Good riddance, 2016

First Night Tacoma offers a bounty of artists to help us escape last year's insanity

By Rev. Adam McKinney on December 29, 2016

It seems a relative certainty that you'd be hard-pressed to find a single person who wouldn't join you in a rousing refrain of "f*&@# 2016!" Judging by any metric, this has been a notably lousy year, plagued with celebrity deaths, ugly politics, and Jared Leto. I've railed against New Year's Eve for as long as I've been writing for this paper but, at its best, the holiday serves as an invitation to shake the dirt of the past year from your boots and enter the new year cleansed and as optimistic as one can be after having endured 2016.

Once again, First Night is coming around to aid in the transition to a very bright future. As usual, the family-friendly celebration of the new year is stuffed to the gills with bands, artists, and vibrant performers, spanning several stages in downtown Tacoma. As with any New Year's Eve party that welcomes families and eschews alcohol, First Night Tacoma can be a little unhip, but this year's festivities are peppered with exciting acts.

One of the smartest things the planners of the event did was to give local production company MountainHouse their own stage, where they'll be highlighting some of Tacoma's best bands: the complex garage pop of Cheap Sweat, the buoyant power pop of the Fawcetts, the slippery math-rock of Etchings, the throwback alt-rock of Sloucher, and Mr. Motorcycle's psychedelic jangle.

Another highlight of this year's First Night is the inimitable Baby Gramps, whose traditional folk is lent a surreal fascination by the didgeridoo-sounding croak generated by his throat-singing. Also of interest is Seattle indie pop duo SISTERS, who manage to mix elements of shimmering synthpop and Phil Collins-esque populism to thrilling, exuberant effect that nimbly skirts cheesiness; this is jubilant music that's perfect for escaping 2016's tyrannical grasp.

Hannah Racecar will be bringing their wall of post-punk fuzz to the main stage, while Rabbit Wilde's boisterous folk-rock will be featured at the Pantages Theater. Things get eclectic at the Pythian Temple stage, where Phinisey will open the show with beat-heavy, hip-hop-indebted electronica, followed by Forest Beutel's fiery bluegrass, Edna Vazquez's genre-mixing latin pop, and the verbose alt-folk of Uncle Bonsai.

And yet, this doesn't scratch the surface of the bounty of entertainment that is being presented by First Night. For a full list of events and activities, and to secure yourself the badge that will allow you to see all of the shows, visit