Dedicated club-hoppers know that Chicago is one of the best cities for live music in America, and it often rocks harder than ever on New Year's Eve.
Sure, you have to compete for space at the bar with folks who only venture out once every few months. But it can be worth the trouble for the right holiday show.
Here is an overview of the coolest sounds to usher in 2010, starting with my top five picks among the many offerings.
1. The Jesus Lizard at Metro, 3730 N. Clark
Plain and simple, this quartet is one of the best bands Chicago has ever produced, especially onstage. It has delivered at all three of its hometown reunion gigs to date, even when it was a bit rusty at the Pitchfork Music Festival last July, and even when vocalist David Yow injured his ribs at the first of two Metro shows last November and had to play the second while seated on a stool. You know the group will have something special planned for the holiday.
Disappears opens at 10 p.m., and tickets are $51 in advance, $61 at the door; call (773) 549-4140 or visit www.metrochicago.com. Meanwhile, below the main room at Metro in Smart Bar, the DJ booth with host an all-Chicago lineup including Chris Santiago, the Hood Internet, John Patterson, Sassmouth, Bald E. and Nate Manic. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 day of show or $75 for reserved seating.
2. Pegboy and Shot Baker at the Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont
Shut out of the Jesus Lizard? A more straightforward but no less rousing night of classic Chicago punk is being served up by the Beat Kitchen, courtesy of the long-running and always entertaining Pegboy, with Shot Baker drawing on that group's influence as well as Naked Raygun and the Effigies. Anxiety High opens at 10, and tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at door; check (773) 281-4444 or www.beatkitchen.com.
3. Local H and Electric Six at Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee
Scott Lucas is gearing up to release a potent debut album by his new band the Married Men early next year, so this may be the last opportunity for some time to hear him with his vastly underrated melodic grunge combo Local H. Detroit's Electric Six is just as stellar in concert, and White Mystery opens at 9:30 p.m. The cover is $65, including a hosted bar; (773) 489-3160 or www.doubledoor.com.
4. The Tossers, Yakuza, Teen Idols and Scott Lucas and the Married Men at Reggie's Rock Club, 2109 S. State
Cudos to Reggie's for a diverse and creative bill strong on local talent. The Tossers make every day St. Patrick's Day, Yakuza stretches the boundaries of metal in ways unmatched by any other group on the scene, Teen Idols are pop-punk at its best and Lucas is just as great with the more rootsy Married Men as he is with Local H--he just won't have time to chat after his set at 8 p.m. since he'll be heading north to Double Door for his second gig of the night. Tickets are $30; (312) 949-0121, www.reggieslive.com.
5. The Fiery Furnaces at Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln
I respect the wild art-rock ambitions of Oak Park natives Eleanor and Matthew Friedberger more than I love the Fiery Furnaces' music, especially on their eighth album, "I'm Going Away." But the group is much more fun onstage, where its legions of fans can marvel at Matthew's ability to navigate those serpentine arrangements, as well as bask in his sister's captivating presence. The show starts at 9 p.m., Cryptacize shares the bill and tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door. Call (773) 525-2501 or visit www.lincolnhallchicago.com.
In the bigger venues booked by Jam Productions, local jam nation heroes Umphrey's McGee solo endlessly starting at 7:30 at the Aragon Ballroom, 1106 W. Lawrence (tickets are $65 through www.ticketmaster.com, 312-559-1212); the Black Keys mount their two-man band assault on the Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine (10 p.m.; tickets $50 through Ticketmaster) and Pretty Lights play the Vic Theatre, 3145 N. Sheffield (show time 8:30; tickets are sold-out).
Meanwhile, back in club land, the Empty Bottle proper, 1035 N. Western, hosts Swedish pop maestro Jens Lekman starting at 9:30 (tickets are $30; 773-276-3600, www.emptybottle.com), while the Empty Bottle Presents brings the cutting-edge electronica of Toronto's Crystal Castles and DJ Alex Zelenka to Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie (show time 8:30; tickets $30 via TicketWeb.com) and the stellar mash-ups of Girl Talk, a.k.a. Gregg Gillis, to the Congress Theatre, 2135 N. Milwaukee (show time 9:30; tickets $35 through TicketWeb).
The House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, steps into the time machine to present Big Head Todd and the Monsters at 9:30 in the main room and Urge Overkill at 10 on the Backporch Stage. Tickets for the former are $57.50 in advance or $63 at the door, while Urge is $40 in advance or $44 at the door; (312) 923-2000, www.hob.com.
Bobby Bare Jr. performs at Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, (10 p.m., tickets $20 to $25; 773-525-2508, www.schubas.com); Durty Nellie's, 180 N. Smith St. in Palatine, hosts the Smoking Popes, Makeshift Prodigy and Girl in a Coma starting at 9 p.m. ($55; 847-358-9150, www.durtynellies.com); and Green Dolphin Street,2200 N. Ashland, presents the electronic duo the Crystal Method plus 13 other DJs from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. (tickets $40 to $80 via www.clubtix.net).
The Kinetic Playground, 1113 W. Lawrence, hosts Dark Party and DJ Thibault (9 p.m., $25, 773-769-LIVE); the Bottom Lounge, 1375 W Lake St, gets things rolling at 9 p.m. with Todd Hembrook & the Hemispheres and Lowdown Brass Band ($25 via TicketWeb); the Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, offers Secondhand Serenade and Todd Carey (9 p.m., tickets $81 with food and open bar; 773-478-4408, www.abbeypub.com), and Martyr's, 3855 N. Lincoln, presents Chicago's musical chameleons Tributosaurus morphing into Tom Petty starting at 10 p.m. (tickets $35; 1-800-594-TIXX, www.martyrslive.com).
Finally, on the big corporate New Year's Eve party tip, superstar DJ Mark Ronson will spin at the Beck's Music Export Party at River East Art Center, 435 E. Illinois, sharing the bill with the Airborne Toxic Event, the Virgins, the Drums and a local act that will have won the slot via a cheesy online competition. (Tickets are $50; visit www.BecksMusicExport.com.) And, if you want to ring in 2010 like it's 1992, the Gin Blossoms will play the 13th annual New Year's Eve Rock 'n' Roll Ball at the InterContinental O'Hare (5300 N. River Rd., Rosement) along with openers the Nicholas Tremulis Orchestra. Tickets are $85 through Ticketmaster.