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Ringing in

A musical guide to First Night

Experience the energy of Oberhofer when they perform during First Night in Tacoma. Photo credit: Fanart.TV

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Over the years that I've spent writing for this fine rag, I've made no secret of my distaste for just about every holiday (not you, Arbor Day; don't go changing). In particular, I've let New Year's Eve have it on several occasions. It's become something of an annual tradition in my life to call out New Year's Eve - namely that it's a bad idea to put all of your eggs into the basket of this one day a year that's supposed to be the biggest party in the world, this party where you'll kiss a stranger at the stroke of midnight before entering a new year with all of the life-changing resolutions that come with it.

In short: New Year's Eve is a stupid place-holder holiday, people.

Having gotten that out of the way, though, there are ways to get through it in as painless a way as possible. In Tacoma, a fairly safe bet is First Night, which takes over Downtown and fills it with a cavalcade of live acts. This year is no different, and there's a fair share of ringers thrown into the mix to make the decision of which bands to catch both a little harder and more exciting. In the interest of helping to assuage some of the anxiety that comes with this ridiculous holiday, I've taken the time to pick out some bands you'd be a fool to miss come First Night.

The band I'm most excited to see is Oberhofer, a Brooklyn band populated with Tacoma natives and led by Brad Oberhofer, a Tacoma School of the Arts alum. I haven't seen them since I booked them to perform at the Squeak and Squawk Music Festival in 2012, but the infectious glee of that performance has stuck with me. The furiously strummed guitars and insistent drums give a sense of urgency to their insanely catchy indie rock. New Year's Eve finds Oberhofer making their return to Tacoma, and it's bound to be a relentlessly energetic show.

Vicci Martinez hardly needs another shout-out, but she's going to get one based on the surprise of I Am Vicci Martinez, her release last year that found her collaborating with local songwriters and producers to move away from the bluesy folk-rock that we had come to expect from her. The minimalist electronica found on the album places her in the company of the more radio-ready artists of our time, and it's a welcome change that solidifies The Voice veteran's status as a performer worth watching (as if we needed to be reminded).

Earlier in the evening finds a performance from the inimitable Baby Gramps. The throat-singing elder statesman of folk is making another appearance in Tacoma, and it's a hell of a job describing just exactly what you'll hear when you see him. With vocal chords that have more in common with a didgeridoo than a human, Baby Gramps is a master of dusty old sea chanties and Dust Bowl-era folk. He's a truly unique artist, and it would be a shame to miss him and his big scraggly beard.

First Night is packed with an overabundance of talent, including Caspar Babypants (AKA the children's music side project of Chris Ballew, lead singer of the Presidents of the United States of America), the singer-songwriter majesty of Kye Alfred Hillig, the daringly eclectic Seattle Rock Orchestra, and the hazy indie rock of Dunce, among many others. Whatever you do, though, don't look at your watch unless you're seeing when a band starts. The main character of New Year's Eve is time; don't look it in the eye and it won't attack.

Full schedule at, Thursday, Dec. 31, $10 buttons include admission to all shows, multiple locations in Downtown Tacoma.

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Jazzy New Year!

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