Yeah, we know that New Year’s Eve can be a bit of a nightmare. Uber costs a ton, every bar is packed, and the chances of getting puked on by an amateur are exponentially higher than most other nights. However, Dec. 31 is eons better than St. Patrick’s Day, Bay to Breakers, or the worse-than-ever SantaCon, which together constitute San Francisco’s own Axis of Evil.
And oh yeah — there is also a shit ton of great live music going on that night. Whether you want to hug your bearded buddy while listening to doom-rock, croon around to some good old soul tunes, or melt your face off dancing away to club music, San Francisco (and beyond) will have you covered on New Year’s Eve. Here’s a preview of what you can expect for the last day of 2018.
With special guests Sweater Beats, Hotel Garuda Pretty, Handsome, and Manics at the Mezzanine, 444 Jessie St. $75-$135; mezzaninesf.com
Living in a city that has an unquenchable thirst to tear down everything good has steeled most of us against the shockwaves of club closings and venue shutdowns, but the announcement that Mezzanine would be shuttering was a particularly cruel gut punch. Fortunately, this venerable dance venue still has a few months left on its lease, and you know that it will be busting out all the bells and whistles during its extended goodbye. That bittersweet farewell tour includes a New Year’s Eve show with the Knocks, a boisterous electronic music duo who’ll perform live, before spinning records as part of a late-night DJ set running until 4 a.m.
Lee Fields and the Expressions
The Chapel, 777 Valencia St. $55-$65; thechapelsf.com
Yeah, Lee Fields is in his seventh decade of existence, but this R&B legend still puts on a better show than anyone you know. Fields is a contemporary of James Brown — think about that for a second: James Brown — but his soulful, tireless performances have lost none of their luster during his 50 years of touring. He’s backed as always by the Expressions, his peerless band of funk pros.
Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St. $75-$80; slimspresents.com/great-american-music-hall
You gotta admire the cajones of the bookers over at the Great American Music Hall. While everyone else is trotting out high-energy electronica and dance acts, GAMH is going with a doom metal group that specializes in crushing guitars dirges and morose, apocalyptic lyrics, and, here’s the best part — they’re called SLEEP. This will clearly be the venue for people who hate all the bullshit that accompanies New Year’s Eve. It should also be stated that Sleep is a trio of fire-breathing, no-bullshit rockers who are all Bay Area boys. This show will kick ass, especially if you enjoy hearing songs about weed-toking astronauts.
Desert Hearts Takeover (Mikey Lion, Lee Reynolds, Marbs, and Porky)
At Public Works, 161 Erie St. $20-$45; publicsf.com
Public Works was born for nights like this. This labyrinthine Mission District club always comes alive during the early-morning hours, and there should be no reason to expect anything different for the closing out of 2018. The New Year’s Eve show will feature DJ sets from Mikey Lion, Lee Reynolds, Marbs, and Porky. (Yes: We have Marbs and Porky.) It’s being billed as “House, Techno & Love.” Really nothing more you could ask for.
The Claypool Lennon Delirium
The Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd. $75; thefillmore.com
There are some shows where you kind of have to be on hallucinogens to enjoy them. This is not a dig at Les Claypool and Sean Lennon — OK, maybe a slight dig — but watching these freaky-deaky psych rockers without the benefit of some mind-altering drugs might be a bit of a drag, especially if all their fans arrive as fucked as possible, as expected. So, dip into your bag of goodies so you can enjoy the songs of the upcoming album, Monolith of Phobos. It’s an album about moons. Don’t forget your drugs.
Ms. Lauryn Hill
Fox Theater, 1807 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, $99.50-$149.50; thefoxoakland.com
OK, this one should probably be at the top of everyone’s list. It’s not every day that you get to witness a performance from the mercurial legend that is Lauryn Hill. Although her live performances have been unpredictable and volatile in years past, that’s no excuse to miss this immensely talented performer showcase her gifts. The fact that she playing her monumental, game-changing debut — and still her lone studio album! — The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, will only add to the magic of this New Year’s Eve show.
Shannon and the Clams
With Once and Future Band, Glitter Wizard at the New Parish, 1743 San Pablo Ave., Oakland, $40-$50; thenewparish.com
I’m going to be blunt: It’s a Shannon Shaw world, and we are all just living here as guests. This Oakland legend has been leading her merry band of Clams for nearly a decade now, incorporating a beguiling mix of lo-fi punk and irresistibly catchy doo-wop tunes. Every Shannon and the Clams show is one-half 1970s CBGBs and one-half Motown records, and that winning formula will work once again for New Year’s Eve.
With Robotaki and Evan Giia at the Warfield, 982 Market St. $150-$250; thewarfieldtheatre.com
I am fully aware that Odesza is fucking huge and everyone loves them, but I am not going to pretend I know what’s going on with these guys. The kids are fully crazy about this electronic duo, and I’m sure everyone will be super-merry and zooming on a boatload of designer drugs at this show, so if that’s your bag, I don’t begrudge you at all. Enjoy. Also — these dudes are from Washington State? I’m so shocked they’re not Swedish or some shit.