In one year and out the other

This year’s New Year’s Eve is a back-to-basics affair. Forget gala balls, ice skating, outdoor games and other ephemera—Asheville is concentrating on music, music and more music, with the odd champagne toast thrown in for good measure.

Music with a mission: Larry Keel and Natural Bridge close out the year at the Grey Eagle and raise a little cash for MANNA FoodBank at the same time.

With no “Downtown Countdown” or fireworks display to summon in 2008 (blame poor attendance, reduced interest by sponsors and the drought), some would-be-revelers might find themselves staying home to watch the Times Square ball drop from the comfort of their own sofas. For the kids, the festivities kick off during the afternoon (and that’s a good thing). But anyone looking for a band and a barstool is in luck: This year’s shows offer something for almost everyone. Pop, bluegrass, funk and African-influenced rock are among the choices, with ticket prices running anywhere from free to $30.

New Year’s Eve highlights

Mountain Music Family Circus at The Grey Eagle (185 Clingman Ave., Asheville)—Larry Keel, though a resident of Virginia, tends to spend New Year’s Eve in Asheville. His Mountain Family Circus is now an annual event that brings together some of the area’s best musicians while raising funds and food for those in need through the Good Tidings Food Drive.

Why should this be a deciding factor when it comes to making New Year’s plans? Because this year—due to increased need and decreased resources—food pantries nationwide are coming up short. No one wants a guilt trip (and seriously, drinking less champagne won’t help any starving children), but it’s nice to know that your partying is actually making the world a better place.

Plus, roots-music fans near and far can count on Keel to pull off a star-studded show (even if most of those involved happen to be on his speed dial). This year’s lineup includes: bluegrass act Larry Keel & Natural Bridge, rockers Jeff Sipe Trio, Acoustic Syndicate’s Steve “Big Daddy” McMurry, family group Keel Brothers Band and bluegrass quintet The Harwell Grice Band.
8 p.m. $30 plus a two-can food donation to MANNA FoodBank. 232-5800.

Toubab or not Toubab? Toubab Krewe play the last two shows of the year at the Orange Peel.

Toubab Krewe at The Orange Peel (101 Biltmore Ave., Asheville)—Asheville’s West African-inspired world-rock quintet plays a rare local show to ring in the New Year. Special guests include Umar Bin Hassan (of The Last Poets), Caroline Pond and the reunited Snake Oil Medicine Show.

Two reasons to make it to this show: First, Toubab Krewe may be local at heart, but in their few years as a band they’ve already been claimed by a global audience. Catching this group without having to book a flight to Timbuktu (literally) happens only a couple times a year.

Second, on-again-off-again arty roots band Snake Oil Medicine Show turns every appearance into a full-on festival. The high-energy group pours their hearts into every psychedelic acoustic note, and their shows are usually studded with surprise appearances and moments of inspired impromptu genius.
9 p.m. $20 advance; $25 at the door; $30 for both nights (Toubab Krewe also plays Sunday, Dec. 30, at 9 p.m. with The Lee Boys). 225-5851.

The Emerald Lounge New Year’s Eve Grand Re-Opening (112 N. Lexington Ave., Asheville)—This no-holds-barred show features performances by funk collective Strut, psychedelic folk rockers The Big Money Band, hip-hop artist Adam Strange and pop act Ruby Slippers with Mingle. The night of music celebrates not only the start of 2008, but new ownership at the downtown Asheville club.

That’s right, the clincher here is the new-ownership part. For those who have given the hippie-jam-band bastion of local venues a wide birth, here’s the perfect opportunity to reconsider. It’s also a prime chance to see if Emerald Lounge can get above its raising. Can the new owners Febreze away years of stale smoke? Can the bathroom be transformed into a place that a female clientele might actually want to visit? And will the events calendar reflect a new sensibility, music-wise? There’s only one way to find out.
9:30 p.m. $10. 232-4372.

Go on, burn that candle at both ends

40th Birthday New Year’s Eve Bash at The Health Adventure (2 S. Pack Square, Asheville)—Start the celebrating in the afternoon with this family-friendly event. In honor of the Health Adventure’s 40th year, revelers can partake of retro-1960s activities, come dressed as ‘60s rock stars or band members for a chance to win prizes, learn about bones and air travel, and enjoy healthy snacks.
3-5 p.m. $10 per family (members are free). 254-6373, ext. 310.

The Sharkadelics at The Hangar (Holiday Inn Airport, Fletcher)—Looking for a party with all the trimmings (including a champagne toast) and a place to crash so you don’t have to worry about driving while reveling? Here’s the place to go. Room packages include a breakfast buffet on New Year’s Day; the party in the hotel’s nightclub kicks off with hits performed by the area’s best-known cover band.
4 p.m. Room packages are $134.18 per couple; the party (without a room) is $15 per person. 684-1213.

Royal Groove at Tressa’s Downtown Jazz & Blues (28 Broadway Ave., Asheville)—Tressa’s bills this New Year’s Eve party as “famous,” and clubgoers are sure to feel at least like B-list stars, what with the soul-food buffet served in the luxury lounge, the champagne fountain, the balloon drop and the midnight toast.
7:30 p.m. $25. 254-7072.

