New Year's Eve is amateur's night, for the seasoned clubgoer and all-around reveler. But if you're going to venture out for the annual rite of horn-blowing and ball-dropping, Chicago's music scene usually makes it worth the effort. Here's a look at the liveliest of live music options for your aural entrance into 1/1/11 ...
The Black Keys return to Chicago for their NYE blow-out, and how lucky are we? Dan Auerbach (left) and Pat Carney are the toast of most towns this season, with their "Brothers" album showing up on best-of-2010 lists across the country. This is the second New Year's Eve they've spent here, and the bluesy rock is perfect for rattling around Capone's ballroom. The Greenhornes open the three-night stand at 7 p.m. Dec. 30, 10 p.m. Dec. 31, and 8 p.m. Jan. 1 at the Aragon Ballroom, 1106 W. Lawrence. All shows sold out.
If you've read Keith Richards' recently published memoir, Life, you learned a lot about Bobby Keys, the tenor sax player who colored Rolling Stones songs such as "Brown Sugar," before recording with George Harrison, John Lennon, Eric Clapton, B.B. King and others. Keys will blow with Chicago's musical changelings Tributosaurus, who will become the Rolling Stones for this special show playing two nights at two locations: 8:30 p.m. Dec. 31 at Martyrs, 3855 N. Lincoln ($40, 773-404-9494, martyrslive.com) and 9 p.m. Jan. 1 at FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt in Berwyn ($25, 708-788-2118, fitzgeraldsnightclub.com).
The inventive and kinetic sounds of Yeasayer, one of the most exciting indie-rock bands out there, rock the celebration at Metro, 3730 N. Clark. It's another two-night stand: Health opens the show Dec. 30 at 9 p.m. ($21 advance, $24 day of), as well as the Dec. 31 show at 10 p.m., which concludes late into the morning with DJ Darko ($56 advance, $66 day of, plus $500 reserved tables). Tickets: (800) 514-ETIX, metrochicago.com.
Need more noise than cardboard party horns? Pegboy, one of Chicago's punk stalwarts and featuring former Naked Raygun guitarist John Haggerty, rocked last year's eve and kicks it up this Dec. 31 at the Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace. The bill also features the free-wheeling (and occasional CCR cover band) the Mannequin Men, gritty hardcore band Sweet Cobra and the exciting sibling duo of White Mystery (worth getting there early for). Doors open at 8 p.m., music starts at 8:30. Tickets: $25 in advance, $30 at the door, (773) 478-4408, abbeypub.com.
Scott Lucas has been all over town this year, blasting out new songs and covers with the hard-rocking Local H, his duo with drummer Brian St. Clair, as well as taking a turn toward alt-country with the ambitious and beautiful Scott Lucas & the Married Men. For NYE, it's Local H, of course, at 9 p.m. Dec. 31 at the Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake. Tickets: $50, (312) 666-6775, bottomlounge.com.
Chicago's popular jam band Umphrey's McGee holds down what's now an annual three-night stand, Dec. 29-31, at the Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine. The Dec. 29 show is all-ages, starting at 7 p.m. (tickets $32.50). Dec. 30 ($32.50) and New Year's Eve ($75) are 18-and-over. Tickets: (800) 514-ETIX, jamusa.com; three-night package are even available.
Ten years after the release of "Songs From a Scene," a compilation of Chicago bands like the Plain White T's, Lucky Boys Confusion keeps showcasing upstarts at its own shows. This year's NYE bills include Penny & the Loafers, Close Enough and Backdrop on Dec. 30, and 15 Minutes Late, Swizzle Tree and Saraphine on Dec. 31. Music starts at 9 p.m. each night at the Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee. Tickets: $15-$18 on Dec. 30, $30-$100 on Dec. 31, (773) 489-3160, doubledoor.com.
It's a modern blues jam at, of course, the House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, featuring Robert Randolph & the Family Band with the North Mississippi All-Stars, plus the Steepwater Band. These two bands have toured together for years; Randolph can do things with a steel guitar you never imagined could be done. Tickets: $53 advance, $58 day of, $63 opera box, (800) 745-3000, livenation.com.
Breezy (OK, smoky) '90s punk-ska band Sublime lost singer Brad Nowell in 1996, but the band soldiers on with single-named vocalist Rome, calling themselves Sublime With Rome. They bring the California vibes, with Chicago's AM Taxi and the Dirty Heads, at 8 p.m. Dec. 31 at Navy Pier's Grand Ballroom, 600 E. Grand. Tickets: $101-$150, (312) 595-PIER, q101.com.
Here's a New Year's Day show of significance: One of the founding pillars of American rock 'n' roll, guitarist Chuck Berry, will drive up from his East St. Louis club that weekend for a performance at 7 p.m. Jan. 1 at the Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee. The concert is Berry's Winter Dance, celebrating the 55th anniversary of "Maybellene," his first record -- recorded at Chicago's Chess Records on May 21, 1955 and released that July. How often will you get the chance to see a rock legend like this? Maybe ignore all the listings above, watch Dick Clark on New Year's Eve and hit this show instead. Dick Biondi will emcee. Tickets: $30-$250, (773) 227-7595, congresschicago.com.
Other Dec. 31 events include ...
• Chicago's emo-punks Smoking Popes back with Sig Transit Gloria and the Fold, 8 p.m. at Reggie's, 2105 S. State ($30, 312-949-0121, reggieslive.com/rockclub)
• Cursive will play its album "Domestica" with Yourself and the Air, 9 p.m. at Subterranean, 2011 W. North ($30, 773-278-6600, subt.net)
• the Ike Reilly Assassination at 10 p.m. on the Back Porch Stage at House of Blues ($23 advance, $25 day of, show; 312-923-2000, houseofblues.com)
• the guitar-drums duo Japandroids, 10 p.m., Schubas, 3159 N. Southport ($30, 773-525-2508, schubas.com)
• tag-team DJ duo Flosstradamus parties at 10 p.m. at Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln ($30 advance, $35 door, 773-525-2501, linconhallchicago.com)
• Los Straitjackets with Del Moroccos, JD McPherson, the Dyes and more, 8 p.m. at FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt in Berwyn ($30, 708-788-2118, fitzgeraldsnightclub.com)
• more punk by the Tossers with Flatfoot 56, 9 p.m. at Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, ($25, 773-281-4444, beatkitchen.com)
• Pretty Lights with Holy F---, 7:30 p.m. at the Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee (sold out); Big Freedia & the Divas with Nobunny, 10 p.m. at the Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western ($25, 773-276-3600, emptybottle.com)
• the sprawling group that gives all high school marching band geeks hope, Mucca Pazza, blows it out at 10 p.m. at Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie ($25, 773-276-3600, logansquareauditorium.com)
• Evanston's comfy SPACE venue, 1245 N. Chicago in Evanston, has an early show with singer-songwriter Jill Sobule and comedian Julia Sweeney, 6 p.m. ($20-$34, 847-492-8860, evanstonspace.com), followed by a 10 p.m. show with Shemekia Copeland ($40-$60)
• or you can try to be on TV with Dick Clark at ABC's Countdown Chicago event with Terisa Griffin starting at 10 p.m. at Mayne Stage, 1330 W. Morse ($50, 773.381.4554, maynestage.com).