If you've scoured around for things to do this New Year's Eve, you may have noticed a pattern:
Free kids' stuff during the day
And in a way: as it should be. DJs playing Top 40 hits in a crowded room with confetti and champagne and ill-fitting dresses appeal to the sort of partygoers who still make New Year's Eve a thing. But what's a live music fan to do, especially when many of the big shows are already sold out? Never fear: we've got a last-minute, hand-picked guide to live music on New Year's Eve for all you procrastinators out there.
Wine & Bowties New Year's Eve. Young L, Nic Nac and Alexander Spit headline this hip-hop party presented by Wine & Bowties, the crew that puts on Oakland's ongoing Feels parties. As the engineer and main producer of the Pack, Young L has a mind for sound that comes from outer space, whereas Alexander Spit, raised in the Bay, draws inspiration from hallucinogens and his new home of Los Angeles. Part soiree, part head trip, the "intimate" evening in downtown Oakland should be a winner with tickets at $25–$30. Details here.
Seth MacFarlane with the San Francisco Symphony at Davies Symphony Hall. Public opinion may be divided on MacFarlane since his sour turn at hosting the Oscars in 2013, but the Family Guy creator and Ted writer-director is, in a way, the perfect host for an evening of Broadway and jazz standards on New Year's Eve: capable with a song, and a little ribald around the edges. Remaining tickets are $115-$230; details here.
Shannon & the Clams, Sonny & the Sunsets at the Great American Music Hall. A garage-rock pairing made in heaven -- or, at least, in the pre-"Mid-Market" era. Shannon & the Clams' Gone By The Dawn, packed with Ronettes-style melodies and odes to Cadillacs, was released in the fall, while Sonny Smith brings a brand-new six-song EP called Sees All Knows All to this record-release show. Tickets are $40; details here.
The Decemberists at the Masonic. From their breakout set as a "Communist band" opening for President Obama to this year's sleeper hit "Why Would I Now?" (it's damn good), the Portland band known for its old-world style and way with words rings in the new atop Nob Hill. Local openers Thao and the Get Down Stay Down make the show all the more attractive. Tickets are $60–$95; details here.
Lil B at the Regency Ballroom. There are many reasons to love Lil B, 10 of which we enumerated last year. But this year's seemingly annual local December show promises more than just the Berkeley rapper and his anthems to wonton soup and Ellen Degeneres: Kreayshawn, Kool John, Stunnaman of the Pack and more make appearances as well. In a year where Lil B and his infamous curse dominated the NBA finals, and in a year where his song "No Black Person is Ugly" still resonates, the Based God should bring the goods. Tickets are $55-$60; details here.
Flying Lotus, Clams Casino, Thundercat at 1015 Folsom. As the grand-nephew of Alice Coltrane and a man often surrounded by beatmaking software and medical marijuana, Flying Lotus bridges the worlds of jazz and electronic music for a heady style of party. Labelmate Thundercat, bassist and key contributor to Kendrick Lamar's list-topping album To Pimp a Butterfly, supports, with underdog hip-hop producer Clams Casino rounding out the bill. Tickets are $100–$120; details here.
Jody Watley and Shalamar at Yoshi’s. Watley was so ubiquitous on late-'80s radio that it's easy to forget her early work with Shalamar, the group assembled by Don Cornelius of Soul Train. In the pairing of Watley with a revamped Shalamar, crowds get Watley's solo hits -- "Looking for a New Love," "Real Love," "Everything" -- along with early hits from her former group. Tickets are $69-$99 for the 8pm show; $99 for 11pm. Details here.
The Flaming Lips at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. The Grateful Dead's New Year's Eve shows used to be legendary, with Bill Graham himself serving as "Father Time" at midnight. So it's a little funny that "Dead & Company," the group with three remaining members of the Dead, hightailed it out of town after their three-night stand at the hall now named for Graham to celebrate NYE in Los Angeles. In their place are the cultural ancestors of the Grateful Dead: the Flaming Lips, hot off their license-to-be-even-more-weird collaboration with Miley Cyrus, who have seemingly started their own tradition of playing New Years' Eve in San Francisco. Geographer, Tycho, Ratatat & many more round out the night, with multiple rooms at the Civic being employed for use; tickets are $95. Details here.
Marcus Shelby at Cafe Stritch. Shelby's a favorite around here, for many reasons -- and his social work about the school-to-prison pipeline is the one that may have garnered the most headlines in 2015. But between his collaborations with Anna Deveare Smith and his own political composition, it's easy to forget that Shelby simply swings. At Cafe Stritch, he's with his quintet and guest Miss Faye Carol for a relatively reasonable $20. Details here.
Mayer Hawthorne at the Independent. Mayer Hawthorne's records don't really do him justice -- live and on stage, the blue-eyed soul singer has perfected the art of working the stage and playing to the crowd. His show at the Independent seems steep -- $135 -- until you read the fine print. Yep: open bar included with admission. Drink up and get down, San Francisco. Details here.
New Year's Eve at the Petaluma Historical Library & Museum. Not to stereotype, but classical music fans are generally not the type to stay up until midnight just to drink bubbly from a shoe. Which makes this annual event in the former Petaluma Carnegie library so attractive: attendees get in at 7pm, listen to Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert as played by members of the San Francisco Symphony, and get out by 9pm. Home and in bed before Ryan Seacrest can even think about starting the countdown in Times Square. Details here.
Afrolicious at the Rickshaw Stop. The Bay Area's premier afrobeat band and a small, sweaty dancefloor. What more could one want? Tickets $40; details here.