Party people

Swing dancers posing

Trying to plan your New Year’s Eve? We’ve got festivities to go with every party dress in your closet. From polyrhythms to swinging jazz, downtown Asheville (and the surrounding area) offers a range of events. There’s something for families with young kids, people who just want to check out the fireworks, serious party hounds, dance enthusiasts and the more spiritually inclined. Whether it’s an alcohol-free evening or free-flowing champagne you’re after, chances are the details are right here:

Rhythm method

The Afromotive

The Afromotive

Asheville’s nine-piece Afrobeat ensemble knows how to get things moving on the dance floor. A collective of seasoned musicians, The Afromotive mixes African rhythms with jazz – which is simultaneously earthy and sophisticated. Bandleader Kevin Meyame sings in French, English, and his native language of Baoule, but the show is hardly a somber cultural experience. It’s all about getting the audience on its feet.

Space-funk trio Telepath, led by former Afromotive keyboardist Michael Christie, keeps things interesting with samples from horns, guitars, Eastern vocalists and various rhythms, and then blends the found sounds with live music.

Quartet Menage made a major shift this year from an all-female folk troupe to a coed band with rock sensibilities. Expect plenty of harmonies and a mix of originals and cover tunes. At a recent Westville Pub show, front women Mary Ellen Bush and Sarah McDonald switched dresses as part of the encore. Just an FYI.

The Orange Peel. 9 p.m. $15/advance, $17/doors. 225-5851.

Family Circus



The circus is in town … so to speak. Virginia-based bluegrass ringmaster Larry Keel has made a habit of spending Dec. 31 in Asheville. He returns to The Grey Eagle with his band, Natural Bridge, and plenty of friends.

Steve “Big Daddy” McMurray (of now-defunct Acoustic Syndicate) takes the stage, along with local quartet CX-1 (with members of Snake Oil Medicine Show; currently on hiatus) and the Domesticated Outlaws (with members of the band formerly known as Grassoline). As press for the show points out, “This year’s concert is a musical reunion, of sorts. We’ve got strong representation from some of the area’s finest bands that are, sadly, no more.”

The event is a fundraiser for MANNA Foodbank, so listeners are asked to bring a donation of two canned food items. Last year’s show collected more than 400 pounds of food; this year, the organizers hope to top that record. Everyone who donates is entered in the Good Tidings Raffle of Mountain Music Family Prizes.

The Grey Eagle. 8:30 p.m. $25. 232-5800.

It may be chilly, but the price is right

Asheville’s annual kid-friendly, city-sponsored event offers a little bit of everything: Music, fireworks and downtown atmosphere. The alcohol-free festivities are open to the public, and entertainment is provided by the top three musical acts from Star 104.3’s Battle of the Bands, an ongoing feature in which listeners are invited to ante up support for their favorite local acts. While the Downtown Countdown stage isn’t the end of the road for these bands, it is a chance for Betting for Benson, Kole and Last Chance to show off what earned them the respect of their fans. Dance hard and dress warm — this event is held outdoors.

City-County Plaza. 10 p.m. Free. 259-5800.

Sonic boom



Nothing says “out with the old, in with the new” quite like insanely loud punk-inspired metal. Savannah, Ga.-based band Kylesa, which describes its sound as “shred your face off,” take the New Year’s slot at Stella Blue — not exactly in the footsteps of previous New Year’s regulars the Goodies and Scrappy Hamilton.



“We just like playing heavy music and we’ve always liked playing it regardless of what is popular or trendy,” guitarist and vocalist Laura Pleasants explains in the group’s press. Phillip Cope, Kylesa’s other guitarist and vocalist, adds, “While we are no kings of one scene, we have, in a sense, just developed our own thing.”

Kylesa also has two drummers — the better to hear them with. Their most recent album, Time Will Fuse Its Worth, came out this year.

Stella Blue. 10 p.m. 236-2424.

Tried and true

The Sons of Ralph

The Sons of Ralph

According to The Boston Globe “They bring the hair up on the back of your neck.” Which, presumably, is meant as a good thing when it comes to the Sons of Ralph, who are again playing the New Year’s Eve show at Jack of the Wood.

Along with the usual festivities, look for new songs from guitar-playing son Marty Lewis, who recently released his solo effort, Olde-Town Lullabies. Lewis describes the CD as a departure from the Sons of Ralph usual alt-bluegrass fare. Originally, the New Year’s show was intended to be a CD-release party, but the band has since decided to stick to their fan-approved performance.

Expect a full house; Sons of Ralph have a dedicated following and their Dec. 31 gig is as much of a tradition as being frostbitten while watching a few fireworks at midnight. And, according to the group’s Web site, patriarch Ralph Lewis’ motto is, “It’s a party every time.”

Jack of the Wood. 9:30 p.m. $10. 252-5445.

Sacred celebration

Because not everyone is into emptying champagne bottles, wearing a lampshade or quietly waiting by the glow of the television for the Times Square ball to drop, Namaste Yoga Center offers a different kind of celebration. This family-friendly New Year’s Eve packs in music, food and fun with a multicultural twist. Kirtan group Sangita Devi and world-eclectic band Arundas perform spiritually oriented music.

Kirtan, ecstatic devotional chanting in the Hindu tradition, is performed in call-and-response style so even newcomers can jump right in and participate without prior experience. The evening also includes catered desserts and teas, dancing, chanting and sacred ceremony. According to press, the Sri Chakra puja, led by local Tantric priest Kali Das, is for “bringing in the New Year with an open heart and clear intention.”

Namaste Yoga & Healing Center. 8:30 p.m. $30. 253-6985.

It don’t mean a thing …

“Some simply call it ‘swing,’ but to boil this dance tradition down to a single word does little justice to its rich tradition,” opines press for the Swing Dance Ball. Anyone who caught the late ’90s swing revival, or any number of flashy swing dancers on shows like “So You Think You Can Dance,” knows these vintage forms of cutting a rug are not for the faint of heart. And yet, the basic steps are easy enough to learn that a beginner can bust out a respectable Charleston after one quick lesson.

Lindy, jitterbug and swing — all similar dances — will christen the newly installed 5,000-square-foot ballroom floor at the Center of Unlimited Possibilities. The dance event is the culmination of a four-day intensive swing workshop at the Fletcher School of Dance (for info, go to, but the general public is invited to dance New Year’s Eve away. Don’t know the steps? A lesson is offered at 7:30 p.m., and professionals will show off their moves throughout the evening. Russ Wilson’s Nouveau Passe Orchestra plays this alcohol-free evening.

Center of Unlimited Possibilities, Westgate Shopping Center. 9 p.m. $20/advance, $25/doors. 253-4336.

Events around town and in the area

For club addresses and contact info, see Clubland.

• The Back Room: The Bill Gerhardt Quartet with Sharon LaMotte

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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