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Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2009

The Dawning of a New Decade

The Shepherd’s New Year’s Eve guide

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Ten years ago the country braced itself for the biggest technological crisis of all time. Though that feared Y2K meltdown never occurred, the decade instead brought other, far worse tribulations that would have made those computer glitches seem like a cakewalk: terrorism, war, political divide, a housing crisis, followed by a financial meltdown and the promise of a long, painful recovery. The 2000s were so rough that a recent Time magazine cover story even dubbed them “the decade from hell,” the worst since World War II.

That backdrop lends this New Year’s Eve symbolic significance. Next Thursday night, the nation will mark the closing of this turbulent chapter by putting down its coupon book and treating itself to a well-deserved night out.

As always, Milwaukee marks the holiday with events for both the budget-conscious and those looking to splurge. When planning your night out, remember to take the Milwaukee County Transit System’s free bus rides into account. Rides are free beginning at 8 p.m., with select routes extending their service until 4 a.m. Compiled below is a sampling of the evening’s noteworthy celebrations.

Family Staples

Skating and Fireworks @ Red Arrow Park, 11 a.m. – 1 a.m.

One of the most affordable family New Year’s Eve destinations, Red Arrow Park opens its skating rink for free from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Thursday, with $6 skate rentals for those without a pair. At midnight, Mayor Tom Barrett will ring the City Hall bells as the city launches its Downtown fireworks display.

New Year’s Eve @ Mitchell Park Domes, 6 – 10 p.m.

The Mitchell Park Domes’ celebration caters to children and families, with performances from Rick Allen Magic Productions, ComedySportz and a multitalented clown/magician/juggler/mime. The Domes’ holiday floral show and 27-foot Christmas tree will be on display, and a light show will run hourly from 7 to 10 p.m. ($10 adults; $5 children under 18; free for kids 5 and under.)

Harlem Globetrotters @ The Bradley Center, 1 and 6 p.m.

The Harlem Globetrotters are on a hot streak any team would be proud of, not having lost a game since 2006. To be fair, though, theirs isn’t the most challenging schedule (the Bucks should be so lucky to have so many games against the hapless Washington Generals to pad their record). As they have every year for decades, the Globetrotters will again spend their New Year’s Eve in Milwaukee.

Milwaukee Wave vs. Baltimore Blast @ U.S. Cellular Arena, 2 p.m.

The Milwaukee Wave’s game against the Baltimore Blast probably won’t offer up as many questionable plays as the Globetrotters’ games, but it will probably be a lot more suspenseful. The price is right, too: Family packages with four tickets, sodas and hot dogs are available for $59, and there will be a post-game New Year’s Eve party on the field.

Entertainment and Live Music

Jim Gaffigan @ The Pabst Theater, 10:30 p.m.

Though he’s a distant second right now, comedian Jim Gaffigan appears to be mounting a challenge against the Harlem Globetrotters as the touring act with the most consecutive Milwaukee New Year’s Eve appearances. He’s got a cozy annual gig at the Pabst Theater that allows him to spend time with family in the area and perform for a Midwestern crowd he clearly relates to. Expect plenty of jokes about food and Gaffigan’s paleness. (He’ll also do a show Wednesday, Dec. 30, for those who have other plans on the holiday.)

Spoon w/ Jay Reatard @ The Riverside Theater, 9 p.m.

The band Cake has traditionally anchored the Riverside’s annual New Year’s Eve blowout, but this year the venue upgraded to a fresher, more relevant headliner: the Austin indie-rock group Spoon. The band ends 2009 as one of the most prolific and consistent of the decade, having released four albums, each to glowing reviews. They play in advance of a new album, Transference, which they’ll release on Jan. 19, 2010. Tonight’s show also features garage-rock rabble-rouser Jay Reatard and DJs, video games, snacks and beer tastings.

Improv Comedy @ ComedySportz, 8 and 10:30 p.m.

The ComedySportz improvisational comedy troupe is offering $35 packages that include admission to one of two performances (at 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.), all-you-can-eat hors d’oeuvres, unlimited champagne and soda, and gift bags. Each show concludes with a New Year’s countdown—a real one at midnight, and a fake one for those at the early show.

Dead Man’s Carnival @ Miramar Theatre, 9 p.m.

Riverwest’s Dead Man's Carnival variety troupe has lined up over four hours of performances for its New Year’s Eve spectacle. Expect to see song and dance, burlesque, fire-eating, freaky clowns, juggling, stilt-walking and feats of human endurance. The Magnificents, a six-piece R&B and jazz combo, will be the house band.

The Uptown Savages w/ The Liam Ford Band @ Bar LuLu, 10:30 p.m.

Milwaukee’s most prominent rockabilly band, The Uptown Savages are proudly of a different era, reviving feel-good rock ’n’ roll, jump blues and country with 1950s pomp. If you want to ring in the new year surrounded by people with World War II-era hairstyles, this is probably your best chance. The $15 cover includes a midnight toast and late-night snacks.

