When the holidays get ahold of you, all that alienating commodification of good will and compulsory consumerism can really get you down. Go ahead and cry yourself a river. But as you do, keep in mind that singer/actor Sandra Reaves-Phillips is in town, and the leather-lunged belter can lay down some blues that'll put your winter whining to shame.
Backed by her Tin Top Alley Blues Band in what she's calling her Bold & Brassy Blues show, Reaves-Phillips presents a fusion of autobiography and musical (or, to borrow her bizarrely medical-sounding term, "autobiofusical") to detail her life story, using both spoken recounting and powerful renditions of tunes by the likes of Ray Charles, B.B. King, W.C. Handy, and Louis Jordan. And what a life story it is: Born fatherless out of a rape in Mullins, S.C., Reaves-Phillips grew up in a tin-roof shack and worked in the fields alongside her grandmother before embarking on the glamorously broke lifestyle of singing in America's small clubs.
Although her eventual landing in New York launched an impressive stage and screen career, Reaves-Phillips is best known worldwide for her audacious one-woman shows, which also include The Late Great Ladies of Blues and Jazz and her gospel act Glory Hallelujah. Tonight's performance fittingly closes out the congressionally mandated Year of the Blues and gives us all some celebratory perspective on how bad we supposedly have it. The lady sings her blues starting at 9 p.m. at the Geary Theater, 415 Geary (at Mason), S.F. Admission is $14-55; call 749-2228 or visit www.act-sf.org.
-- Ron Nachmann
Who needs Dick Clark, balloon drops, or glittery tiaras emblazoned with "Happy New Year"? Those can all go the way of the car registration tax increase. We'd prefer to laugh our slacks off with master comedian Joe Rogan. You may remember him as the duct tape devotee on NewsRadio, or perhaps you're more familiar with his current gigs ogling babes and guzzling beer on The Man Show and playing the sadistic taskmaster on Fear Factor. Just pray he doesn't bring along a bucket of worms in lieu of champagne. Bust a gut at 7:30 p.m. (and again at 10) at Cobb's Comedy Club, 915 Columbus (at Mason), S.F. Admission is $35-50; call 928-4320 or visit www.cobbscomedyclub.com.
-- Sunny Andersen
You Don't Know Jack
See the ramblin' man live
If you take too quick a glance at the family tree of American folk music, it's easy to overlook the branch grown by Elliott Charles Adnopoz. Adnopoz left his Brooklyn home at 14 to join the rodeo, and promptly renamed himself Ramblin' Jack Elliott. Under that 10-gallon moniker he became one of the most distinctive icons of the '60s folk boom, melding the free-ranging twang of childhood heroes like Gene Autry with the freethinking ideals of burgeoning beatniks. He may have been considered the poor man's Woody Guthrie in those days, but then, the young Bob Dylan was once regarded as the poor man's Elliott. Though Jack's spotlight faded a bit in the late '60s, he's seen a recent resurgence thanks to some 1990s recordings. See the self-made legend (and hear his yarns) at 8:15 p.m. at the Noe Valley Ministry, 1021 Sanchez (at 23rd Street), S.F. Admission $15-17; call 282-2317 or visit www.noevalleyministry.org.
-- Nate Cavalieri
Out and about on the eve
Comics just love New Year's Eve. No matter what regional comedy house they visit, they can depend on the local citizenry to be out on the town, drunk, and ready to laugh. Every jester in every city in America takes pains to appear at an appropriate venue on this most convulsive of holidays -- and Marga Gomez sure knew what she was doing when she decided to hit San Francisco this year. The lesbian joker is a great favorite around these parts: She even served as a grand marshal in the 2003 LGBT Pride Parade.
The gap-toothed giggle goddess appears with hometown funny boy Doug Holsclaw at the "Marga Gomez New Year's Eve Extravaganza." The titters start at 7 and 9 p.m. at the Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St. (at Capp), S.F. Admission is $25; call 861-5079 or visit www.therhino.org.
-- Joyce Slaton
Plenty of bands draw people onto the dance floor, but not every group can attract dancers with actual skill. Orquesta La Moderna Tradición can and does get the crowd dancing, and it's a safe bet that while the ensemble dishes up traditional and popular Cuban musical styles (especially danzón), the people on the floor will know what they're doing. Think you can hold your own next to the cha-cha-cha and timba aficionados? This New Year's Eve show features Afro-Cuban rhythms sweetened with violin and flute. The band starts at 9:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck (at Prince), Berkeley. Admission is $20-22; call (510) 849-2568 or visit www.lapena.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser