A new year approaches, reminding us that we’re mortal, with slowly deteriorating bodies and minds. Even worse, it’s going to be 2020 — a most-futuristic sounding year, by which we all expected flying cars and undersea cities and other cool shit, but instead have the Peloton and the Masker Singer.
Fortunately, New Year’s Eve always offers us plenty of distraction here in the Bay Area, particularly in the form of amazing live music. Once again, the region will have a stellar and diverse set of distractions to occupy our minds for at least one night, so we can forget for a moment that, in 2020 (of all fucking years!), our country will be led by a dude obsessed by the scourge of weak-flushing toilets.
Here are just some of your options:
The Claypool Lennon Delirium at the Warfield: Rock ‘n’ roll has long been filled with characters and oddballs, but it can be tough to decipher the uniquely strange from the merely odd. I’m here to say that Les Claypool is the real deal — over his freakish and freakishly productive 30-plus years in the industry, the legendary bassist has consistently managed to push boundaries and destroy musical tropes, all in the style that can only be defined as iconoclastic. Teamed up with Sean Lennon, a talented yet humble performer who has partnered with everyone on the planet, Claypool cooks up some seriously deranged stuff for The Claypool Lennon Delirium (which is really an equal-opportunity effort between the two performers). Acid is not necessary for this show, but it can’t hurt (I saw them perform at Desert Daze and although I was not tripping, it didn’t diminish my delight one iota).
The Claypool Lennon Delirium at the Warfield, 982 Market Street. $60 – $95; thewarfieldtheatre.com
John Oliver at the SF Masonic: Where is it written that you have to take in live music for a rip-roaring New Year’s Eve? A great comedy show can be just as enlivening, particularly if the comic in question is the modern-day poet laureate of Trump-skewering, John Oliver. The British comedian and host of Last Week Tonight will perform twice at the SF Masonic, at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Dec. 31. Expect plenty of witty observational humor punctuated by foul-mouthed outbursts that will have you laughing through your tears.
John Oliver at SF Masonic, 1111 California St. $99.50 on secondary markets; sfmasonic.com
Portugal. The Man at The Fox Theater: In the spectrum of wholly unexpected career breakthroughs, Portugal. The Man probably rank somewhere between the Flaming Lips scoring a radio hit with “She Don’t Use Jelly” and Daniel Johnston landing a major label deal. In short, the band has raised some eyebrows with its success, but people weren’t exactly blown away by the group’s insurgent act. That’s because the hard-working indie group has consistently put out catchy, arhythmic rock tunes that make them a more relatable version of Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Their career-defining 2017 hit, “Feel It Still,” doesn’t look like a smash success on paper, but it’s still catchy as hell two years later, and there is a sense that these guys genuinely earned their newfound fame. Plus, they really seem like they enjoy parting, which should make their show at the Fox Theater a fun little gathering for New Year’s Eve.
Portugal. The Man at the Fox Theater, 1807 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. $59.50; thefoxoakland.com
Spafford at the Great American Music Hall: I’m not going to lie, when I see the descriptors of jam-band, ska, reggae and funk getting thrown around, my gag reflex starts to get real pronounced, but I’m also an asshole. The fellas from Spafford seem like good people, and have been around for a decade. The Arizona quartet formed on New Year’s Eve in 2009, so a New Year’s Eve show probably has special meaning for them. If you like horns and porkpie hats, then GAMH will be your kind of spot on Dec. 31.
Spafford at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St. $45 – $90; slimspresents.com/great-american-music-hall
Lettuce at the Independent: A New Year’s Eve tradition, the Independent annually partners an open bar with an exciting emerging act for a relatively decent price. This year, tickets are going for $150, which sounds pretty steep for a night out on the town, until you consider that this is NYE and you can grab a lot of drinks during a six-hour open bar. Still, it’s probably not wise to make drinking decisions based on economic investments, as I can attest. I’ve been to a handful of these Independent shows, and in an attempt to make the most out of my money, I managed to completely miss the headlining act. Anyway, if you want to see — and most importantly, remember seeing — Boston funk band Lettuce at the Independent this year, do not approach the open bar as some kind of fiscal puzzle that needs to be solved. Just relax and be confident that you’d probably waste that $150 on something stupid anyway, like out-of-pocket medical costs or your phone bill.
Lettuce at the Independent, 628 Divisadero St. $149.50; theindependentsf.com.
Bonobo at the Midway. Shit, you want to party this New Year’s Eve? Go to the Midway and see Bonobo. There will definitely be drugs at this show. Every video or photo I’ve ever seen of British DJ Bonobo, nee Simon Green, is filled with sweaty people dancing their asses off. That is what New Year’s Eve is all about! I would definitely go this show if I wasn’t afraid of literally everything about it.
Bonobo at the Midway, 900 Marin St. $69.50 – $200; themidwaysf.com