and produced a hit single called “What They Do,” which riffed off rap video clichés. “You Got Me,” from 1999’s Things Fall Apart, earned the Roots a Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. Five critically lauded albums followed, though none of them managed to launch the band into hip-hop superstar status, and 2009 found the band further bucking tradition as the house band for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. At the Warfield (982 Market St., San Francisco) with Los Angeles soul and funk outfit Orgone, they’ll chart their own path through this New Year’s Eve. 9 p.m., $72-$95.

Squirrel Nut Zippers

What is it about New Year’s Eve that brings out the swing in us? Maybe it’s the dressing up and the acting classy — or the looking back on another year while dusting off dances from another era. Maybe it’s just the booze. Regardless, we can’t imagine a much better time than dancing up close and personal with North Carolina swing revivalists Squirrel Nut Zippers in Cafe du Nord’s intimate setting. The band made a brief but memorable appearance on the national consciousness back in 1996 with the song “Hell” (with the D and the A and the M and the N and the A and the T and the I-O-N), and the album it appeared on, Hot, went platinum within a year. These were the days of the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, which is to say they were very different days. So whether we’re reviving the 1920s and 1930s or merely the mid-Nineties, this New Year’s Eve brings swing back for one more night. Playing two sets at Cafe du Nord (2174 Market St., San Francisco). 9:30 pm, $65.

Trombone Shorty & Zigaboo Modeliste

It’s not often that a trombonist becomes the centerpiece of the band, let alone its defining personality. But Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews achieves both, since he has charisma to spare and the ability to switch off between bone and trumpet, rendering himself a one-man brass section. “Brassy” is no misnomer when it comes to this New Orleans native. He leads a seven-piece brass band with two saxes and a deep-pocket rhythm section, whose players mix funk, rock, and second-line influences. Shorty even sings on a few songs. They’ll descend on San Francisco’s Independent (628 Divisadero St.) with Meters drummer Zigaboo Modeliste, a funk legend who lives in West Oakland, practices at Soundwave, and generally keeps a low profile. (You might recognize one of his explosive drum patterns as the sample from Amerie’s “1 Thing”). Modeliste will open with his own Crescent City-style funk band, the New Aahkesstra. 9 p.m., $85 (includes open bar).


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