When: Sat., Dec. 31 2016
As live music events in the Triangle go, Artsplosure's First Night Raleigh continues to be both the biggest bash—and best bargain—for heralding the New Year. In its twenty-sixth iteration, the celebration pegs a pair of the area's finest as headliners in Birds of Avalon and Jack The Radio. The former takes adventurous psych-rock trips propelled by pounding percussion and powerful riffage, while the latter's modern Southern sound is ambitious and melodic, whether it's channeled through swampy roots-pop or synthy alt rock. Though stylistically diverse, both bands serve up accessible, arena-sized anthems worthy of the big stage. Other musical highlights range from the stellar indie folk of Durham singer-songwriter Skylar Gudasz to traditional bluegrass and country from local duo Compton & Newberry and rowdy Nashville garage-rocker Ron Gallo to brassy blues belter Pat "Mother Blues" Cohen, though there's an array of options encompassing jazz, classical, gospel, soul, old-time, a cappella, opera, and more. A slew of performing arts troupes representing comedy, theater, and dance will also descend upon downtown along with a variety of interactive art installations (see page 28 for more on that).
Of course, there's plenty of choices elsewhere: The Cat's Cradle Back Room will be lively when Boom Unit Brass Band takes the stage following an opening set from Boom Unit drummer Gary Mitchell. Though a recent addition to the Triangle scene, Boom Unit is comprised of accomplished musicians who view New Orleans tradition from a contemporary perspective, tackling both Dixieland classics and unexpected pop covers and combining hip-hop, R&B, and funk into its custom party-ready blend. In the Cat's Cradle main room, promising Chapel Hill indie pop outfit Cool Party precedes The London Souls, whose originals could be easily mistaken for a classic rock radio block. Speaking of rock classics, Dex Romweber & Crash LaResh dig into Romweber's work both with and without the Flat Duo Jets at The Cave; the new partnership Might Mare, which teams local Americana icons Sarah Shook and John Howie Jr., and Canadian country crooner Dylan Earl round out a terrific bill.
Back in Raleigh, The Maywood offers up a punishing quartet of metal acts—Datura, Arghast, Horseskull, and My Missing Half—that deal in varying strains of doom, thrash, and death. The Pour House will see reunions from both eighties party band The Fabulous Knobs and early seventies punk quintet Little Diesel. BIG Something kicks out extended, eclectic jams with help from reggae dance act Spiritual Rez at Lincoln Theatre. Onyx Club Boys and The Clockwork Cabaret's That Darling DJ Duo provide the soundtrack to Clockwork Ball: A Steampunk Masquerade at Saxapahaw's Haw River Ballroom.
Cover band enthusiasts can throw down with 120 Minutes and Trainwreck for a "Back To The '90s" throwback at The Ritz while reminiscing about that venue's earlier days hosting some of the biggest names in alt rock. Undercover will similarly mine pop and rock gems of the nineties and early aughts for its set at Deep South, where LaureNicole opens. Rewind to the seventies and eighties as Same As It Ever Was explores the breadth of the Talking Heads' catalog at Southland Ballroom or swing over to The Station, where Black Sabbath imitators Hand of Doom are supported by the heavy, ominous surges of Solar Halos in an effort to ring in 2017 with ringing eardrums. Meanwhile, JFK Jr. plays Motorco's Motoroboto party, where it promises "hits from Reagan to Clinton" between sets from DJ Shahzad.
Class it up with dinner and a show with blues combo Josh Preslar Band at Blue Note Grill or DC-based go-go band JoGo Project at Beyù Caffè. The North Carolina Symphony and the N.C. Jazz Repertory Orchestra team up for Viennese waltzes and big band swing at annual New Year's Eve in Vienna concert in Meymandi Concert Hall.
Naturally, DJs abound as well: The Pinhook says sayonara with its Go Home 2016 You're Drunk party, where it plans to flush grievances down the toilet and pay tribute to artists lost during the year along with sets from DJ PlayPlay and DJ Gemynii. Ruby Deluxe hosts the ViZ New Year's Eve Queer Dance Party with DJ Luxe Posh and DJ DNLTMS, while DJ Pangean spins the NYE Freak Out at Slim's. Nightlight continues its Persona series, pumping out house and techno, and City Limits breaks from its usual mold to bring in a DJ that'll play country, rock, hip-hop, and more. —Spencer Griffith