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New Year’s Eve 2012 concert picks

There are dozens of options. What are we doing New Year’s Eve? Well, nothing that will break the bank or push us into a mosh-pit of teens.


There are more than 20 musical acts hoping to ring in your 2012. Unfortunately, none of them are on the level of the Flaming Lips or the Black Keys, big, celebratory bands that sprayed confetti on Chicago on recent New Year’s Eves. The star power on offer this year is low. Then again, Bieber, Pitbull and Gaga are on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest, so we need to get out of the house. We’re looking for a killer band, a good crowd, a reasonable price, an appropriate venue and flowing libations. Let’s filter the options.

No teens
Sorry, kids, but this is a drinking holiday. Having no desire to mosh with the frosh, we’ll stick with a 21-and-up gig. If you kiss a stranger at midnight, there’s a lesser chance of it being totally creepy. That rules out mash-up bros the Hood Internet at Lincoln Hall ($25–$30) and mugging soul showmen JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound at Schubas ($25–$30). Raise a toast, not a crowdsurfer. So skip Cage the Elephant as it does its hillbilly Pixies shtick at the Aragon, a cavernous sweat lodge ($27.25). Dubstep kingpin Rusko nukes Congress Theater with bowel-shaking bass ($60–$110). But, man, Champagne causes enough of a hangover. Plus, that’s a steep price, which brings us to our next rule.

Nothing over $50
Were it any other uninflated night of the year, the killer Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears at Double Door ($85–$95) would be our pick. But a C-note is a lot to drop on a concert. Likewise, James Hunter at Mayne Stage ($50–$125) and the O’Jays at Chicago Theatre ($69.50–$99.50) are too rich for our wallets in a recession, though they look like the classiest options. When the ball drops, we’d rather it not be a hacky sack, so the jammy Disco Biscuits at Auditorium Theatre ($67) would be off our list regardless of cost. Same with Big Head Todd & The Monsters, Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven at House of Blues ($62.50), which just smells too much like a summer street fest. With Old 97’s at InterContinental Chicago O’Hare ($75), the price gets you open bar, but we get enough of the airport during the holidays.

Not the same-old same-old
It seems as if Local H, which hits Bottom Lounge ($25), and Lucky Boys Confusion, who play above the din of Wrigleyville at Cubby Bear ($20–$25), are on tap every NYE. The two local alterna-nation throwbacks also play around town frequently. Same goes for Deal’s Gone Bad at Beat Kitchen ($15).

No downers
, at Empty Bottle ($20–$25), are one of our best local acts, but something about sipping 40oz to gothic shoegazer sludge seems too bleak, even for a year that gave us Herman Cain and the Penn State scandal.

…that leaves
For sheer debauchery, few gigs can compare with Ramonesian punks the Spits teaming with the gutter-glam of Mickey at Cobra Lounge ($15–$20). The shredding Tight Phantomz offer similar kicks for even less at Quenchers ($10). The gospel and blues of Otis Clay captures the muddled feelings of the holidays at SPACE ($25–$58). Material Issue ($35–$40) says farewell in its final gig, at Reggie’s Rock Club. The sugary power-pop is intriguingly paired with the spooky, sexy dirges of Redgrave, one of our city’s most promising acts. Now that’s out with the old, in with the new.

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