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Friday, December 30, 2011

What to Do New Year's Eve

Posted on Fri, Dec 30, 2011 at 3:00 PM

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New Year's Eve is an infinitely flexible holiday. Unlike Christmas or Thanksgiving, there aren't a whole lot of expectations regarding family, location, decor -- or decorum. You can dress to the nines and obliterate your mind on expensive cocktails. You can wear sweats and a t-shirt and drink beer from a can. You can can drink nothing at all. You can be low-key and stay indoors with a sweetie, waiting for the midnight kiss. Or you can be by yourself, reflecting on the year that was and what's to come in 2012.

What follows are a number of things we deemed worthwhile from the hundreds possible in San Francisco. First up is the high end at Davies Symphony Hall.

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Take the High Road to 2012: New Year's Eve Masquerade Ball

The dawning of a new year signifies renewed promise. Yet too often, we seize this opportunity to focus on our faults: We're too fat, too lazy, too complacent. So tormented are we by our expectations that the rest of the year can be spent in an endless battle to escape. Escape to 2012 and refashion your very identity at the New Year's Eve Masquerade Ball. Here, on the heels of its 100th year, the San Francisco Symphony offers the opulence of anonymity -- a festive night of mystery, elegance, and glamour captured in a masquerade ball. Ring in the new year with the symphony's tantalizing dance program, featuring the music of Strauss, Britten, Shostakovich, and Brahms, as well as a live performance by the dancers of Dance Through Time. Pre- and post-performance revelry includes cocktails and swing music by The Martini Brothers, a 1980s-themed dance party, big band music by New Year's staple the Peter Mintun Orchestra, and sparkling wine, desserts, and a patented midnight kiss.

New Year's Eve Masquerade Ball with the San Francisco Symphony starts at 8 p.m. (and continues through midnight) at Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness (at Grove), S.F. Admission is $85-$195. --Jessica Hilo

Jill Bourque, Liz Grant, and Natasha Muse - SHANNON CASEY SPLAIN
  • Shannon Casey Splain
  • Jill Bourque, Liz Grant, and Natasha Muse

Not Your Normal New Year's Eve: Nothing Is Sacred

Liz Grant makes fun of alcoholics. "I love it when people in [A.A.] meetings say, 'Thanks for letting me share.' Oh, as if we had a choice?" She also makes fun of other people in recovery. "Who designed the barstool? ... It was probably some frustrated codependent. 'Here! Drink all you want! Good luck staying on!'" Grant took a break from comedy to run a massage therapy business, and now she makes fun of former clients. (See: "Please wash before you get waxed.") Grant also makes fun of herself. Her solo show, Deja Wince: Lessons From a Failed Relationship Expert, ran 23 weeks in San Francisco. "Being with an angry guy is like getting a VIP pass through life," she says. "People just get the hell out of your way! It's like walking through a crowded restaurant with sizzling fajitas -- or a wet plunger." We saw her perform an excerpt at a weeknight variety show in the Mission -- she experienced major prop-failure but killed nonetheless. So what we're saying is that Grant is perfect to host Not Your Normal New Year's Eve. Other abnormalities on the bill include local favorites Alex Koll, Jill Bourque, and Natasha Muse. Muse guarantees to be "at least the second-funniest transsexual you know." There's also Kevin Camia and Brent Weinbach. Weinbach won the Andy Kaufman Award at the HBO Comedy Festival. Steve Lee, who grew up in Hong Kong but moved to Kansas City for high school, subjects his physical disability and bicultural background to the same derisive treatment that Grant unleashes on her former addictions. Sounds like no one will be safe.

Not Your Normal New Year's Eve starts at 8 p.m. at Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness (at Grove), S.F. Admission is $25-$59. -- Keith Bowers

Everybody into the 'Pool -- (Les) Claypool, That Is, and Primus

It's official: If Les Claypool's annual NYE party were a girl, she could legally buy alcohol -- not that she needs it, given the loose-limbed ferret-in-the-pocket psilocybin experience she already has to offer. At the close of 2011, we find Claypool reunited with Primus, as Green Naugahyde, their first release in 11 years, debuts at No. 15 on the Billboard charts. Tapping into the exuberance of youth and the lucidity of age, the recording and the band strike a perfect balance between virtuosity and irreverence. The first single, "Tragedy's a' Comin'," was drawn from the struggle of Claypool's younger brother against leukemia. In the accompanying video, which premiered on IFC in three installments, Claypool shows up on the beach in a giant crustacean suit -- the fantasy-self of a lobster in a restaurant tank watching his loved ones be consumed. It's a real Primus moment. Naugahyde is filled with them. Surely "Jilly's on Smack" will prove a live favorite, with its chorus, "No, she won't be coming back ... for the holidays!" This year's party theme, Hawaiian Hukilau, is inspired by an old-school fishing technique, and it leaves room for a lobster appearance as well as some in-depth exploration of the fishing songs on Naugahyde.

Primus does two sets starting at 8 p.m. (and plays again Jan. 1) at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell (at Polk), S.F. Admission is $65 or $89.95 with dinner. -- Silke Tudor

For more events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook.

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