For the fifth year in a row, Hotel Vegas and Volstead Lounge will ring in the new year by leaving the present behind. To bid 2016 adieu, they celebrate a (rhetorically) kinder, gentler moment in American history, New Year’s Eve 1989. Keeping with tradition, club owner Jason McNeely has tapped members of regular Vegas bands, stalwarts of Austin’s indie rock and pop scenes, to play the roles of musical icons and innovators of the day.
For McNeely, the emergence of shoegaze, “lots of loud and melodic guitar,” and an influx of British artists were defining characteristics of 1989 he considered when planning the party.
“My Bloody Valentine unquestionably had to be Ringo Deathstarr,” he says. “Members of I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness doing Stone Roses seemed very appropriate to me. Pale Dian as Cocteau Twins is incredible. Leslie Sisson (from Moving Panoramas) doing Kate Bush was also a no-brainer.”
More Brit band recreations on the roster include Jesus and Mary Chain, the Cure and Depeche Mode. McNeely himself will take part in the New Order tribute. The party also nods at early hip-hop (LL Cool J and Beastie Boys), punk (Dead Milkmen), grunge (Mudhoney), alt-rock (the Pixies) and rock ‘n’ roll (Tom Petty and Lenny Kravitz).
EVENT PAGE: NYE 1989 at Hotel Vegas & Volstead
McNeely threw his first “music era” themed event in 2010, when he booked a Gary Glitter tribute band for a glam party branded as “Glitter’s Eve” at Spiderhouse Ballroom. Back then the cafe annex was a recently remodeled blood bank called U.S. Art Authority and McNeely was the general manager.
“It was so much fun and such a huge success that we decided the next year would be an Iggy Pop & the Stooges themed party with a Stooges tribute band headlining the show,” he says. “We went with the name ‘NYE 1969’ and again it was an incredible success.”
Inspired, he expanded the next year’s event to a multi-stage mega-party with multiple headliners recreating the music of 1977, a year McNeely considers “ the most progressive, exciting and inventive year in modern pop music.”
That event set the template for an Austin holiday tradition that continued when McNeely opened Hotel Vegas later that year. Over on the Eastside McNeely has recreated New Year’s Eve 1984, 1994, 1968 and, last year, 1979.
The party has grown into a popular New Year’s Eve throwdown, in part because of its massive bill. This year more than 20 bands will perform on multiple stages, ensuring a solid turnout of artists and music lovers from Austin’s garage rock and pop scenes.
“It’s been a super tough year for a lot of folks in the entertainment biz,” McNeely says. “I’m really looking forward to flushing 2016 down the toilet with my favorite people and the best party in the city.”
New Year’s Eve 1989 at Hotel Vegas: Dec. 31, 7 p.m. doors, 1502 E. Sixth St. $25; texashotelvegas.com
Austin’s New Year 2017 at Auditorium Shores. With more than 20 bands performing from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. on four stages, followed by a fireworks finale, the City of Austin’s free celebration in the center of town has everything except a midnight ball-drop. The main Lake Stage features headliners Shinyribs and Ray Wylie Hubbard plus the Peterson Brothers, Tameca Jones and Migrant Kids. On the Oak Stage, catch Capyac, Harvest Thieves, Roxy Roca, Jackie Venson and Wache. The two smaller Community Stages feature sets from Kalu & the Electric Joint, SaulPaul, Wendy Colonna, River City Pops, Paula Maya, Agni Dance, Indrajit Banerjee, Groundwork Music, Band Aid School of Music, Wand’ring Minstrels and the Glenn Rexach Group. 950 W. Riverside Drive. austintexas.gov/department/austins-new-year. — P.B.
Willie Nelson & Family at ACL Live, Dec. 29-31. Such a popular draw that it has now become a three-night affair, this year-end engagement instantly became an Austin institution when The House That Willie Built opened in 2011. It’s a pricey ticket, but then so are many New Year’s Eve events, and this one is legitimately iconic. Willie always brings along top-quality support acts, too; this year, Ryan Bingham opens all three nights, with his son’s band Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real also on the Dec. 31 bill. Sometimes there are unbilled ringers, too, like when ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons played the whole show with Willie’s Family band a couple of years ago. (Although if we had to place odds on Gibbons turning up somewhere this time, we’d guess he might be one of the “special guests” promised at C-Boy’s on Dec. 30-31 where Mike Flanigin & Jimmie Vaughan are having a more intimate celebration.) $99-$157. 8 p.m. Dec. 29-30, 9 p.m. Dec. 31. 310 Willie Nelson Blvd. acl-live.com. — P.B.
Refresh 2017 at Empire. Husband/wife hip-hop duo Riders Against the Storm preach the gospel of rhythm healing all year long at the monthly Body Rock dance party. Through the years many ecstatic revellers have seen the light. Sometimes a little “Booty Sweat” really is the best medicine. Chief Body Rockers RAS and DJ Chorizo Funk join forces with MotherSip, the massive hip-hop/jazz/rock orchestra formed by Sip Sip and Mother Falcon, electro-funk specialists Capyac, silky soul singer Alessia Lani and many more for a three stage blowout, designed to help you burn off any lingering bad vibes and start 2017 on a fresh page. $15. 7 p.m. doors. 606 E. Seventh St. empireatx.com. — D.S.S.
The Crystal Ball featuring Grupo Fantasma at Mohawk outdoor. As they confirmed with a stellar appearance on “Austin City Limits” earlier this year, world class Latin funk orchestra Grupo Fantasma is one of our city’s greatest treasures. They’ll spin this year off right, with hip-twisting polyrhythms, blasts of brass and seductive Spanish melodies. Bonus: Many bands are likely to honor Prince at year-end shows, but if you’re still hurting over the loss of Purple One, there is no better way to evoke his spirit than by shaking it down with his one-time backing band, who will surely play at least one heartfelt cover. Los Texmaniacs also perform. $20-$50. Doors at 8 p.m. 912 Red River St. mohawkaustin.com. — D.S.S.
What’s Going On: A Cross Cultural Journey Through the Best Decades of Music at Spider House Ballroom & Cafe. Like Hotel Vegas’ 1989-themed event, this one seeks to put time in a bottle (of champagne, presumably). The scope is broader, though, with more than a dozen acts spread across three stages: the ’60s Chapel, the ’70s Ballroom and the ’80s Cafe Patio. Performers include Cilantro Boombox, Kalu & the Electric Joint, Nakia & the Blues Grifters, Ruby & the Reckless, Fingerpistol, the Hickoids, and Charlie Faye & the Fayettes. $20-$25. 8 p.m. 2908 Fruth St. spiderhouseatx.com. — P.B.
OTHER NEW YEAR’S EVE PICKS
Dirty Dozen Brass Band, New Breed Brass Band at Antone’s
Golden Dawn Arkestra at Barracuda
Bluebonnets, Denny Freeman, Miss Lavelle White at Townsend
Tomar & the FCs, Jai Malano, Los Coast at Continental Club
Ruby Dee & the Snakehandlers at Driskill Bar
Clyde & Clem’s Whiskey Business, Jonathan Terrell at White Horse