Rousing New Year's Choices


December 30, 2005


After celebrating last New Year's Eve at New York City's Madison Square Garden with Wilco and the Flaming Lips, I figured I'd sit this one out, music-wise.

It would be hard to top the triumphant nature of that gig. And besides, I'm still picking confetti out of the pockets of my party wear.

Nevertheless, as always, there are a number of killer rock, pop and R&B shows in Chicago that are tempting me to reconsider, braving the cold and the inevitable onslaught of hard-partying amateurs in order to quench the never-ending desire to hear some great live music.

The pick of this year's offerings is the indie-rock supergroup that brought us one of the best albums of the year, the power-pop gem "Twin Cinema." Led by the Lennon/McCartney-style competitive songwriting team of A.C. Newman and Dan Bejar, the New Pornographers top the bill and celebrate the success of their third album with a show that begins at 10 p.m. at Metro, 3730 N. Clark. Likeminded (though lesser) pop groups the M's and Rogue Wave open, and tickets are $60, available online or by phone through Ticketmaster at (312) 559-1212.

If you're a member of the jam-band nation, you'll likely be ushering out the old and ringing in the new amid clouds of patchouli and other interesting odors with Umphrey's McGee at the Aragon, 1106 W. Lawrence. The Frank Zappa-inspired Indiana sextet is one of the more imaginative groups vying to replace Phish during its retirement/hiatus, and the group's New Year's Eve gig is the second of a two-night stand. Both shows start at 6:30 p.m. and tickets are available through Ticketmaster; tonight's are $30, while Saturday's are $60.

A different sort of jam-band groove will be delivered by Chicago's ever-evolving Poi Dog Pondering at the Vic Theatre, 3145 N. Sheffield. The show starts at 9:30 p.m. with the Mexican-inflected Casolando, and tickets are $41 in advance or $46 Saturday night at the door. Call Ticketmaster or the Vic's box office at (773) 472-0449.

As usual, the House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, is hosting separate shows in the main venue and the Backporch Room. Train and Everclear headline in the former with Josh Kelley opening at 9 p.m. Tickets are $155. More intriguing is the bill in the smaller room, topped by Fastball but also featuring the long-awaited return of Minneapolis' alt-rock heroes Soul Asylum. That gig starts at 10 p.m. and tickets are $85. Call (312) 923-2000.

In the indie-rock world, there are always several great parties to choose from. Starting at 10 p.m., the Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, is hosting the Juan Maclean, Spank Rock and DJ Coco LeRoc (tickets are $25; call 773-276-3600), while the Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, presents a pricey ($60) but worthwhile bill featuring tuneful Chicago grunge stalwarts Local H, the lovably rowdy Irish punks the Tossers and garage-rockers the Last Vegas. That show starts at 10 p.m. as well. Call (773) 489-3160.

The always opinionated folks at the influential Pitchfork Web site are capping a year that included the tremendous success of their Intonation Music Festival and celebrating their 10th anniversary with two shows at the Viaduct Theatre, 3111 N. Western. Diplo and the Books perform tonight, while the New Year's Eve bookings are indie-rock raves Wolf Parade, Blood on the Wall and Jason Forrest. At the moment, both shows are sold-out, but check in case last-minute tickets become available.

For fans of roots-rock, the venue and the entertainment don't get any better than FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt in Berwyn, with a lineup of firebrand vocalist Marcia Ball and the Iguanas plus the always entertaining Chicago singer and songwriter Robbie Fulks in the side bar. Doors open at 8 p.m. and tickets are $90, which includes a late-night buffet from the Wishbone Restaurant. Call (708) 788-2118.

Stevie Wonder himself won't be playing anywhere in Chicago on New Year's Eve, but the city's most imaginative cover band, Tributosaurus, will pay homage to the R&B legend with two shows that begin at 9:30 tonight and Saturday night at Martyr's, 3855 N. Lincoln. Tickets are $20 tonight and $30 Saturday. Call (773) 404-9494. (In the interest of journalistic disclosure, I should note that Tributo frontman Matt Spiegel is the producer of my radio show, "Sound Opinions," but we rarely let him sing in that forum.)

Other club gigs of note include ork-popsters Head of Femur with Catfish Haven and Canasta at the Beat Kitchen, 2100 W Belmont (show time is 9:30 p.m. and tickets are $15; call 773-281-4444); the Changes and Office at Schubas, 3159 N. Southport (show time 10 p.m., tickets $15; call 773-525-2508); Modern Day Romeos and 16 Candles at Durty Nellie's, 180 N. Smith St., in Palatine (show time 10 p.m., tickets $25; call 847-358-9150), and perennial Chicago party-band favorite Mr. Blotto at the Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace (show time 9 p.m., tickets $20 in advance, $25 at the door; call 773-478-4408).

Finally, with a gig that is as much of a tradition as its Fourth of July concert in Grant Park, WXRT-FM (93.1) is sponsoring its annual Rock & Roll Ball at Navy Pier's Grand Ballroom starting at 7:30 p.m. with Chicago's Beatlesesque Redwalls, jam-meisters the Freddy Jones Band, power-popsters Fountains of Wayne and Danielia Cotton. Regular tickets are $67, VIP tickets are $107 and both are available through Ticketmaster.