New Year’s Eve has always been a polarizing holiday. Some love it, relishing the confetti and champagne at the many wild parties the city has to offer. Others find the pressure to have a good time suffocating, and delight in posting on social media about their unexciting nights with their cats. Whether you want to dance all night at a rave, take in some sober experimental music and be home by midnight, or prefer to avoid the night in question altogether, here are the best things to do in the city on the very last (thank god) week of 2016.
Kurt Vile (and The Violators), Woods, Nathan Bowles
8 p.m., $30-$35
Kurt Vile excels at being himself. The guitarist, singer and songwriter has put out six solo albums that veer alternately towards folk and rock, sometimes with an added dash of new wave and psychedelia. But Vile’s voice and writing is always central to his work. His lyrics are intimate and sad and funny all at once, and once you hear him, his distinctive worldview and personality are instantly recognizable in any of his nearly universally great work. His gentle black comedy about the absurdity of life makes this show uniquely qualified to put this godforsaken year to rest.
Pharmakon, Drew McDowall, Bookworms, Ciarra Black, Container
8 p.m., $15-$30
In the weeks since the tragic fire that destroyed the Ghost Ship arts space in Oakland, California, DIY art communities around the world have expressed their grief and support in creative and inspiring ways. One of the most notable of these efforts is an “Oakland Benefit” concert to be held at Saint Vitus in Greenpoint, featuring artists with connections to the global underground scene: Pharmakon, the goddess of New York noise and former resident of Queens underground space Red Light District, will play her gut-wrenching, ear-piercing music, alongside Coil legend Drew McDowall, techno DJs Bookworms and Ciarra Black and industrial experimenters Container. This would be fantastic lineup to see any time; in this moment, it’s a special chance for a wounded community to come together and heal.
Cymbals Eat Guitars, Haybaby
10:30 p.m., $20
Are Cymbals Eat Guitars a garden variety indie rock band holdover from the late aughts, or part of the brave new vanguard of fourth wave emo bands like The Hotelier and Modern Baseball who are taking the teen scene by storm? That’s the question that’s implicitly asked on the Staten Island’s band’s last two albums, which continue to swerve through genres impressively, pulling from rock music as diverse as Bruce Springsteen, Built To Spill, and Modest Mouse as inspiration. They’ll play alongside the Brooklyn rock band Haybaby, whose emotional performances make their tightly crafted songs come to life.
Justice (DJ), Crystal Castles, Hot Chip (DJ)
9 p.m., $49 – $129
As 2016 comes to a close, a meme has emerged comparing photos from this year with our fresh-faced, pre-smartphone selfies from 2006. #2006vs2016, as it’s known, dredged up a multitude of embarrassing styles and haircuts at the dawn of our current social media dominated age. If the meme reemerges a year from now, many of the photos may feature Justice t-shirt-wearing masses, covered in sweat and guzzling Sparks, losing their minds to †, the massive breakout pre-EDM album released by the enigmatic French duo in 2007. For anyone pining for the days of gold-lamé leggings and PBR, this pre-New Year’s party will provide a safe space to pretend that 2007 never ended.
Kamasi Washington, The Budos Band
6 p.m., $40
Kamasi Washington’s 2015 three hour blockbuster album The Epic brought the legacy of 20th century jazz to a new cohort—millennial hip hop fans. Washington made his way into the spotlight thanks to his work on Kendrick Lamar’s masterpiece To Pimp A Butterfly, so few expected that his solo debut would be such a straightforward jazz affair. Not that Washington’s impressive and sweeping work is boring—the composer and musician mixes up some of the most dynamic aspects of 20th century jazz, from soul jazz to compositions inspired by John Coltrane and Miles Davis. His band puts on an overwhelmingly stunning live performance—catch the first of his two-show run before the New Year’s eve partiers crowd in.
Lit City Rave: J-Cush, Durban, Vjuan Allure, DJ Tiga, Nadus, DJ Irresistible
11 p.m., $12-$15
In 2011, the New York label Lit City Trax was founded as a home for boundary-pushing artists who straddle electronic genres like Chicago’s heart-racing footwork and variations on the UK export grime. Along with promoting artists like UK rapper Skepta and Jersey club DJ UNIIQ3 years before they were known outside of the underground, Lit City’s claim to fame is its wild ragers, raves that draw a staggeringly diverse crowd to dance all night. On New Year’s, the label will take over Sunnyvale, a rising Brooklyn venue in the East Williamsburg industrial park, with plenty of space for dancing and drinking their dangerously boozy cheap cocktails.
Katie Got Bandz, Juliana Huxtable, LE1F, Ezra Marcus, DJ DJ De Se, SCRAAATCH, Sadaf
10 p.m., $20 – $30
This former door-frame factory in Queens, outfitted with hundred-foot ceilings and massive windows, is one of the few spaces grand enough to host a party that will wash away the sins of this year with help from some of of the best queer talent our city has to offer. Rapper Le1f (whose 2015 album Riot Boi was the best release of his career) will perform alongside the internationally acclaimed artist and DJ Julianna Huxtable and Iranian-Canadian artist Sadaf, whose time as a performance artist shines through in her politically charged and abrasive sounds, which she described to Fader as spanning “Slipknot remixes and Angolan kuduro rhythms, Persian trap and trance, raggatek and Ghanese dancehall.”
The Hotelier, Oso Oso, Born Without Bones
8 p.m., $25
The Massachusetts three piece The Hotelier are one of a few bands at the forefront of the above-mentioned “emo revival”. But even if you were never a fan of that maudlin genre, there’s plenty to love about this band, whose cathartic, tightly composed rock songs are perfect for screaming along to. Their last album, Goodness, released this year on Tiny Engines, is their most accessible yet for anyone who finds emo a little whiny. Their sound here is most comparable to a group like Japandroids—that is to say, a killer rock band. And who doesn’t like that?
Thurston Moore, Okkyung Lee, Ikue Mori, John Zorn, William Winant
8 p.m., $30
For those who are looking forward to getting a good night’s sleep on New Year’s, head to this experimental music institution (which recently announced its closure) for an early show from some of the genre’s pioneers. Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore will play an improvised set alongside curator John Zorn, South Korean cellist Okkyung Lee, Japanese American drummer Ikue Mori (formerly of the no wave band DNA), and contemporary classical percussionist William Winant. This all-star line up will provide a perfect incubator for strange and exciting noise.
KUNQ NYE: Balasa, Battyjack, False Witness, Kala, Micah, Rizzla, SHYBOI
10 p.m., $15 – $17
Boston-born dance music collective KUNQ took its name from a mash up of four evocative words: queer, punk, cunt, and crunk. That should give you a feel for what kind of vibe to expect at their New Year’s function, where the rising stars of Brooklyn underground techno, including Discwoman’s SHYBOI and Fade To Mind’s Rizzla, will blast out the tunes to soundtrack our passage into 2017. False Witness, a Brooklyn DJ whose hyper-stimulating mixes draw from global dance and hip hop, will also work with lighting genius Nightmind to provide mind-blowing laser effects. If you want to stay out late, this party goes till dawn.