Music Hall of Williamsburg
Charles Bradley just got me laid. I had him playing on my laptop, and the next thing I know, I’m on my back finishing a cigarette. Backed by horns, the guy’s voice can knock down walls. Known as the Screaming Eagle of Soul, this revivalist is putting music back together again one beautiful note at a time. Combined with the 10-piece collective that is the Budos Band, this show will send you back to the Serpico days in style. Tickets to the New Year’s Eve performance are $40.
66 North 6th Street, Brooklyn, 718-486-5400, musichallofwilliamsburg.com
Eugene Hütz and his cadre of globe-stomping nomadic heroes have plotted a course back to New York for a full-on audio assault of Terminal 5. For two full nights, this band of transcontinental gypsy-punk pioneers will take center stage before marching off to conquer South America. Anyone who has been to a Gogol Bordello show can tell you how undeniably infectious these guys are live. They get everyone up on their feet and screaming—and if that’s just on any given Thursday, can you imagine what they’ll do on New Year’s Eve? It’s $35 to $45 to see the show, depending on which night you go.
610 West 56th Street, 212-582-6600, terminal5nyc.com
Madison Square Garden
You know when you’re sitting at a bar with a friend, and a song comes on, and you say: “Oh, I haven’t heard this song in years—I love this. Who is it?” Pshhht. Like you don’t know. It’s Phish. It’s always Phish. Any group that can consistently draw crowds of thousands every year is doing something right. And the band is now beginning to make New Year’s Eve at the Garden a tradition. This year, they’re set to play four separate shows starting December 28. Tickets for their New Year’s show are going fast at $70 apiece. Stay positive.
2 Penn Plaza, 212-465-6741, thegarden.com
When I first saw these guys, I immediately wanted them to be my emergency contacts. Backed up by the Super Mash Bros and Body Language, Matt & Kim are taking over the stage at the Hammerstein on New Year’s Eve. With three solid albums behind them and a shitload of energy, catching this duo live on the biggest night of the year is a good look for anyone who loves to dance and watch awesome performers do their job right. This show is shaping up to be a New Year’s Eve trifecta of dance punk mayhem, heavily clever mashups, and electropop sensibility. Admission is $55 for this all-ages show.
311 West 34th Street, 212-485-1534, mcstudios.com
Best Buy Theater
There will be some serious trance heaviness going on in the middle of Times Square this New Year’s. Electro-psychedelic all-stars Infected Mushroom will be laying down some heart-pumping, body-dumping BPMs for all of us who can’t live without the throb of amplification beneath our feet. Maybe you ran into them at Burning Man this year, and you want to thank them personally for that half-finished bottle of water they found for you. Regardless, this performance ($50 to $55) promises to be a memorable close to 2011. Advanced VIP tickets include a meet-and-greet with the duo prior to the show.
1515 Broadway, 212-930-1950, bestbuytheater.com
Accordions, trumpets, Latin drums, and electric guitars make up the eclectically funky mashup that is Escarioka. Formed in 2002 and playing every room imaginable, this band likes to call their rhythm-infused magic Turbo-tropical Cumbia, and, given the originality of their arrangements and the sounds that they manage to skillfully fuse together into infectious dance decathlons, it’s totally OK to give them license to do so. The other great reason for seeing this band play on New Year’s Eve is their venue: Having a bad night out at Mehanata is a Herculean task. The Bulgarians who run this place hold you hostage with infused booze, belly dancers, and an awesome ice cage where you can throw on old Soviet swag and knock back shots of vodka with Slavic expatriates. It’s 10 bucks at the door (or 1,470 Bulgarian stotinki if you need some more convincing).
113 Ludlow Street, 212-625-0981, mehanata.com
What is Nosaj Thing? A talented noise collector with an ear for the melodic? A paradigm of modulated lo-fi goodness? Or is he just doing something inexplicably right? This year, he’s getting together with PopGun at the Glasslands to ring in the new year in a more understated fashion. Critics and fans have been raving about his album Drift, a collection of undiluted soundscapes and dance-worthy cuts. Head across the bridge and check this guy out. A one-hour open vodka bar and a champagne toast at midnight for $25 should cap it off right.
289 Kent Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-599-1450, glasslands.blogspot.com
Smoke is way the hell uptown away from the chaos that surrounds downtown spots like Blue Note or Midtown legend Birdland (two excellent spots that are still great destinations for jazz on New Year’s Eve). But the fact that this small supper club is just out of reach of most imaginations makes it an attractive option. Jazz connoisseurs and laymen alike huddle together in this intimate setting to listen to great music. You’re still going to pay jazz club prices, but the quality of the performances and the ambience more than make up for it. This year, tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander and his longtime partner Harold Mabern take the stage with special guest vocalist Gregory Porter. Dinner packages are available ranging from $95 to $245.
2751 Broadway, 212-864-6662, smokejazz.com