New Year’s Eve is always a letdown. Somewhere along the way the perfect plan hits a snag—the show you desperately want to see sells out, or you leave your wallet at the sushi restaurant after one too many sake bombs (this never happened to me, I swear). Instead of looking for perfection, maybe we should all lower our guard a bit and enjoy New Year’s Eve for what it is: the last time to celebrate—or forget—the past year and embrace the future with a night of drunken debauchery, classic-rock singalongs, and one final can of Four Loko. In honor of the holiday, I present a list of my NYE picks and alternative options in case things get too crazy.
10. Andre Nickatina and Paul Wall at Roseland
I’ve never been a huge fan of the thick-drawling Nickatina or his brand of Bay Area coke rap, so the real endorsement here is for Houston rapper Paul Wall, an underrated veteran of trunk-rattling Southern rap with a true NYE party anthem in the ridiculous “I’m on Patron.”
Alternative: Magic Garden is just around the corner.
9. The Shaky Hands at Backspace
This one is for the kids, who deserve a rad show after a year when downtown’s other all-ages options (Satyricon and Berbati’s Pan) shut their doors. Boy Eats Drum Machine brings the dance party, and then Nick Delffs and the Shaky Hands ring in 2011 with new songs and a Dead Moon cover.
Alternative: The Artistery also has a solid all-ages show.
8. Pierced Arrows at Ash Street Saloon
Speaking of Dead Moon, how about spending your night with Fred and Toody Cole and a few PBR tall boys? Pierced Arrows quietly released the excellent Descending Shadows in February, and Portland’s old-guard rock ’n’ roll power couple still shred better than your favorite band.
Alternative: Stay in and watch the ball drop with Dead Moon on the turntable.
7. Two Beers Veirs at Laurelthirst Public House
You want star power? How about folk songstress Laura Veirs singing a set of traditional covers with three Decemberists (Chris Funk, Nate Query and John Moen) backing her up and special guest singers like the Fruit Bats’ Eric Johnson and Rebecca Gates of the Spinanes.
Alternative: Put the kids to bed, illegally download the new Decemberists album, The King is Dead, and rest up for a big day of college football.
6. Caleb Klauder at The Spare Room
Nothing says New Year’s Eve better than a night of honky-tonk country songs, square dancing and cheap drinks at a converted bowling alley. The Spare Room has Champagne, but you won’t want to drink anything other than whiskey at this shindig.
Alternative: Lana Rebel’s going-away show at the World Famous Kenton Club.
5. Strength at Holocene
Anyone bummed that the Keith Sweat show sold out (I’m looking at you, cougars) will find comeuppance with Strength’s sweaty, totally straight-faced disco sex jams. Ladies, let Bailey Winters rub you down with brandy.
Alternative: Slam a row of Jell-O shots at Scooters and try to sneak into the Crystal.
4. Pure Country Gold at Slabtown
Rowdy, beer-soaked, piss-talking garage punk and power pop at a real rock club. It’s almost like the aughts never existed.
Alternative: The Dandy Warhols live around here, right?
3. The Helio Sequence, Ramona Falls and Dirty Mittens at Mississippi Studios
This is easily the smallest venue the Helio Sequence has played in years, plus Dirty Mittens’ new-school soul is just perfect for the occasion. Good luck getting a ticket.
Alternative: Hop Bar Bar’s fence, stay for the opening bands, then head downtown.
2. Weinland’s NYE Supergroup at Doug Fir
The ultimate party set by folk-rockers Weinland and all their friends. Last year’s show at the Mission Theater was epic, and this time out they’re doing “Dancing in the Dark.” It’s better than karaoke!
Alternative: The Slammer has cheaper beer and an Internet jukebox.
1. Five Fingers of Funk at Berbati’s Pan
Raise a glass and toast Berbati’s Pan, my favorite club in Portland and really the last vestige of the ’90s rock era in town.
Alternative: Get ready to face the longest line you’ve ever seen to get a mediocre late-night doughnut.