New Year’s Eve, the expression goes, is a night out for amateurs. But in New Orleans, the last night of the year offers an array of musical options worthy of even the most dedicated nightlife aficionados.
Here’s a rundown of the marquee musical options for Sunday night.
Galactic, Tipitina’s, $76
If the Radiators had formed in the 1990s instead of the 1970s, they’d be Galactic. Steeped in New Orleans funk, the members of Galactic are also conversant in hip-hop and other contemporary styles. For more than 20 years, they have exported their brand of contemporary New Orleans funk around the globe. Their full-bodied improvisations have won them a following on the jam-band circuit, even as they bust out a succession of sturdy songs sung by an A-list roster of semi-permanent vocalists. Galactic’s New Year’s Eve and Mardi Gras throwdowns at Tipitina’s are not for the faint of heart; prepare to stay late. The Malone Brothers open the show.
The Revivalists, Orpheum Theater (Friday through Sunday), $34.50 and up
The most successful band to emerge from New Orleans in the past decade, the Revivalists broke big-time thanks to the radio success of the gold-certified single “Wish I Knew You.” But they’d already laid a foundation nationally with years of hardcore touring, which also helped mold this sprawling, unconventional seven-piece rock band – featuring both saxophone and pedal steel guitar — into a formidable live attraction. Like Galactic, the Revivalists, too, can jam, but as “Wish I Knew You” demonstrated, they can also write one heckuva catchy hook. They’ve blown up so big that they now require three nights at the Orpheum Theater to satisfy ticket demand. Single-night tickets and three-night passes are available.
Tank & the Bangas, Joy Theatre, $30-$50
Tank & the Bangas’ medley of soul, funk, hip-hop, R&B, jazz and spoken word, electrified by frontman Tarriona “Tank” Ball’s effervescent personality and powerhouse voice, had already earned a large and dedicated local following when the band entered NPR’s “Tiny Desk Contest” this spring. More than 6,000 applicants vied to be featured on the national broadcast of the popular “Tiny Desk” concert series. The Bangas won; the panel of 10 judges included Phish guitarist/vocalist Trey Anastasio, who described Ball as “a force of nature, just full of joy — and her band is killing in the background.” The band’s winning video has been viewed millions of times, just the latest step on the Bangas’ road to national prominence. On New Year’s Eve, they’ll be joined by Sweet Crude and Alfred Banks with Cool Nasty. Additionally, the Joy Theater hosts a separate Sunday afternoon show by comedian Hannibal Buress starting at 3:45 p.m. Tickets for the Buress show are also $30 to $50.
Boyfriend, One Eyed Jacks, $25-$150
The New Orleans artist who calls herself Boyfriend has gained national notoriety for her “rap cabaret.” She often turns up onstage wearing thick-framed glasses, curlers and the sort of retro-style lingerie that she sells via her website. But there are messages invested in her music and rhymes, messages about self-acceptance and feminism that sometimes require a bit of thought to decipher (she was an English major in college, and it shows). Cindy Wilson, of the B-52s, guests on Boyfriend’s most recent EP, “Next.” If her annual birthday extravaganza is any indication, expect Boyfriend to be joined by special guests and outrageous props on New Year’s Eve at One Eyed Jacks.
Jon Cleary & the Absolute Monster Gentlemen, Chickie Wah Wah, $30
Jon Cleary has put in the time to become one of New Orleans’ marquee piano players, even though he was technically born in England. He learned the lessons of the greats, from James Booker to Professor Longhair to Dr. John to Allen Toussaint, and synthesized it all into his own sensibility. The likes of Bonnie Raitt and the good Dr. John himself have called on Cleary to spice up their bands, but he’s arguably at his best fronting his airtight funk/R&B ensemble, the Absolute Monster Gentleman. Chickie Wah Wah is one of the best places to hear him.
Tab Benoit and Jonathon “Boogie” Long, Rock ‘N’ Bowl, $30
If you’d like to sign off on 2017 and ring in 2018 to the sound of blues guitar, Rock ‘N’ Bowl should be your destination. Tab Benoit, a longtime favorite at the bowling alley/music venue, has for 25 years trafficked in stone-cold south Louisiana blues ‘n’ boogie mixed with swamp pop and soul. Jonathon “Boogie” Long hails from Baton Rouge and tends more toward straight-ahead blues. Hold on tight if they share the stage for a climactic cutting contest.