As we discussed this time last year, a concert is quite possibly the best way to blast into the New Year. Being in a packed crowd of music fans, screaming and singing along and hoisting drinks as lights flash and confetti flies…it’s ecstatic, it’s special and unique. And even if the artists treat the show as just another gig, it will automatically become a gig you’ll always remember.
This year’s New Years Eve live music options in the Philly region were a bit slow to emerge. At first, it was just lot of tribute bands – two of which were Grateful Dead tributes, while another is a legit heritage band that’s pretty much morphed into a Dead tribute over time. Basically, if your listening habits primarily consist of the Dead and its offshoots, you’ve got your pick of places to be this December 31st. For the rest of us, read on for a roundup of New Years Eve concerts hitting on a range of styles and vibes.
Her 2015 record Reality Show was a formidable comeback as a recording artist – it was eclectic, it was catchy, and most importantly, it sounded great. As performer, Philly’s Jazmine Sullivan is no joke either: backup singers, choreography, a tight band, and all of the stops pulled out. Traveling into 2016 on the trap bounce of “Dumb” or the ebullient pop of “Stupid Girl” sounds sensational, and doing it at the TLA places you directly in the heart of the Philly party zone.
After taking on Boot and Saddle last NYE, dream popper faves A Sunny Day in Glasgow head north to Johnny Brenda’s with a new album in tow. A double EP, actually, and if you’ve listened to Planning Weed Like it’s Acid / Love is Loss, you know it’s a seriously cosmic set. Towering hills of sound climb to the sky with poppy melodies peeking through at the summit. The band (flung between Philly, Brooklyn and Australia) has always had this everything-at-once approach since its 2006 genesis, and live it translates its heady studio work into a visceral performance that is the sonic equivalent of fireworks.
A vet of the Philly singer-songwriter community, Ben Arnold is back with a new release due out early next year. To celebrate the turning of the calendar, he and his band are setting up shop in Steel City as they do every year, and you can expect a lot of new material along the lines of “Stupid Love,” the new single we premiered a couple months back. I’ve heard the full record, and it’s a seriously great mix of gritty rock and New Orleans soul, perfect for festivities.
Speaking of great party bands, few indie rock acts bring the party quite like Philly’s Cheerleader. The XPNFest vets played a holiday headlining gig at Johnny Brenda’s last December and it was one of my favorite concert moments of the year. For this, they’ve got a year of hard touring under their belts, as well the intimate confines of Ortlieb’s at their feet. Act fast on this one; there’s no way tickets will last till the 31st.
Though we were trying to look beyond tribute bands with this post, PhillyBloco is kind of a tribute band. But not in the sense you’re thinking. This 23-piece Brazilian rock ensemble is a veritable Philadelphia institution, and they aim to break down cultural barriers – keeping the energy and tradition of Brazilian percussion alive while bringing it to general audiences with sharp interpretations of hits by Galactic, Paul Simon and James Brown. Their New Years Eve shows at World Cafe Live are legendary; this year, they move the show to Ardmore Music Hall and will burn the place down (figuratively, of course).
A bit on the pricier side of things, but holy cow, if you were alive in the late 90s, there’s no way you didn’t hear 3EB’s 1997 debut on repeat, either from your college roommate who wouldn’t stop playing it or the fact that like half of the album was in heavy rotation on modern rock radio. The good news is that “Semi-Charmed Life,” “Jumper,” “How’s It Gonna Be” and the band in general totally hold up, as we saw at Firefly two summers ago. This could be a fun trip down memory lane for the suburbs set.
October Project frontwoman Mary Fahl brings her evocative folk to Tin Angel to close out the year on a contemplative note. Her music brings to mind Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell and Solice-era Sarah McLachlan. If you’re looking for a more low-key, reflective way to ring in the new year, this is your best bet.
Treasured Delawarean and veteran rocker David Bromberg headlines World Cafe Live at The Queen again this New Years Eve; it’s become something of a tradition for him, and the venue. He usually gets mentioned in the same breath as Bob Dylan for his contributions to his records in the 70s, but I prefer to think of him as the dude who wrote “Sharon” – a funk-soul-rock nugget that was made infamous when The Beastie Boys sampled it in 1989 for their song “Johnny Ryall.” He’s actually more than either of those things, and his NYE show will be a testament to that.
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