Wednesday, December 30, 2009

50 ways to leave 2009: Get your New Year's Eve down to an Auld Lang science

Published in the Portland Phoenix
Your usual lackadaisical approach to New Year's Eve — just see what happens and go with the flow — is not going to cut it this year. Sure, the end of this decade may not have the same kind of new-millennium pressure as the last one, a year that sent you scurrying to your basement Y2K bunker or out on a Strange Days-like celebration of impending global collapse. But the plunge into 2010 is a milestone nonetheless. So to help you make this one count, we sent a team of future-thinking Predator drones all across the state of Maine, and a little ways down into Seacoast New Hampshire to sniff out any NYE happenings. We threw the results in our data centrifuge to spin out the good from the lame. And from that, we've distilled the 50 best goings-on, broken down by distance from Portland, from barely-off-the-couch to the Maine mountains, all the way to interstellar travel (we're not kidding!).
If you really can't be bothered to move for New Year's, stick tight to your computer and visit to see LIVE WEBCAM FEEDS of what everyone else is doing. Use that, and the party footage on, as motivation to get your butt in motion.
Don't get distracted by all the MUSICAL ACTS on TV: JLo and the Black Eyed Peas on ABC, Rihanna, Jay-Z, and Green Day on NBC, and American Idol-ists on FOX. Seriously, head out of your living room and see the world as a new decade begins.

Close by
For an early start without leaving the peninsula, stop by the PHYZGIG show at the Portland Performing Arts Center. Starting at 2 pm (there's another show at 7), clowns, jugglers, slapstick, music, and a general variety show will take over the stage. $18, $16 students & seniors, $14 under 13 | 25A Forest Ave, Portland | | 207.854.0065
If you're anticipating more silliness later in the night and want to start with sweet, swing in to Aucocisco for one of the two FOFER SHOWS (at 3 and 7 pm), featuring artist, musician, and storyteller Shana Barry and her creations, the Maine-island-dwelling furball Fofers. 89 Exchange St, Portland |

Fuel stop
It's going to be a long night, so take a break for sustenance (and be sure to call for reservations anywhere you go!). At PEPPERCLUB, there are two seatings (5:30 and 8:30 pm) with five courses of their scrumptious vegan/vegetarian/omnivore cooking for $35 (plus drinks). 78 Middle St, Portland | 207.772.0531
Just up the block at HUGO'S is a five-course meal of Chef Rob Evans's locavore-based cuisine for $75. 88 Middle St, Portland | 207.774.8538
VIGNOLA has a $48 prix-fixe upscale Italian menu with free prosecco at midnight. 10 Dana St, Portland | 207.772.1330
Portland's newest classy restaurant, GRACE, has a 6 pm seating for $70 per person for a five-course meal from their excellent menu. There's also an 8:30 pm seating but to that one you can add (for $20 per person) an after-dinner-party, complete with housemade chocolates, a champagne toast at midnight, and even a balloon drop! (Or get into the 10:30 "just the party" for $25.) 15 Chestnut St, Portland | 207.828.4422
Warm-up huts
Get the blood flowing with an Old Orchard BEACH BONFIRE and FIREWORKS DISPLAY, starting at 4:30 pm (fireworks at 5:30), and visit other local shops and restaurants, which will be open to try to convince you that OOB doesn't totally die in the winter. 207.653.8479
If you're less into gunpowder, maybe stop by the NEW YEAR'S EVE PEACE VIGIL with Seacoast Peace Response down in Portsmouth from 6 to 7 pm. Market Square, Portsmouth, NH | 603.664.2796
Portland's MUSEUM OF AFRICAN CULTURE will wake you up another way at 6:30 pm with a traditional ETHIOPIAN COFFEE CEREMONY, with stories and history to boot from the cradle of caffeination. 13 Brown St, Portland | $10 | 207.871.7188
If you want to try to double-up on the champagne toasts, start at the Stone Mountain Arts Center, where STEVE RILEY AND THE MAMOU PLAYBOYS will blast out some Cajun spice to keep things warm starting at 8:30. Get there for the 6:30 dinner (extra cost); everybody gets champagne at intermission, and you're still out in time to come back to town for more. 695 Dug Way, Brownfield | $39-99 | 866.227.6523

