“In Spain, it is customary to eat 12 grapes — one at each stroke of the clock at midnight on New Year’s Eve,” reports the travel website Worldstrides.com. “In hopes of a travel-filled new year, residents of Colombia carry empty suitcases around the block.”
There are countless ways to see out the old year and welcome the new one. Food and trip-planning sound good. So do the many parties, concerts and dances happening in and around Asheville. All events take place Monday, Dec. 31, unless otherwise noted.
Looking for ideas on how to ring in 2019? Read on, or visit Clubland, Calendar and mountainx.com.
Run away with the circus
It was about three years ago, while at a League of American Orchestras conference, that David Whitehill took in a showcase. “They had a strongman get up on a 10-foot pyramid. … We were all completely mesmerized,” recalls the Asheville Symphony Orchestra’s executive director. The performer was part of Cirque Musica, a company that pairs circus arts with symphonic music. So, when Whitehill and other Asheville Symphony organizers were thinking about a New Year’s Eve show — “something with broad appeal, something that would be unique, something that could be family-friendly,” Whitehill says — Cirque Musica Presents Crescendo came quickly to mind.
Crescendo is one of four productions Cirque Music is currently touring. The company sent a list of possible pieces for the symphony to select from, and music director Darko Butorac chose Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D major by Tchaikovsky, “Flight of the Bumblebee” by Rimsky-Korsakov and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, among others.
The musical offerings will be paired with feats of daring, balance, grace and athleticism. And, though Whitehill explains that there will be no aerialists, the floor show doesn’t preclude acts at dizzying heights — such as a rider on a 25-foot-tall bicycle.
“We want to have a broad, diverse audience and be able to celebrate together as a community,” says Whitehill. “That’s one of the things cirque does — it has a universal interest, language and message.”
He continues, “It’s something you won’t often get to see, [so] if we can bring 14 cirque performers to Asheville, that’s pretty great.” He notes that, for most concerts, the symphony flies in just one guest soloist. This New Year’s show significantly ups the ante. But, Whitehill says, “You think of your own children. You want them to be able to see certain things in the community they live in and not have to go someplace else.”
Of course, this New Year’s Eve show is for the adults, too, and Asheville Symphony — now in its third year of producing a Dec. 31 concert — hopes to establish its end-of-year offering as something of a signature event among Asheville’s many revelries.
Adding to the dazzle of this year’s Cirque Musica Presents Crescendo, show sponsor Hi-Wire Brewing will host a New Year’s Eve eve (that’s Sunday, Dec. 30, 4 p.m.) fete at Hi-Wire’s Big Top location, 4 Huntsman Place. It will include a sneak peek of the New Year’s Eve show, complete with some of the Cirque Musica performers. Free.
Asheville Symphony’s Cirque Musica Presents Crescendo takes place Monday, Dec. 31, 8 p.m. at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, 87 Haywood St. Tickets run $32-$85 for adults and $15-$85 for youths, depending on seating section. ashevillesymphony.org
The countdown starts now
• Indie-folk outfit River Whyless got its start in Asheville (or, to be more precise, as students at Appalachian State University, before moving to Asheville) but is now truly a national act. The band’s increasingly rare hometown shows (and the fact that this city is no longer home to all of its members) makes River Whyless’ New Year’s Eve show at The Orange Peel, 101 Biltmore Ave., that much more special. But the rest of 2018 has also been big for the group: In June, the musicians released their latest album, Kindness, A Rebel, which was lauded by NPR, Pop Matters, Glide Magazine and other outlets. Read a review by Xpress contributor Bill Kopp at avl.mx/57c. For the Dec. 31 concert, it’s likely those new songs will be on offer along with — hopefully — the band’s phenomenal back catalog. Horse Feathers opens. 9 p.m. $25 advanced/$30 day of show. theorangepeel.net
• If the first moments of the new year are meant to set the stage for the 12 months ahead, starting 2019 off in the elegant environs of The Crow & Quill, 106 N. Lexington Ave., is not a bad choice. Add a “rip-roaring set of hot jazz, swing and Dixieland” by Firecracker Jazz Band, as promised by a press release, “sure to get you dancing and even surer to blow your winter blues away” and it’s a perfect retro-flavored introduction to the future. 9:30 p.m. $6. thecrowandquill.com
• “We took more than 40 schlock-art hotel-room prints and gave them out to Asheville artists both high and low,” begins a press release for the Daze Inn salon-style art show. “Each artist was invited to reconstitute a picture into something unique and push it to its limits.” The unveiling is on New Year’s Eve, 4:30-7:30 p.m. at the RAMP Gallery, 821 Riverside Drive.
