I know residents of other cities (I’m looking at you, New York) will argue this statement, but I believe there is no other area in the country matching San Francisco’s list of acts for New Year’s Eve.
San Francisco has absolutely something for everyone on December 31st. The slate includes cherished local acts (Stone Foxes, Sonny and the Sunsets), living legends (Patti Smith), indie rock mainstays (the Decemberists), things hippies like (Slightly Stoopid), cover artists (Tainted Love), blue-eyed soul (Mayer Hawthorne), over-the-top freak rock extravaganzas (The Big One featuring the Flaming Lips), and of course, an appearance by the Based God himself (Lil B). To find out more about where you should be spending your New Year’s Eve, check out the options below (in alphabetical order of venue name):
Bill Graham Civic Auditorium: The Big One with the Flaming Lips
The Wayne Coyne shtick is getting a little (a lot) stale at this point, but the Flaming Lips are still a revelatory live experience. Instead of indulging all of Wayne’s attention-gathering antics, just think about how Stephen Drozd is so utterly fucking cool. Plus, the Lips are far from the only act at the cavernous Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. Synth rockers Ratatat and Geographer will be on hand, along with a slew of electronic-based acts and DJs, like Tycho, Gramatik and XXYYXX. This one is primarily for the kiddies, but anyone interested in dancing into the New Year will be more than welcome here.
Bimbo’s: Tainted Love
The fine folks from Tainted Love are regulars at Bimbo’s but that doesn’t mean their New Year’s Eve gig at the North Beach club will be business as usual. The cover group specializes in earworm 80s pop, recreating the tunes faithfully with a rotating cast of talented vocalists. And while a Tainted Love event is usually a perfect excuse to dust off your collection of spandex and legwarmers and unleash a full can of hairspray, revelers attending this show are instructed to show up in “cocktail attire,” with black ties optional. So, probably a fashion faux pas to come dressed as Cyndi Lauper.
Bottom of The Hill: Trails and Ways
In one writer’s humble opinion, there is no better place in San Francisco to watch live music than Bottom of the Hill. The atmosphere of the punk club in Potrero Hill is so immediate and engaging, you practically feel like you’re onstage as soon as you enter the doors. Oakland indie-poppers Trails and Ways may not fit the bill of some of the louder acts that frequent Bottom of the Hill, but the local group’s alluring, Roxy Music-inflected material will still warms the crowds. San Francisco bands Crashing Hotels and Breakdown Valentine open the night.
Event Details: http://www.bottomofthehill.com/20151231.html
The Chapel: Con Brio
Because it’s straight-up a night for dancing and shaking your rump, New Year’s Eve tends to feature plenty of funk and disco bands playing local clubs. While it’s hard to go wrong with, say, Mayer Hawthorne or Afrolicious, Con Brio is an act that’s tough to beat. The San Francisco group led by Ziek McCarter specializes in sexy Studio 54 sounds and smooth R&B stylings. They’ll be performing two straight nights at the Chapel, including a New Year’s Eve gig with Planet Booty (and you know you can’t go wrong with a planet comprised entirely of booty).
Davies Symphony Hall: SF Symphony with Seth McFarlane
Uh this one. Yeah, I just don’t know why you’d want to go and see this guy. But, you know, it’s a free country. That’s my strongest argument.
The Fillmore: Patti Smith and her Band
Maybe you want to go out on New Year’s Eve and not be surrounded by a bunch of drunk kids screaming into your ear. Sounds like a pretty reasonable (although often fruitless) request, and if that’s your speed, seeing the legendary Patti Smith at the Fillmore is your best option. The poet and punk icon will be playing her classic debut album, Horses, in its entirety. The New Year’s Eve show will close out a three-night stint at the Fillmore for Smith, who is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the album that left an indelible imprint on punk music and paved the way for so many fervent followers.
Event Details: http://thefillmore.com/event/patti-smith-her-band-4/
Great American Music Hall: Shannon and the Clams and Sonny & the Sunsets
There seems to be this pervading notion that Shannon and the Clams’ music is a freakish, John Waters-version of doo-wop classics (not that that would be a bad thing), but the Oakland garage-rock trio really seem to have an honest, un-ironic desire to faithfully recreate early 60s radio classics. It helps that their music is incredibly catchy (and a little dark), and they put on an absolutely epic live show. Their appearance alone would be the worth the price of admission at the Great American Music Hall, but the fact that Sonny and the Sunsets are opening (Sonny Smith being one of the truly good-dude SF musicians) makes this an awesome double-bill for New Year’s Eve.
