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A guide to New Year's Eve in Boston

Essdras M Suarez/ Globe Staff/file 2010

Admit it. There’s a part of you that’s a little nervous about 2012. It’s understandable. What with all the prophecies and doomsaying, it might be the first time the new year comes loaded with more baggage than the one before it. Instead of sitting and praying that the Mayans made some crucial typos, we recommend treating this New Year’s Eve like it’s the last one ever — and with this handy guide, you won’t waste one precious second. We’ve picked the best pop, classical, theater, film, comedy, dining, and outdoor events to help make the most of your night. And if you lose your bearings amid the revelry, simply consult our handy map. From all of us at the Globe, Happy NewYear! (Now let’s party like there’s no tomorrow.) MICHAEL BRODEUR

matthew j. lee/globe staff

The Parkington Sisters perform at Symphony Hall.

POP MUSIC

THE FOUR LEGGED FAITHFUL

If you want to close out 2011 with rich harmonies and a dive into the folk-bluegrass-Americana pool, this show at the cozy Cambridge club should be just your (free) ticket. 9 p.m. Free. Toad. 617-497-4950, www.toadcambridge.com

ELLIS PAUL

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One of the region’s premier singer-songwriters, Paul does double duty tonight, saying goodbye to the year in his warm and reflective style. 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. Tickets: $40. Club Passim. 617-492-7679, www.clubpassim.org

Juanito Pascual performs at the Park Plaza Hotel.

CASS MCCOMBS

The prolific singer-songwriter released two albums in 2011 so he should have no shortage of his smart, funny, and thoughtful songs to sing. 10:15 p.m. Boston Public Library. 617-542-1399, www.firstnight.org

MAVIS STAPLES

The legendary R&B and gospel singer has been enjoying a well-deserved renaissance thanks to her superb, Grammy-winning 2010 album, “You Are Not Alone.’’ 9 p.m. Symphony Hall. 617-542-1399, www.firstnight.org

J. GEILS, JEFF PITCHELL, & TEXAS FLOOD

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Shake out those end-of-the-year blues with some blues of the blistering hot musical variety as the J. Geils Band’s namesake axman, Pitchell, and Texas Flood make a ruckus. The ticket price includes dinner, a champagne toast, party favors, and all the blues you can feast on. 7 p.m. Tickets: $90. Bull Run. 978-425-4311, www.bullrunrestaurant.com

JUANITO PASCUAL

If fabulous flamenco flourishes float your boat, then make sure to stop and see Pascual, a well-regarded practitioner who should have your feet and your heart racing. 10 and 11 p.m. Park Plaza Hotel, Terrace Room. 617-542-1399, www.firstnight.org

INSANE CLOWN POSSE

If you are a Juggalo in good standing, there’s only one way to spend the night. And that’s by heading out to Worcester to revel with Faygo-obsessed, clown-faced rappers about the miracle of magnets. 8 p.m. Tickets: $29.50. Palladium. 800-477-6849, www.tickets.com

ELIZABETH MITCHELL AND YOU ARE MY FLOWER

Kids of all ages will be able to dig Mitchell’s warm and playful approach to entertaining the whole family in song. 1 and 2:15 p.m. Hynes Convention Center Auditorium. 617-542-1399, www.firstnight.org

JULIAN LAGE TRIO FEATURING LARRY GRENADIER AND ERIC HARLAND

A former child prodigy and the subject of an Academy Award-nominated documentary, Lage is a virtuosic craftsman who likes to explore many avenues in his music including folk, classical, and Americana. 7:45 and 9:30 p.m. Berklee Performance Center. 617-542-1399, www.firstnight.org

SUZANNE VEGA

The smart and sensitive singer-songwriter enjoyed her highest profile in the ’80s with hits like “Luka’’ and “Tom’s Diner,’’ but longtime fans know she continues to write songs that equal or better those of her early days. 9 p.m. New England Conservatory, Jordan Hall. 617-542-1399, www.firstnight.org

LUCERO

The Memphis-spawned rockers will pay homage to the scrappy misfits, miscreants, and mischief makers who populate their good, old-fashioned rock ’n’ roll songs. 9 p.m. Tickets: $25. Paradise. 800-745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com

THE PARKINGTON SISTERS

This multi-talented quartet of sibling multi-instrumentalists may have classical training but they’ve got an endearingly rock ’n’ roll attitude, a combination which made them irresistible as backing musicians and an opening act for the Dropkick Murphys. 8 p.m. Symphony Hall. 617-542-1399. www.firstnight.org

Mean Creek (above) will join Freezepop and Kingsley Flood at the Brighton Music Hall.

p. nick curran

Mean Creek (above) will join Freezepop and Kingsley Flood at the Brighton Music Hall.