Swing in the New Year at the Crowne Plaza Resort’s Crowne Ballroom (1 Resort Dr., Asheville)—Dance away the last moments of 2007 to the Solomon Douglas Swingtet. This swing-dance extravaganza is the culmination of the sixth annual Southeast Lindy Hop Championships, but “civilians” can get in on the action, too. Room and dinner packages are available, or just show up in your dancing shoes (lessons are provided).
8 p.m. lessons ($15); 9 p.m. dance ($35). Dance and lesson, $45; couples, $80. 275-3639.

Bombadil at Westville Pub (777 Haywood Road, Asheville)—Durham-based lyrical folk rockers Bombadil (label mates with both The Avett Brothers and Mad Tea Party) make a stop in Asheville. Comprised of brothers Daniel and John Michalak and a group of former Duke students, they play everything from glockenspiel and trumpet to zampona and harmonica.
8 p.m. $5. 225-9782.

New Year’s Eve Contra Dance at the Old Farmer’s Ball (Bryson Gym, Warren Wilson College, Swannanoa)—While the event may be alcohol-free (seriously, do-se-dos and bubbly don’t mix), dance band the Skytones set the mood. Dress festively and bring party food.
8 p.m.-12:30 a.m. $15. www.oldfarmersball.com.

Mac Arnold & Plateful O’ Blues at The Handlebar (304 E. Stone Ave., Greenville, S.C.)—Ever wondered what, exactly, a plateful o’ blues entails? Here’s the perfect opportunity to find out. Considered a living blues legend, upstate South Carolina artist (and frequent Western North Carolina visitor) Mac Arnold got his start as Muddy Waters’ bass player and by performing on Soul Train.
9 p.m. $20. (864) 233-6173.

Good, clean fun: Sangita Devi welcome 2008 with chanting and puja.

Sangita Devi at Namaste Yoga & Healing Center (57 Broadway St., Asheville)—Local kirtan (ecstatic Hindu chanting) leaders Sangita Devi are known for their uplifting appearances at Lake Eden Arts Festival and healing centers around the region. They offer a spiritually based alternative to traditional New Year’s parties with this evening of celebration. The audience is invited to participate in music, chanting and sacred ceremony, followed by catered desserts and teas. Just before midnight, the group creates New Year’s intentions through meditation and a special puja ceremony. Bring an item to place on the world peace altar.
9 p.m.-12:30 a.m. $30/advance, $35 after Wednesday, Dec. 26. 253-6985.

The Plowshares and Sirius.B at BoBo Gallery (22 Lexington Ave., Asheville)— A press release for this show promises “exotic absurdities and surprises in store.” The evening culminates with a champagne toast. Buy those tickets quickly: Only about 75 are available.
9 p.m. $12/advance at www.siriusbmusic.com ; $15 at the door. 254-3426.

Lixx at Wild Wing Cafe (161 Biltmore Ave., Asheville)—What says New Year’s Eve more than girls dressed in shrunken Catholic school uniforms brandishing electric guitars? Cover band Lixx gets the party started at Wild Wing Cafe.
9 p.m. $15. 253-3066.

Girls just wanna have fun: Stephanie’s Id and Menage share the stage at Stella Blue.

Stephanie’s Id and Menage at Stella Blue (31 Patton Ave., Asheville)—Two of Asheville’s most dynamic female-led groups go head-to-head at this end-of-year bash in a show billed as “Together at last!” There are promises that both acts will share the stage on each other’s songs (all three vocalists are known for sitting in with their friend’s bands). If you caught Stephanie Morgan’s special appearance during the Menage set at The Orange Peel last New Year’s, then you have some idea of what to expect.
9:30 p.m. $15. Info: 236-2424.

Sons of Ralph at Jack of the Wood (95 Patton Ave., Asheville)—The catch phrase for this annual institution is, “More fun than you can shake a stick at!” Fans of Asheville’s preeminent bluegrass-fusion family act can’t seem to get enough of Ralph Lewis and company, and the atmosphere at Jack of the Wood is festive, cozy and crowded.
9:30 p.m. $5. 252-5445.

Fireworks at the Cherokee Indian Fair Grounds (Highway 441 North, Cherokee)—There aren’t fireworks in downtown Asheville this year, but the WNC town of Cherokee is keeping that flame alive. Check the Cherokee Web site (www.cherokee-nc.com) for other New Year’s-related happenings.
10 p.m. Free. (800) 438-1601.

Drum in the New Year: Steel drum player Jonathan Scales sits in with Get Lost at Barley’s.

Get Lost with Jonathan Scales at Barley’s Taproom (42 Biltmore Ave., Asheville)—Boone’s funk and soul outfit Get Lost meets Asheville’s innovative drummer Jonathan Scales for an eclectic holiday party. It’s worth checking out, especially since Scales will be playing steel drums as part of the band. What makes this party even better? No cover charge.
10:30 p.m. Free. 255-0504.

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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