Chicago's a great New Year's Eve town -- for music. So many great bands call this city home, and when they come home for the holidays they book a hometown hootenanny. Others come for the champagne and party hats because, hey, it's Chicago. Either way, your NYE concert choices are far above a basic covers band at the hotel ballroom.
Plus, there are two great shows for early birds: Either catch the Queen of Soul, who's past years of health issues and back to full-throated glory (8 p.m. Dec. 29 in the Venue at the Horseshoe Casino, 777 Casino Center Dr. in Hammond, Ind., $45-$90, 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com), or enjoy Chicago's own talented and hilarious singer-songwriter Robbie Fulks, performing his annual spot-on summation of the year's news in Robbie Fulks Raps Up 2012 (8 p.m. Dec. 29 at Fitzgerald's, 6615 W. Roosevelt in Berwyn, $15, 866-777-8932, ticketweb.com).
Otherwise, here's a selection of shows for Dec. 31 ...
The Airborne Toxic Event -- The Los Angeles rock band spent the year touring its latest album, so things are tight as they bring plenty of shout-along choruses to this end-o'-year bash. 9 p.m. at Metro, 3730 N. Clark. Tickets: $61 advance, $71 day of. Call (800) 514-ETIX; metrochicago.com.
Alejandro Escovedo -- One of Texas' most revered singer-songwriter-guitarists, now 61, Escovedo released a new album this year, fell and broke some ribs, and toured a new roster with his band, the Sensitive Boys. He'll be rarin' to go this NYE. 10 p.m. at S.P.A.C.E., 1245 Chicago Ave. in Evanston. Tickets: $65-$95. Call (847) 492-8860; evanstonspace.com.
Big Gigantic -- This high-energy jam-duo of producer/saxophonist Dom Lalli and drummer Jeremy Salken are making a tradition of ending their annual extensive touring with a Chicago NYE gig. 9 p.m. at the Aragon Ballroom, 1106 W. Lawrence. Tickets: $45 advance, $50 day of. Call (800) 514-ETIX; jamusa.com.
Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires -- After carving out his career as a James Brown impersonator, Bradley has emerged as his own singular talent. 10 p.m. at Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln. Tickets: $75. Call (773) 525-2508; lincolnhallchicago.com.
Charlie Wilson -- Decades after he and his GAP Band dropped a bomb on us, Charlie Wilson will celebrate his 60th birthday next month by releasing a new album, which has already spun off a charting single, "My Love Is All I Have." Ledisi opens at 8 p.m. at the Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State. Tickets: $75-$125. Call (800) 745-3000; ticketmaster.com.
Chicago NYE Ball -- Local promoters React Presents have assembled the city's year-ending EDM bill, featuring DJ Paul Oakenfold along with an all-night rave of others: Mario Florek, DJ Gus Karas, ChuckieB, Paul Universe, DJ Criz R, DJ Torio, DJ Kontor and Boogie Shoes. 8 p.m. at the Castle at Excalibur Nightclub, 632 N. Dearborn. Tickets: $100-$1,500. Call (312) 266-1944; excaliburchicago.com.
The Eternals -- Chicago experimental collective the Eternals expanded to an actual 10-piece collective this year for some performances of their "Espiritu Zombi Suite," including this year-ending finale. 10 p.m. at the Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia. Tickets: $20. Call (773) 227-4433; hideoutchicago.com.
The Hood Internet -- A NYE tradition in Chicago, the mash-up kings (oh, OK, and original musicians now, too) party like it's 1999. Moon Boots, Only Children and DJ Esquire open at 10 p.m. at Beauty Bar, 1444 W. Chicago. Tickets: $35. Call (866) 777-8932; ticketweb.com.
Wanda Jackson -- The rockabilly legend from Oklahoma stood up to Jack White's album production and keeps rockin'. 10 p.m. at Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee. Tickets: $55-$100. Call (773) 489-3160; doubledoor.com.
JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound -- The hottest retro-soul act in Chicago is a fine, fine choice to kiss off any calendar or anything. 9:30 p.m. at Mayne Stage, 1328 W. Montrose. Tickets: Tickets: $42-$72. Call (866) 777-8932; ticketweb.com.
JD McPherson -- One of the year's best albums came from this Okie, "Signs and Signifiers," blending old-world roots and newfangled edge and promising a literate but aw-shucks NYE gig. Chicago's Dyes open at 9 p.m. at the Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace. Tickets: $25-$70. Call (773) 478-4408; abbeypub.com.
Leftover Salmon -- Several years past their 20th anniversary NYE gigs, this Colorado jam band released a fine new album this year (first since 2004). 9 p.m. at the Vic Theatre, 3145 N. Sheffield. Tickets: $40. Call (800) 514-ETIX; jamusa.com.
Local H -- One of the hardest working men in Chicago rock, Scott Lucas, keeps Local H going with a good new album this year, "Hallelujah! I'm a Bum." All Eyes West opens at 10 p.m. at Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont. Tickets: $25. Call (773) 281-4444; beatkitchen.com.
Los Lobos -- The wolves are back and prowling through not one but two NYE shows here: 7:30 and 11 p.m. at City Winery, 1200 W. Randolph. Tickets: $85-$175. Call (312)-733-WINE; citywinery.com/chicago.
Maps & Atlases -- I can't imagine a better local indie-rock band for NYE, singing about how they want "no more remote and dark years" as the calendar page turns. 8 and 10 p.m. at Schubas, 3159 N. Southport. Tickets: $15-$35. Call (773) 525-2508; schubas.com.
Mucca Pazza -- Chicago's unique punk marching band puts on some of the best shows around -- a superb pick for a year-end blow-out. The mind-blowing White Mystery opens at 9:30 p.m. at Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie. Tickets: $25. Call (866) 777-8932; ticketweb.com.
Robert Randolph & The Family Band and Karl Denson's Tiny Universe -- Come Tuesday morning, only one of these towering funk-soul icons might be left standing. Catch the battle of these bands at 7:30 p.m. at Park West 322 W. Armitage. Tickets: $60. Call (800) 514-ETIX; jamusa.com.
Rock 'n' Roll Ball -- This long-running local NYE bash features an alt-rock headliner, Soul Asylum (supporting a new album, go figure), with Hairbanger's Ball, Miles Nielsen and Your Villain My Hero. 8 p.m. in the Montrose Room at the Intercontinental Hotel Chicago O'Hare, 5300 N. River Rd. in Rosemont. Tickets: $79. Call (866) 777-8932; ticketweb.com.
The Steepwater Band -- Jeff Massey's Chicago quartet is one of those muddling-through acts about whom other musicians raise eyebrows and whisper things like, "Have you ever seen them? Man, they're one of the best bands in town." See for yourself at 10:30 p.m. on the Backporch Stage at the House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn. Tickets: $10-$25. Call (800) 745-3000; houseofblues/chicago.
Third Eye Blind -- Somehow Stephan Jenkins' "Semi Charmed Life" leads him to Chicago for a NYE gig at HOB. Mutemath opens at 9 p.m. at House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn. Tickets: $110. Call (800) 745-3000; houseofblues.com/chicago.