Event Details: http://www.slimspresents.com/?post_type=events&p=12837
The Independent: Mayer Hawthorne
With his soulful voice and big geeky glasses, Mayer Hawthorne is like a more approachable, less date-rapey version of Robin Thicke. He’s also pretty big time, so folks lucky enough to get into the cozy confines of The Independent will be paying a pretty penny to see him perform. Tickets for this night go for $135, but that also include free drinks for the whole night (so ok — that’s a pretty decent deal, especially if you’re an alcoholic, and particularly since you’re never that far from the bar at The Independent).
The Masonic: The Decemberists with Thao & The Get Down Stay Down
The Decemberists just keep chugging along, touring steadily behind their collection of baroque, theatrical indie rock creations. Colin Meloy and company will be holding court at the Masonic, a venue that suits the band’s sensibilities well — expect plenty of youngish moms and dads celebrating a night away from their kids. Meloy may be a literate fella, but he knows how to have a good time — Decemberists shows are always uproarious affairs, with the band putting on extra flourishes to their recorded material. Plus, this is the only show scheduled for the band over a six-month period, so it should be a special one. Local icon Thao Nguyen will open up the evening.
Event Details: http://sfmasonic.com/event/the-decemberists/
Mezzanine: Chet Faker
People love Chet Faker. This guy draws huge crowds at every music festival he’s at, and fortunately for his followers, he never disappoints. The Australian electronica artist first gained major notice in 2012 with his neo-jazzy cover of Blackstreet’s 90s anthem “No Diggity,” and he hasn’t really looked back since. His languid, noir-ish beats are the perfect recipe for slinky late-night dance moves, and the Mezzanine is an ideal venue for his nocturnal charms. The club will be dark and sweaty, but I doubt anyone will give a damn. Speaking of — Dam-FunK (basking in the glow of his own triumphant year) will open, alongside acid-house artist Marcus Marr.
Event Details: http://mezzaninesf.com/events/nye-chet-faker/
Public Works: Simian Mobile Disco DJ Set
The Public Works website just tells you bluntly: “Limited presales. $20-$60. Will sell out.” That means take out your card, purchase some tickets, and don’t regret missing the dudes from Simian Mobile Disco do their DJ thing on New Year’s Eve. Of all the venues listed here, Public Works is the most serious when it says that the show will last till 4 a.m. This place is built to host late-night dance parties, and James Ford and Jas Shaw — the duo that makes up Simian Mobile Disco — know how to bring the energy.
Regency Ballroom: Lil B and Friends
Perhaps no artist has mastered the importance of social media ubiquity quite like Berkeley resident Brandon McCartney, aka Lil B, aka The BasedGod. Lil B, who frequently spouts koans of wisdom on life and love, doesn’t have fans — he has family. Whether he’s putting hexes on NBA stars or releasing mix tapes with more than 100 tracks, the BasedGod draws a rapturous response from his legion of followers (1.2 million alone on Twitter.) It’s gonna be one big love-fest at the Regency when the hip-hop star helps usher in the New Year.
Event Details: http://www.theregencyballroom.com/events/detail/295140
Rickshaw Stop: Afrolicious
You like horns? You like soulful group harmony vocals? You wanna feel like you’re Shaft’s personal sidekick? Afrolicious is probably the show for you. Even when they’re singing about serious social issues, the San Francisco-based funk and dance group always emanate a super positive vibe, bring you back back to 1970s New York City (for the parts that weren’t horrible.) The Rickshaw Stop is billing this night as a “NEW YEAR’S EVE FUNK/SOUL/DISCO PARTY!” (all caps and exclamation point included), with more than five hours of dancing. Bring comfortable footwear.
Slim’s: The Stone Foxes
Mirroring their no-nonsense musical approach, the garage-rocking Stone Foxes are a trusty and reliable presence on San Francisco’s music circuit. One of the few bands that still call the city home (as of press time — these things change often and quickly), the Stone Foxes are constantly touring and they’re constantly playing local venues like Slim’s, where they’ll perform on New Year’s Eve. Expect heavy doses of Stones-y blues riffs, soaring organs and a few 70s-inspired guitar solos. The Tumbleweed Wanderers will open.
Event Details: http://www.slimspresents.com/?post_type=events&p=12835
The Warfield: Slightly Stoopid
Keeping the (really) thin veil of objectivity that this job requires can be difficult sometimes. I’ll be honest — Slightly Stoopid — I don’t know much about them and never really actively sought to remedy that situation. Also, the Warfield isn’t exactly the most endearing place to catch a show. But I don’t want to dissuade anyone from enjoying these reggae/ska/funk/ska/punk/ska dudes play for them on New Year’s Eve. Musical tastes are subjective and varied and eclectic and I celebrate that, for real. If you’re a Slightly Stoopid fan, more power to you.
Event Details: http://www.thewarfieldtheatre.com/events/detail/297491