MEAN CREEK/KINGSLEY FLOOD/FREEZEPOP

A strong and diverse night of Boston bands including peppy techno-popsters Freezepop, Americana enthusiasts Kingsley Flood, and energetic rockers Mean Creek. The night will also feature a DJ set from Bodega Girls. 9 p.m. Tickets: $15. Brighton Music Hall. 800-745-3000. www.ticketmaster.com

LITTLE GROOVE WITH SARA WHEELER AND TOMMY DEMPSEY

Award-winning children’s musicians Wheeler and Dempsey help kids get into the groove with tunes from their album “Building Blocks.’’1:45 p.m. Hynes Convention Center Auditorium. 617-542-1399 www.firstnight.org

MELLOW BRAVO

A fine lineup of local lights put together by local music blog Ryan’s Smashing Life will greet the new year with serious riffage and attitude, including topliners Mellow Bravo and filled out by Township, Planetoid, Cocked N Loaded, and the Grinds. 8 p.m. Tickets: $10. Middle East Downstairs. 866-468-7619, www.ticketweb.com

NEW ENGLAND CONSERVATORY CHILDREN’S CHORUS

First Night-ers could often use a break from the bustle. Here’s a good mid-afternoon option. Come set for a spell and sing a holiday tune or two alongside this gifted group of singing tykes. 3 p.m. Boston Public Library, Rabb Hall. 617-542-1399, www.firstnight.org

MICHAEL TARBOX

The leader of the Tarbox Ramblers flies solo for a night, marrying his dark-night-of-the-soul voice to his love for classic roots music - including the sounds of Appalachia, folk, blues, and rock ’n’ roll. 8 p.m. New England Conservatory, Jordan Hall. 617-542-1399, www.firstnight.org

MANAMI MORITA

Jazz pianist Morita graduated from the prestigious Berklee College of Music just three years ago but she’s already collaborated with a long list of artists including Esperanza Spalding, Greg Hopkins, Mark Walker, Rosa Pasos, Oscar Stagnaro, and more. 6:30 p.m. Berklee Performance Center. 617-542-1399, www.firstnight.org

THE UPPER CRUST

For those wishing to celebrate with class, decorum, powdered wigs, and truly old-fashioned roque, then this dandy affair, also featuring Sidewalk Driver and Gene Dante and the Future Starlets, is likely the fanciful fete to fulfill their needs. 8 p.m. Tickets: $20-$25. Church. 617-236-7600. www.churchofboston.com

BOOTY VORTEX

Some people just want to dance the night away. Those people should point their dancing shoes in the direction of Davis Square and enjoy the vibrant disco-funk stylings of these joyful noisemakers. 9:45 p.m. Tickets: $26. Johnny D’s. 617-776-2004, www.johnnyds.com

SARAH RODMAN

CLASSICAL MUSIC

BOSTON BAROQUE

Under Martin Pearlman’s direction, the veteran period instrument band offers its annual pair of New Year’s performances, this year with concertos by Corelli, Vivaldi, and Handel as well as Bach’s Double Concerto with violin soloists Christina Day Martinson and Julie Leven. Dec. 31 at 8 p.m., Jan. 1 at 3 p.m. Tickets: $31-$75. Sanders Theatre. 617-484-9200, www.bostonbaroque.org.

OPERA BOSTON

As part of the First Night festivities, Opera Boston young artists offer a semi-staged performance of Mozart’s one-act comic opera “Bastien und Bastienne,’’ performed in English translation. 8:30 and 10:30 p.m., Emmanuel Church, 15 Newbury St. 617-451-3388, www.firstnight.org.

SONIC YOUTH

Throughout the afternoon at Boston Public Library the city’s youth music talent will be on display. At 1 and 2 p.m., young classical musicians from Project Step perform; at 3 p.m., New England Conservatory’s Children’s Chorus takes over; and at 4 p.m., it’s the NEC Youth Jazz Orchestra. Later at 8 p.m., students and alumni of New England Conservatory will take the stage of the school’s Brown Hall for an eclectic program of works by Bach, Beethoven, Cage, Xenakis, and others. www.firstnight.org.