Musical interlude
Okay, so here's the run-down on live music, real quick-like:
At Blue is the Mark Tipton-Chris Sprague-Gary Gemmiti JAZZ TRIO from 7 to 8:30 pm. 650A Congress St, Portland | 207.774.4111
They wrap up there and move over to the Apohadion to take part in an 8-to-11-pm variety show including saw-fiddler Tim Findlan and OVER A CARDBOARD SEA, the Portland Saw Orchestra, ID M THEFT ABLE, and the Dolly Wagglers (an amazingly named puppet-show group from Vermont). Also, juggling, we're told? 107 Hanover St, Portland | $5 donation suggested | 207.450.8187
Andy's Old Port Pub will have letter-quality notes from THE A BAND. 94 Commercial St, Portland | 207.874.2639
Go to Bray's Brewpub to hear guitar-rocker PETE FINKLE. 678 Roosevelt Trail, Naples | 207.693.6806
Buck's Naked BBQ will play host to original-and-cover rock band GIRAFFE ATTACK. 568 Route 1, Freeport | 207.865.0600
Bull Feeney's has a double-bill: reggae from EAST WAVE RADIO upstairs and folk from DAVE ROWE downstairs. 375 Fore St, Portland | 207.773.7210
The Big Easy is home to a 9:30 pm SIDECAR RADIO show (with a live-concert DVD being filmed!), accompanied by Sandbag and Stationeightyfive. 55 Market St, Portland | $10 | 207.775.2266
Guess who shows up at Geno's? You got it: COVERED IN BEES arrive at 10 pm, well equipped with Designer Drugs, Murder Weapon, and Ghosthunter. 625 Congress St, Portland | $8 | 207.221.2382
And the mellow-pop stylings of RACHEL EFRON will be at Slainte at 9 pm. 24 Preble St, Portland | 207.828.0900
If it's some corny Maine laughs you're after, there's always BOB MARLEY, who does a pair of early shows (6:30 and 9 pm) at the Merrill Auditorium. 20 Myrtle St, Portland | $44 | 207.842.0800
He moves to the Comedy Connection for an 11 pm show ($35). Or you can check out his protégé, GEORGE HAMM, there at 8:30 pm for $20. 16 Custom House Wharf, Portland | 207.774.5554
  On the town
And now we're ready for the big-time parties. The top ten are these. Options include downscale, upscale, and outright ridiculous — but we'll let you figure out which is which by taking them in order of proximity to downtown Portland.
51 WHARF starts with a $15 two-dance-floor, two-DJ extravaganza offering champagne-bottle specials (no complimentary toast at midnight, though). Be warned: there will be a house photographer getting evidence (or alibis) to be posted online afterward. But they really they set the bar high with a $600 (well, $500 plus an 18-percent mandatory gratuity) VIP package, with "expedited VIP entrance," 10 tickets and passes to a Red Bull "VIP party," a private table in the middle of the dance floor on a raised platform(!), private security(!), "velvet rope service" (whatever that is), and a "private hostess," which we'll hope means just a dedicated waitress and not anything more... 51 Wharf St, Portland | 207.774.1151
Over at the OLD PORT TAVERN, there's a DJ dance party with drink specials and a champagne toast. Or go next door to the Mariner's Church for a $10 live rock show with Modus, with party favors and complimentary snacks and champagne. 11 Moulton St, Portland | 207.774.0444
ASYLUM has super-popular '80s cover band The Awesome upstairs at 9 pm, with a light show and a midnight champagne toast. 121 Center St, Portland | $20 | 207.772.8274
PORT CITY MUSIC HALL hosts a pop-rock night for the ages with perennial local faves Rustic Overtones as headliners, backed by Headstart, Gypsy Tailwind, and Gavin Castleton, with projections by VJ Foo. It's $25 at the door and $50 for a VIP ticket (which gets you reserved seating and access to another bar). 504 Congress St, Portland | 207.899.4990
Moving up the road a short piece, we arrive at SPACE GALLERY, whose $50 Icing party features another pop-rock, multi-media, DJ-folk-funk fest with Spencer and the School Spirit Mafia, Matt Rock and Kate Cox, Olas, Frank Turek, Bam Bam, and Pine Haven Collective — plus photos by Jonathan Donnell and videos by David Meiklejohn and David Camlin. 538 Congress St, Portland | 207.828.5600
Down at the EMPIRE DINE AND DANCE, Zach Jones and Kyle Gervais lead the ultimate Clash of the Titans — music of the '80s versus music of the '90s — at 9 pm. 575 Congress St, Portland | $12.50 | 207.879.8988
At BUBBA'S SULKY LOUNGE, DJ Jon hosts an ultra-'80s dance party, starting at 9 pm, complete with 99 Luftballons dropping at midnight, plus a champagne toast and party favors. 92 Portland St, Portland | $10 | 207.828.0549
Now, leaving town and heading a bit north, VENUE will host an 8 pm-to-midnight classic-rock show with Misspent Youth, with champagne and hors d'oeuvres included in the $25 cover ($40 for a couple). 5 Depot St, Freeport | 207.865.1780
South of town, the LANDING AT PINE POINT will have a world-cuisine party (Thai, French, and Caribbean tastes are on offer) with music from owner Jim Ciampi's band and — the main reason to stop by — a heated cigar tent! Starting at 8, apps, dinner, dessert, and champagne at midnight are all included in the $75 charge (or pay an extra $25 for a VIP private-dining experience). 353 Pine Point Rd, Scarborough | 207.774.4527
MAINESTREET cuts loose with a White-Out Party, at which all guests (preferably wearing black-and-white outfits) will get white LED lights upon entry, and every so often the house lights will go out! DJ Ken will spin, with free copies of his "Hits of the Decade" disc to early arrivals. And everyone gets a champagne toast. Doors are at 8 pm. 195 Main St, Ogunquit | $10 | 207.646.5101
Down the coast
If you're closer to Portsmouth, head down to First Night Portsmouth, where for $20 you can get into all kinds of venues and misadventures. There's a STREET DANCE running from 5 pm to midnight, with a Market Square countdown. Among the highlights are FIREWORKS at 7:30 pm at the South Mill Pond; WEST AFRICAN DRUMMING at the Connie Bean Center; DANCERS performing parts of The Nutcracker at the Great Bay Academy of Dance; the GENERIC THEATER'S READING of Thornton Wilder's one-act The Long Christmas Dinner at the Players' Ring; a BEATLES TRIBUTE BAND at Temple Israel; CHRISTMAS 1910, a Pontine Theatre performance based on South Berwick woman's memoir of a childhood Christmas in Portsmouth; and a THEATRICAL CELEBRATION OF THE NEW YEAR at the West End Studio Theatre. $20 includes all events |

