A New Year’s Eve, without regrets

I have to be honest–I haven’t spent a New Year’s Eve in town, much less in a club, for most of the past three years. Too much flash, and necessary cash, for what seems like obligatory hoo-hah—it’s New Year’s, you’re supposed to feel festive (whether you do or not). But I will say, there are more, and better, options this year it seems than in the past, and they don’t all cost a fortune. Here are a few that balance the fun/fuss factor:

Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials: Famous Dave’s, Calhoun Square, 9 p.m. — At $10 a head, you can’t beat the blues of this indeed diminutive guitarist from Chicago. The veteran group was hailed as the Blues Band of the Year at the Blues Music Awards.

Mark Mallman: Varsity Theater, Minneapolis, 8 p.m. — Whatever you think of his ’70s-ish piano man style, balanced somewhere between sincere songwriter and too-cool irony, Mallman knows how to party: he once did for 52.4 hours straight–playing the same song.

Brother Ali: 7th Street Entry, Minneapolis, 9 p.m. — First Avenue will fill (does it still fill?) with 20-somethings packed as tightly as the balloons waiting to fall at midnight, but Brother Ali will hold court in equally tight quarters, I’m sure, next door. There’s nothing particularly celebratory about his hip-hop, but the kids sure dig it, and why not make New Year’s something you enjoy instead of grit through?

Carole Martin and Irv Williams, Artists’ Quarter, 9 p.m. — Perhaps the coolest place to be on New Year’s, hanging out with the coolest 88-year-old you know: sax master Williams.

Tommy Lee, Spin Nightclub — This is a joke. Right? You’d think the millionaire heavy metalist would have better things to do than spend New Year’s at a downtown Minneapolis club. Like Pam Anderson. But, at $85 a person, maybe the guy just can’t resist a buck. In fact, we know he can’t.

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