The Championship w/ John the Savage @ Cactus Club, 11 p.m.

The Cactus Club’s New Year’s celebration probably won’t involve a whole lot of pomp, but it should be perfect for those who’d prefer to forget about the holiday and just see some local music. The indie-Americana ensemble The Championship headlines, supported by clamorous rockers John the Savage.

The Goodnight Loving @ Linneman’s Riverwest Inn, 9:30 p.m.

Linneman’s, too, probably won’t feel much different than it does on a typical show night, but its New Year’s Eve bill is a particularly charming one: a night of agreeable, upbeat rock ’n’ roll and power-pop headlined by The Goodnight Loving and featuring Beach Patrol, Magic Words and Tim Schweiger and the Middlemen. Cover is a meager $7.

King Solomon @ Harry’s Bar & Grill, 10 p.m.

Harry’s Bar & Grill in Shorewood has secured one of the area’s most festive bands for its New Year’s Eve: King Solomon, a Milwaukee group with an ear for the sounds of Jamaica and the Caribbean. There’s no cover, and there will be holiday drink specials.

Dancing and Destinations

 Stellar Spark 7 @ The Rave, 8 p.m.

Now in its seventh year, the Stellar Spark party at The Rave has assembled one of its biggest lineups yet, with more than 60 DJs. World-famous Italian electro-house DJ Benny Benassi headlines the night, supported by whirlwind turntablist DJ Qbert and DJ Funk, perhaps the dirtiest of Chicago’s many dirty house DJs.

360 Degrees of New Year’s Eve @ Discovery World, 8 p.m.

This posh party at the Discovery World’s Pilot House offers a more upscale alternative to most Milwaukee bars, and a spectacular 360-degree view of the city and the lake. The $70-$75 admission includes five hours of open bar and club music from DJ Youngherc, as well as the obligatory champagne toast.

MKE NYE @ Hot Water/Wherehouse, 8 p.m.

The $60 admission to this bash includes music from The Rusty Ps, Marc Ballini and DJ Madhatter, unlimited beer, appetizers, a balloon drop and a champagne fountain. A shuttle bus will provide easy access for East Siders, and there will also be go-go dancers for that little something extra.

A Night in the Lobby @ Iron Horse Hotel

Steven Hawley of the dance-rock band Codebreaker DJs a free lobby party at the Iron Horse Hotel. The hotel is also offering $299 packages that include a deluxe room, a bottle of sparkling wine, snacks, party favors and a morning-after brunch for two.

NYE @ Whiskey Bar, 8 p.m.

Whiskey Bar’s New Year’s celebration is an all-nighter, lasting until 8 in the morning and featuring four DJs and a complimentary 1 a.m. buffet. Admission ranges from $20 for one to $340-$400 VIP packages for four that include reserved seating and two bottles of either Roederer Estate Brut or Mot White Star.

Retro Dance Party @ Mad Planet, 9 p.m.

Every Friday, at Mad Planet’s signature weekly event, DJs resurrect the pop and dance hits of the ’80s and ’90s. Each New Year’s Eve promises a longer, sweatier edition of that dance party, with free party favors, food and a champagne toast. At $12, it’s a budget-friendly alternative to Downtown dance clubs.

The Get Down @ The Bay View Brew Haus, 9 p.m.

As vintage soul has experienced a revival over the last several years, retro funk and soul spins have popped up all over Milwaukee, but The Get Down was the city’s first—and remains its most popular. Expect to hear plenty of rare 45s tonight.

New Year’s Eve Soire @ Vino 100, 9 p.m.

One of the best destinations for wine lovers, Vino 100’s second annual New Year’s Eve Soire offers patrons a special menu of unlimited wine or beer for $45. That includes hors d’oeuvres, party favors, live music and a midnight champagne toast.

DJ Wizz Kid @ Apartment 720, 9 p.m.

Apartment 720 has roped in Chicago house and mash-up specialist DJ Wizz Kid for its New Year’s Eve party. Tickets are $25.

Roaring ’20s Party @ Potawatomi Bingo Casino, 7 p.m.

The Potawatomi Bingo Casino celebrates Prohibition-era America for its New Year’s Eve bash, which will feature top hats, impersonators of celebrities like Charlie Chaplin, W.C. Fields and Groucho Marx and free music from the jazz and swing band Ain’t Misbehavin’. There will be complimentary champagne at midnight and also at the casino’s buffet, which will feature surf and turf. A special four-course holiday menu is also available at Dream Dance Steak.

New Year’s Eve Gala @ The Pfister, 5 p.m.

The Pfister boasts one of the city’s most posh New Year’s Eve packages. Starting at $465, they include hors d’oeuvres, a five-course gourmet dinner and a reception with ballroom dancing, as well as music from the Nick Contorno Orchestra and desserts from chef Robert Ash’s Chocolat Bar and Candy Shoppe later in the night.