• Ethan Heller & The Jam Fam is a self-described “psychedelic improvisational vehicle” fronted by the guitarist of The Snozberries. Rounded out by a rotating lineup of local musicians, the group will perform at The One Stop, 55 College St. 10 p.m., by donation. ashevillemusichall.com
• The Burger Bar, 1 Craven St., invites revelers to “put on your best 1940s-1960s attire and ring in the new year the old-fashioned way.” 9 p.m. avl.mx/5gj
• Not much more need be said than “New Year’s Eve with Hustle Souls.” The local groovecentric outfit plays One World Brewing West, 520 Haywood Road, starting at 9 p.m. $5. oneworldbrewing.com
• The Midnight Masquerade at Capella on 9, 10 Broadway, aims to “bring the tradition of the Venetian Carnival to Asheville,” according to a press release, while also benefiting the Asheville Fire Fighters Association. Festivities include dueling DJs, door prizes and a Champagne toast. “Dress to impress and wear your festive masquerade mask for a night in disguise.” 9 p.m. $75. avl.mx/5gi
• “The theme for the event will be SPACE. This means aliens, astronauts, planets and intergalactic beings are quite welcome,” says the Old Farmer’s Ball website. The New Year’s Eve contra dance takes place at Bryson Gym on the Warren Wilson College campus, 701 Warren Wilson Road, Swannanoa. Live music by Buddy System (Julie Vallimont and Noah van Norstrand) and calling by Alexandra Deis-Lauby are on deck 8 p.m.-midnight, followed by a 12:30-1:30 a.m. techno contra with Grant Yost. Admission includes a photo booth, body decorations and snacks. $25 general (advance tickets available online)/$5 Warren Wilson students at the door. avl.mx/5go
• Begin 2019 on a positive note: ReggaeInfinity (with members from the West Indies, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and North and South Carolina) promises to have its audience “feeling, dancing and listening to the positive vibes.” The band’s bio continues, “These talented musicians and singers are dedicated to sharing the message of roots reggae and believe strongly in advancing equality, justice, consciousness, brotherhood and universal love.” The evening, at The BLOCK off Biltmore, 39 S. Market St., includes vegan Caribbean food in the ticket price. 9 p.m., $20. theblockoffbiltmore.com
• Bluegrass will always have a home in Asheville. See the old year out and the new year in with a double dose of the twangy genre: The Brushfire Stankgrass NYE Celebration at Ambrose West, 312 Haywood Road, includes not only that bluegrass-meets-jazz-and-jam collective but also special guest Jay Franck of local pickers Sanctum Sully. 9 p.m. $10 advance/$15 day of show. avl.mx/5gl
• Asheville may not have heard much from funk collective Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band in 2018 (its members have been busy with important projects such as birthing and raising the next generation of talented musicians) — but this group is back with a bang. The Booty Band sees in the new year from the stage of The Grey Eagle in a bill that also includes local soul, rock and neo-hip-hop outfit (and NPR faves) Natural Born Leaders. 9 p.m. $20 advance/$25 day of show. thegreyeagle.com
• Club NEON: NYE Freakout No. 13 will take over The Mothlight, 701 Haywood Road, for a pop-up party. DJs Lil Meow Meow, Debbie Fred, Abu Disarray and Bridal Parti Burcardi will spin, with visuals from VJ JSF. Plus lights, projects, photo booth and more. 9 p.m. $8 advance/$10 day of show. themothlight.com
• “Bring in 2019 with a dazzling soiree at the historic YWCA 1924 building,” says a press release for the EPIC NYE Bash at The Grove House, 11 Grove St. That entertainment complex (in the former YW building) houses three venues — Scandals, Club Eleven on Grove and Boiler Room — adding up to a three-story celebration with balloon drops, DJs, prizes, party favors, hors d’oeuvres and desserts, and a drag show. There will also be eight holiday-themed areas such as Pirates That Stole Christmas and Santa Saloon. 8 p.m.-3 a.m. $3. thegrovehouse.com
• “We share music with each other during the day and weave those new ideas into our shows at night,” say members of jazz-funk quintet STIG. Those inspirations are likely to breed extra-special results for STIG’s New Year’s Eve Celebration at Foggy Mountain Brewpub, 12 Church St. 11 p.m., free show. foggymountainavl.com
• If graceful exits aren’t really your style, send 2018 out with a good thrashing. The New Year’s Eve Massacre at 27 Club, 180 Patton Ave. features an all-metal lineup: Bleedseason, Chaos Among Cattle, As Sick As Us and 8 Vacant Graves. 8 p.m. $10. avl.mx/5gn
• Formerly-Brooklyn-based American/roots collective Yarn has been making the trek to Asheville for years. Clearly, the town has made an impression as the Grammy-nominated group counts The Orange Peel among the “number of prestigious venues” it’s played (including stops at South by Southwest, Rhythm and Roots and an upcoming appearance at the Rooster Walk Music and Arts Festival). Yarn makes its way back to this city for a New Year’s Eve show at Isis Music Hall, 743 Haywood Road, with singer-songwriter Josh Shilling of Mountain Heart. 9 p.m. $15 advance / $20 day of show. isisasheville.com
• Psychedelic and trance collective T.O.U.C.H Samadhi ushers in the new year at Veda Studios, 853 Merrimon Ave., with an all-night party. The lineup includes Goa and trance DJs Kri Samadhi, Axis Mundi, Sensoma, Horus and Treffen. 10 p.m.-7 a.m. $15 at the door. vedastudios.com
• When you hit on a good thing, stick to it. That formula applies to the third NYE Party with The Grass Is Dead + Jonathan Scales Fourchestra at Asheville Music Hall, 31 Patton Ave. The former, as its name suggests, “performs bluegrass versions of the Grateful Dead and related music,” according to the South Florida group’s bio, and has been doing so for 20 years. The latter, led by Asheville-based steel pannist Jonathan Scales, offers a dizzyingly creative fusion of sounds and styles that meld into a perfect — if unexpected — whole. 10 p.m. $20 avl.mx/5gm