Into the distance
For the multiculturalists, visit our neighbors to the north (and east!). Celebrate with Canadians by taking a ROAD TRIP TO EASTPORT for their cross-border party. Just make sure you don't get there late — local restaurants, shops, and galleries are open during the day and early evening. And even if you miss dinner in town, make sure you get there before 11. The locals drop both a large maple leaf and a sardine (in locally flavored tributes to the ball in Times Square), but the maple leaf goes at 11 pm for us here in Eastern Time, in deference to the Canucks, who are one hour ahead, on Atlantic Time. With a soundtrack provided by a brass quartet, the event is sure to freeze and please. | 207.853.4047
Perhaps that's bit far. If you'd rather walk to your party than drive, head up to Carrabassett Valley and meander into the hills, to VISIT THE POPLAR STREAM FALLS HUT, run by Maine Huts and Trails. Beer and wine will be available on New Year's Eve, and with groomed trails for skiing and snowshoeing, home-cooked meals, and staff to wash your dishes, it's hard to imagine a Mainer New Year. $93 per person, dinner + breakfast included | | 877.634.8824

Had enough of this year, and need to get away? See stuff that you can't see anywhere else at the Southworth Planetarium. INTERSTELLAR TRAVEL begins at 7 pm with "Black Holes," followed at 8 by "Extreme Planets" (looking for planets orbiting other stars), at 9 by "Eight Planets and Counting" (exploring our solar system), at 10:30 by "Ring World" (with close-up views of Saturn and its moons from the Cassini-Huygens robot mission), and end the night with the 11:15 showing of "Cosmic Collisions" (showing what happens when asteroids, comets, and even galaxies collide). A single admission gets you in to any and all of those shows. $6 | 96 Falmouth St, Portland | 207.780.4249

The aftermath
Still haven't had enough? Start the recovery at YOUR FAVORITE BRUNCH place. Lots of them are open their Sunday-brunch hours on New Year's Day, even though it's a Friday — your best bet is to call your top spot and see what they have to say.
And lest any of us forget, January 1 is also the first Friday of the month, which means the FIRST FRIDAY ART WALK will kick off at 5 pm. Make sure you've had a nap so you don't stagger into the exhibits. all over downtown Portland |
And finally, head to Slainte for the HANGOVER BALL with indie-folker Sarah Wallis and Dover, New Hampshire-based soul family Moon Minion, starting at 9 pm. 24 Preble St, Portland | 207.828.0900
Now go home and sleep it off. You've got Saturday and Sunday still on the way!