LUDOVICO ENSEMBLE

Pianist Sarah Bob, flutist Jessi Rosinski, and percussionist Nicholas Tolle take on Morton Feldman’s expansive, contemplative score “Crippled Symmetry.’’ 7:30 p.m., Williams Hall, New England Conservatory. necmusic.edu/first-night-crippled-symmetry.

ORGAN RECITALS

For New Year’s revelers who also happen to be organ enthusiasts, at 3:30 p.m. Harry Huff will be playing the 1921 Skinner orchestral pipe organ at Old South Church; at 9 p.m. in King’s Chapel, Heinrich Christensen will traverse works by Bach, Ritter, Guilmant, and Jehan Alain; and at 10 p.m., members of the American Guild of Organists perform at Arlington Street Church. www.firstnight.org.

JEREMY EICHLER

Michael Forden Walker and Marianna Bassham in “The Merry Wives of Windsor.’’

stratton mccrady

Michael Forden Walker and Marianna Bassham in “The Merry Wives of Windsor.’’

THEATER

ARABIAN NIGHTS

Underground Railway Theater and the Nora Theatre Company team up for Dominic Cooke’s adaptation of five of Scheherazade’s 1,001 tales, ranging from the familiar “Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves’’ to the more obscure “How Abu Hassan Broke Wind.’’ The result is an imaginative and fascinating event, with a hypnotic narrator, playful performances, a richly colored set, and shadow puppets. 3 and 8 p.m. $15-$45; free admission to the first 50 First Night button-holders. Central Square Theater, Cambridge. 866-811-4111, www.centralsquaretheater.org

THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR

All right, this riff on Falstaff and his romantic escapades is not masterpiece Shakespeare, but it’s very funny, it doesn’t get staged that often, and this freewheeling Actors’ Shakespeare Project production stars the wonderful Richard Snee, who as Falstaff knows how to do a lot with a little. The supporting cast seem to be having the time of their lives. 3 and 8 p.m. $33-$50. Davis Square Theatre, Somerville. 866-811-4111, www.actorsshakespeareproject.org

Rick Burkhardt, Alec Duffy, and Dave Malloy are in “Three Pianos’’ at Loeb Drama Center.

Ryan Jensen

Rick Burkhardt, Alec Duffy, and Dave Malloy are in “Three Pianos’’ at Loeb Drama Center.

WHEN THE CLOCK STRIKES

When the clock strikes 9:30 p.m., you just might want to be at the Boston University Theatre for Mike Daisey’s special, one-night-only New Year’s Eve show. Daisey’s a hot ticket right now: The New York Times has called him “one of the finest solo performers of his generation,’’ and in his current show, “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,’’ he takes a bite out of Apple. For his First Night debut, he’ll reflect on our New Year’s Eve rituals and habits. The show will end by 11 p.m., so you’ll still have time to get to where you want to be when the clock strikes midnight. 9:30 p.m. Free with First Night button. Boston University Theatre. 617-542-1399, www.firstnight.org

THREE PIANOS

John Pinette will perform at the Wilbur Theatre.

Franz Schubert’s “Winterreise’’ song cycle gets a whimsical, wisecracking remake from Dave Malloy, Alec Duffy, and Rick Burkhardt. Mingling with the audience, moving their pianos about onstage, and playing a variety of other instruments, the three performers re-create the “Schubertiade’’ salon evenings of the composer’s own time, even as they show how heartbreak is timeless. 2 and 7:30 p.m. $25-$65; free admission for the 2 p.m. performance to the first 100 First Night button-holders (tickets available that day at the Loeb Drama Center box office at noon). Loeb Drama Center, Cambridge. 617-547-8300, www.americanrepertorytheater.org

UNCLE VANYA

Apollinaire Theatre Company offers a downbeat New Year’s Eve alternative with Craig Lucas’s adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s heart-rending tragicomedy about a dysfunctional rural family. As he did with Chekhov’s “Three Sisters,’’ Lucas clarifies the play’s period and cultural references, so you won’t feel you need footnotes. John Kuntz plays the title role. The production will run just over two hours. 8 p.m. $30. Chelsea Theatre Works, Chelsea. 617-887-2336, www.apollinairetheatrecompany.com

JEFFREY GANTZ

Partiers will be out in full force for the First Night festivities in downtown Boston.

yoon s. byun/globe staff/file 2010

Partiers will be out in full force for the First Night festivities in downtown Boston.

