A new president takes office in less than a month, economic struggles continue as markets sag, and there's a new uphill battle for civil rights. We face a heavy amount of collective anxiety as a maturing nation, but also hold cautious optimism as we venture into a new year.
One might consider the slightly profound decision regarding how to commemorate this significant milestone. Or, perhaps it's simple to submit to the decadence of indefinitely open bars promising music, hors d'oeuvres and free champagne toasts. Either way, Madison offers a wealth of options for New Year's Eve options for party goers, from gourmet restaurants to grungy basement shows, not to mention plenty of family activities for the kids.
Here are some of the options around town for parting with 2008 and kicking off 2009, starting next Wednesday.
For families and children
The biggest and best-known celebration in Madison has grown well beyond its namesake location. True, the U.S. Bank Plaza, that is the Glass Bank on the Capitol Square is full of family fun starting at 6 p.m. Ken Lonnquist and The Kenland Band are playing, and there will be onsite face painters, temporary tattoo and balloon drop, and even a kiddie countdwn balloon drop at 7:30 p.m.
Just a few blocks away, Monona Terrace will be bursting with performances for all ages, including juggling by the Truly Remarkable Loon, magic by Rick Wilcox, and music by the five-piece band Primitive Culture and its funky reggae and blues-inflected goodtime sound. There is additionally going to be an inflatable gymnasium with an obstacle course, slides, and all-around bouncing castle-style fun for the younger crowd.
Other locations offering family activities galore as part of U.S. Bank Eve are Olbrich Botanical Gardens, the Madison Children's Museum, the Wisconsin Historical Museum, and the UW Space Place, where Professor OOPS! will perform a fun science demonstration show called "Common Mysteries, Common Miracles" at 6:30 and 7:45 p.m. Volunteers from the Space Place will also be present at Olbrich , the history museum, and the roof of the Terrace to view the wonders of the night sky in honor of 2009 being the international year of astronomy.
Finally, don't miss the fireworks display, scheduled to begin at 10:05 p.m. sharp with the best viewing to be found on the Square.
For a night on the fancy side
Indulge your sense of taste at The Brink Lounge, which is holding its third annual New Year's celebration with Dave Stoler on the keys at 7 p.m. and then Westside Andy & Mel Ford Band at 10 p.m. Hors d'oeuvres preceed a dinner buffet that will be offered from 8-9:30 p.m. along with coffee and dessert. The evening's food and entertainment costs $45, which includes tax and gratuity, but after 10 p.m. the admission drops to $25. Party favors and door prizes will be offered all night.
Liliana's is hosting a night of live jazz while also serving a mouth-watering five-course dinner for $65 with wine pairings available for $20. A dessert bar will also run from 11 p.m.-1 a.m. for $25.
For music lovers
The High Noon Saloon boasts a promising line-up this New Year's with six bands, along with a mix of 2008's best underground music by WORT DJ Jake Shut. Get ready for a high-volume eardrum-shaking night as spastic, high-energy Zebras headline with their blend of punk and metal. Other bands set to play are the stoner-metal outfit Brainerd, pranksters Screaming Cyn Cyn & the Pons, The Hussy, and the Texas-born but Wisco-loving The Von Ehrics. The show starts at 9 p.m., and has a $12 cover. For six loud ass bands all night long, plus a great atmosphere, this event comes highly recommended for anybody hunting down good local music.
Mickey's Tavern is hosting a free show with four bands: Sylvia Beach, The Hemlines, The Shabelles, and The Takebacks. The hype floating around town guarantees a night of rock 'n' roll shenanigans with an upbeat pop sensibility.
The nine-piece good-time ensemble known as V05 is holding a disco ball at Cafe Montmartre. The music starts at 10 p.m., and the $15 cover includes deluxe appetizers, champagne, and dance madness.
The Frequency hosts its first New Year's celebration this year. For a $10 cover, the downtown club presents an all-night lineup that features the likes of Kill Junior, the irreverent Cribshitter, a cutely-dubbed cover band named Descendaints, The Treats, and Ladybeard.
Local heroes Pupy Costello and His Big City Honky-Tonk hosts a CD release party at the Crystal Corner Bar. The cover is $12 in advance and $14 at the door, with the tunes starting around 9 p.m. Stick around for the $2 16-ounce PBR special.
Covers champs Super Tuesday is taking the stage at The Dry Bean at 9 p.m. A $12 cover also gets revelers a champaign toast and free party favors.
The '80s tribute band Photograph will be performing all of the guilty pleasures from the greatest of decades at the Badger Bowl. The $10 here inclues all of the big hair rock one can handle, along with the requisite champagne toast and party favors.
A wash of patchwork pants and coating of patchouli should be set for the New Year's party at the Majestic Theatre. New Orleans-style jazz funksters Mama Digdown's Brass Band headlines, and will be joined on stage by the prog rock-influenced Baghdad Scuba Review, along with Steez and DJ Swerve. The show is 18 and up and starts at 10 p.m., costing $15 in advance and $20 at the door.
An all-star lineup of musicians is in store for revelers at the Orpheum Theatre, the slate including Natty Nation, Rob Dz, Adam Issac and the People, and Day to Day. This 18-plus show starts at 9 p.m. and the cover is $15.
For pure party animals
No, the Jade Monkey Disco New Year is not a dada poem. This relatively new bar on the east side is getting started early at 4 p.m, and the party has no end in sight. DJs will be spinning hot tracks over a one-night-only disco dance floor. Even better is that there's no cover, as well as a planned appearance by the Jameson girls.
An early start on the party is also planned at Woof's. The club will host a house DJ dance party, complete with scantily clad male dancers, and the free champagne and party favors. Half-price drinks after midnight and no cover should guarantee a big draw for the downtown gay scene, at least if the dancer's are already.
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New Year's Eve 2008 and New Year's morning 2009 certainly provide plenty of options for fun. However, this year I am inclined to recommend sticking to one's own traditional New Year's celebration. Maybe staying home with loved ones, or heading to the neighborhood pub you frequent for an evening of fun with good friends is in store for what's likely to be another cold night. Just remember to take a little time to meditate on 2008., and make sure to hope for the best through 2009.