New Year’s Eve music shows
New Year’s Eve celebrations are as much about marking the end of something as they are about kicking off the new year with a fizzy bang. Putting a period at the end of the sentence that was 2018 feels like the reason to get festive this year, more so than anticipating the glories of 2019. As with the end of 2016 and 2017, the general sentiment seems to be: Things can’t get much worse, can they? Well, we’ll see. As the Trump White House spirals into even more convulsions of mean and alarming chaos, with government shutdowns and high-profile defections, and as international reports about the impending turmoil of sped-up climate change paint a grim picture of the future, many of us feel ready to put 2018 behind us. A little music is in order to help do the job. The annual batch of local New Year’s Eve festivities provides a nice way of getting out with people, avoiding the broadcast inanities of the Times Square ball-drop programming, which is a peculiar mix of death-march and interminable telethon. Plus, it’s not every week (or every year) that you get to party on a Monday night without the dread of facing the routines of the world, the office, and workplace on Tuesday.
The Mantras at The Blind Tiger
Greensboro’s own eclectic long-form jammers, the Mantras, play a New Year’s Eve show at the Blind Tiger. At its core is a musical relationship and collaboration between founding members, one that goes back over a dozen years. The band can hopscotch from groove to boogie, to swamp rock to prog to metal, salsa, jazz, reggae and beyond. They’re not into getting pinned down, and listeners can expect a musical journey that moves with loose-limbed ease. See the Mantras with special guest the Wright Ave at The Blind Tiger, 1819 Spring St., Greensboro. The show starts at 8:30 p.m. and tickets range from $15 to $200.
The Plaids at The Ramkat
As Neil Young once sang: “Live music is better…”
And that dictum helps explain why you are in fact better off going to see the Plaids perform than just sitting around and cranking the etched-in-your-brain retro party anthems that the band churns through in their festive live shows. This is fist-pumping nostalgia music, A+ wedding band jams. If you view the ‘80s as a cultural golden age, the Plaids are your party band. Any band that can list, alphabetically, the influence of songs like Tom Petty’s “American Girl,” Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorns,” Prince’s “Purple Rain,” the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated,” REO Speedwagon’s “Take It On the Run,” Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy,” the Romantics’s “What I Like About You” and Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” is obviously not putting all of their pop eggs in one basket. It’s true that mindless hookiness might be given a higher value here than depth, subtlety, and meaning, but when you’re looking to obliterate the bad juju of a tainted year, brainless sing-along nuggets (and the sedative/depressant of your choice) might be the best medicine. As the Plaids say, in fittingly ironic Gen-X pop-culture style: Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman. See the Plaids at The Ramkat, 170 W. Ninth St., Winston-Salem, at 9 p.m. and tickets range from $25 to $50.
Viva La Muerte at Little Brother Brewing
Matthew Armstrong and his band Viva La Muerte are a band that plays American roots music with a dark, psychedelic vein. The Greensboro-based band takes a stab at coming to terms with what you might call the New Weird America, meaning their music has a historical scope and sweep. Armstrong writes songs with a poetic heft to them. He’s not afraid to try to dissect the creeping craziness that has infiltrated American political life, but he’s also keen to give respect to the power of simple emotion, tradition, and pleasure. Dark clouds on the horizon can make for a powerful, dramatic landscape, and in his songs, Armstrong takes the scenery in. If you’re looking for a New Year’s Eve celebration that isn’t characterized by reckless abandon but has notes of circumspection, Viva La Muerte will play a show that keeps things in perspective. Viva La Muerte plays Little Brother Brewing, 348 S. Elm St., Greensboro.
Bassnectar at Greensboro Coliseum
If sonic oblivion is what you crave, Bassnectar might deliver it in racing BPM doses. If you believe in the body/mind divide, dubstep is focused primarily on the first part of that split. This is music designed to accelerate pulses, to overwhelm senses and to generally manipulate your neurons through a combination of volume and cell-messaging low-end. Bassnectar will perform in a fashion that will basically shut down the mind, in a good way. Bassnectar, the stage name of the Bay Area-based producer and DJ Lorin Ashton, began releasing records over 15 years ago. This is music that is about how beats can alter our physiological systems, nudge our heart in different directions and possibly propel us into new places and dimensions. If you have faith in the transformative power of dance music, Bassnectar and his sonic force are with you. This event also features G Jones, Anna Morgan, EPROM, and Manic Focus. See Bassnectar’s New Year’s Eve 360 Degrees at the Greensboro Coliseum, 1921 West Gate City Blvd, Greensboro, at 8 p.m. and tickets start at $89.99.
John Adamian lives in Winston-Salem, and his writing has appeared in Wired, The Believer, Relix, Arthur, Modern Farmer, the Hartford Courant and numerous other publications.