COMEDY

JOHN PINETTE

It’s been a good year for Malden native Pinette, who released a new one-hour special, “Still Hungry,’’ in July. He returns to his old Boston stomping grounds to ring in the New Year. 7 and 9:45 p.m. Tickets: $37-$47. Wilbur Theatre. 866-448-7849, www.thewilburtheatre.com

STEVE SWEENEY

Tuesday mornings, Sweeney talks politics and sports on the radio. For New Year’s Eve, he’s playing a club he knew well as one of the founding fathers of the Boston scene in the 1980s, Nick’s Comedy Stop. The venue’s website mentions other, as yet unnamed performers, who will be dropping in on the shows. 6 and 8 p.m. $25. Nick’s Comedy Stop. 617-438-1068, www.nickscomedystop.com

IMPROVBOSTON

The busiest troupe in town for the First Night celebration, ImprovBoston will perform family shows at 3 and 4:15 p.m. as well as three later shows. 3, 4:15, 7:30, 8:45, and 10 p.m. Hynes Convention Center Hall C, 900 Boylston St. 617-542-1399, www.firstnight.org

TONY V AND GRAIG MURPHY

If you know Boston comedy, you know Tony V. A staple of the Boston scene for almost 40 years, he’s also a regular at First Night. He is joined by impressionist/comedian Graig Murphy, whom some may know from his Terry Francona and Robert Kraft impressions on WEEI. 8 p.m. Hynes Convention Center Hall D, 900 Boylston St. 617-542-1399, www.firstnight.org

JIMMY TINGLE ON STAGE AND SCREEN

Tingle’s documentary, “Jimmy Tingle’s American Dream,’’ has been making the rounds at festivals and screenings around the country. Tingle will show the film and perform live at the Regent. 7 p.m. $25-$30. Regent Theatre, 7 Medford St., Arlington. 781-646-4849, www.regenttheatre.com

NICK A. ZAINO III

OUTDOORS

ICE SCULPTURES

Carve out some time in your day to check out an impressive array of ice sculptures. The frozen artworks on display around the city include a sculpture at Boston Common celebrating the 10th anniversary of the beloved TADpole Playground. Over in Copley Square, another piece is inspired by the MFA’s new Chihuly acquisition, the “Lime Green Icicle Tower.’’ All day and night. Free. Boston Common and Copley Square. www.firstnight.org

yoon s. byun/globe staff/file 2010

COUNTDOWNS

Boston will host two outdoor countdown celebrations to ring in 2012. The big celebration at Copley Square will air live on WBZ-TV (Channel 4), hosted by anchors Lisa Hughes and Jack Williams. A selection of Boston’s hottest DJs will perform on the steps of the Boston Public Library, accompanied by projected images and flashy lights. 10 p.m.-midnight. Free. Copley Square. For those with alternative tastes, Amos Blood will count down and rock in the New Year at Boston Common with a set of what has been described as “shipwrecked ghetto cajun devil folk rock.’’ 10:45-midnight. Free. Parkman Bandstand, Boston Common. www.firstnight.org

BOSTON FAMILY FIREWORKS

A kid-friendly fireworks show will take place before bedtime, so the little ones don’t miss out on the New Year’s Eve tradition. The Boston Family Fireworks are presented by Mayor Menino, the Mugar Foundation, and Boston 4 Productions. They will take place on the Boston Common and air live on NECN, hosted by anchor Latoyia Edwards, as part of the station’s “New Year’s Eve Live’’ program. Celebration begins at 6 p.m. with fireworks at approximately 6:46 p.m. Free. Boston Common. www.july4th.org

MIDNIGHT FIREWORKS

The new year will start with a bang as the Midnight Fireworks blast off and light up the sky above the harbor. Zambelli Fireworks creates this spectacular display for First Night. Midnight-12:10 a.m. Free. Boston Harbor. www.firstnight.org

PANORAMA MAGAZINE GRAND PROCESSION

“Over the Horizon’’ is the theme for this year’s 36th annual Grand Procession, a First Night favorite since 1976. The parade will be led by different pieces from the Back Alley Puppet Theatre and Puppeteers Cooperative, who worked with local schoolchildren to create puppets for the procession. 5:30-6:15 p.m. Free. Starting at Hynes Convention Center, ending at intersection of Charles and Beacon streets. www.firstnight.org

ANNA MARDEN
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