For the second consecutive year, the Downtown Tucson Partnership is sponsoring First Night, "a New Year's Eve celebration of arts, culture and community" that encompasses many different events at a dozen downtown locations—all of which are family-friendly and alcohol-free.
Some events are free, while some require admission buttons for entry. Admission buttons, which allow entry to all venues and events, are $12 for adults, $6 for children 6 to 12, and free for children 5 and younger. They're available at all local Bookmans locations, the Tucson Convention Center box office, the Fox Tucson Theatre box office and online at downtowntucson.org. Events, which run from 4 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., will feature more than 50 live acts, including art, dance, comedy, magic and a wildly diverse array of music.
Featured bands and musicians are way too numerous to list here, but highlights include Howe Gelb, Leila Lopez, Spirit Familia, Ryanhood, the Larry Redhouse Quartet, Golden Boots, Lisa Otey and Diane Van Deurzen, the Carnivaleros, the Last Call Girls, Loveland, The Wyatts, Hollywood Knights, the Kings of Pleasure, Batucaxé and the trio of R. Carlos Nakai, Will Clipman and William Eaton. And that's only scratching the surface. For a full schedule and more information, head to www.downtowntucson.org/first_night.
It's become tradition for Hotel Congress to ring in the new year by going all-out with a themed party. The theme this year is Mambo Congress, which can mean only one thing: Live music, on the outdoor plaza, will be provided by Sergio Mendoza y la Orkesta and The Jons. Meanwhile, the indoor Club Congress will host Club Optimista, a special installment of the traditional Optimist Club dance night. At midnight, witness what is sure to be Tucson's first pineapple drop as you make a toast with your complimentary champagne. The evening gets rolling at 8 p.m., and advance tickets are $20. They'll be $25 at the door—if any are left; this event usually sells out. Big spenders can shell out $85 for one of 100 VIP tickets, which includes access to the exclusive Boom Boom Room. For more information, call 622-8848.
In what should be one of the night's most highbrow offerings, the Tucson Symphony Orchestra joins forces with the lovely Arizona Inn, 2200 E. Elm St., for an installment of the TSO's Moveable Musical Feast series. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. in the Flandrau House Courtyard, where guests will be greeted with an open bar and hors d'oeuvres, and music performed by TSO principal harpist Patricia Harris. From there, patrons will enter the Tucson Room for a performance by TSO players Ann Weaver (principal viola) and Sara Fraker (principal oboe), each of whom will be accompanied by principal pianist Paula Fan. Then, diners will be seated in one of six rooms throughout the Arizona Inn for dinner, after which they'll be treated to a performance by the TSO String Quartet—followed by dessert. To cap off the evening, guests will move to "a magically created nightclub" featuring dance music from the TSO's Swing 'N the New Jazz Band featuring singer Ben Sorenson, where they'll enjoy additional nibbles as well as a midnight champagne toast. The evening costs $195 per person, all-inclusive, and special room rates are available. Reservations are available online at tucsonsymphony.org, at the Tucson Symphony Orchestra box office, 2175 N. Sixth Ave., or by phone at 882-8585.
On the jazzier end of the spectrum, the Tucson Jazz Society once again presents its annual New Year's Eve Jazz All-Stars Gala, at the luxurious JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort and Spa, 3800 W. Starr Pass Blvd. The evening begins at 7 p.m. and features an elegant four-course dinner, two dance floors and a champagne toast with party favors. As for the music, the TJS has once again outdone itself. The headlining band, the Jazz All-Stars, is a jazz-star-studded ensemble featuring native Tucsonan Brian Bromberg, Rick Braun, Richard Elliot, David Benoit, Philippe Saisse, Chuck Loeb and Will Kennedy. And the folks on the undercard are no slouches, either: The Triple Threat Divas—Julie Anne, Crystal Stark and Katherine Byrnes—with special guest Joe Bourne will be backed by a band of some of Tucson's finest jazz players: Jeff Haskell, Doug Davis, Jack Wood, Rick Peron and Matt Mitchell. Tickets are $189 per person, and a special room rate of $119 is available. For more information or to order tickets, head to tucsonjazz.org, or call 903-1265.
The Hut, 305 N. Fourth Ave., wants you to lace up your dancing shoes, and to see to it, they've got the supercalifunkalicious sounds of Cosmic Slop and—back for the second consecutive year—the funk/reggae/hip-hop/blues amalgam of The Hounds. Doors open at 8 p.m., and your $10 cover comes with the "customary super-funky champagne toast" at midnight. For more information, call 623-3200.
Those looking for dance music of the more clubby variety should look no further than the Surly Wench Pub, 424 N. Fourth Ave., which will feature six DJs divvied up into two rooms. The Main Room ("dance party craziness") boasts Eric Meyer, Matt McCoy and Sugarman on the wheels of steel, while the soundtrack in the Parlor Room ("super cool hangout") will be provided by Dewtron, E_rupt and Dan Shapiro. There will also be a balloon drop and a free champagne toast at midnight. $10 gets you in the door, and the action begins at 9 p.m. For more information, call 882-0009.
For the third consecutive year, the Boondocks Lounge, 3306 N. First Ave., brings you a bargain-hunter's dream party. Doors open at 6 p.m.; a big ol' American/Southwest buffet dinner is rolled out at 7 p.m.; and live music from Roadhouse with Freaky Frank (of the Frank and Woody Show) begins at 8 p.m. All this plus champagne and party favors are yours for a mere $15 in advance (tickets are available at the club), or $20 at the door. Call 690-0991 for more information.
Budget-minded folks looking to maximize their rock 'n' roll dollar would do well to head to Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., for an eclectic triple-bill of local acts: the '60s-saluting but modern indie pop of the Holy Rolling Empire; the psychedelic, rockin' twang-pop of Golden Boots; and the complex but catchy prog-pop of Mostly Bears, who start the night off at 9 p.m. A 10-spot gets you through the doors. Call 798-1298 for more information.
ND Promotions takes over the proceedings at Fenderskirts, 140 S. Kolb Road, which will feature a dance party soundtracked by DJs 2 Phat Pat and White Shadow, who will spin a mix of hip-hop, modern rock and Top 40. In addition to the traditional complimentary champagne toast and decorations—ND promises more than 1,000 balloons—there will be a slew of giveaways, including tattoos/piercings and concert tickets, and some mighty cheap drink specials. Top-shelf bottle service is also available for $100. Cover charge is only $5, and table reservations are available for $15; call 808-2875. For more information, call 722-1214.
Opened just last month, Azul Restaurant Lounge is the newest eatery at the Westin La Paloma, 3800 E. Sunrise Drive, and in addition to a four-course meal showcasing the restaurant's Mediterranean-inspired menu, DJ Corbin Dooley will man the laptop, pumping out house jams to get the juices flowing and hips shaking from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. $65 per person is the going rate, and reservations, which are required, may be made by calling 742-6000. Special room rates are also available.
Bum Steer, 1910 N. Stone Ave., is offering a very reasonably—and appropriately—priced package: a surf-and-turf dinner, dessert, champagne and live music from Signals and others, all for $20.10. If you want to skip the meal, $7 gets you in. Doors open at 6 p.m., and music runs from 9 p.m. 'til 2 a.m. For more information, call 884-7377.
Monsoon Nightclub at Desert Diamond Casino Hotel, 7350 S. Nogales Highway, hosts a '60s and '70s soul-centric dance party featuring music from Motown Revue. Doors open at 8 p.m., and your $20 cover includes party favors. For more information, call 294-7777.
We now have a few videos from the NYE festivities.