If your favorite way of ringing in the New Year involves catching a show with tens of thousands of your closest friends/strangers, you already know where you’re going: this year’s downtown Nashville New Year’s celebration, the Jack Daniel’s Music City Midnight.
As with past years, there are major stars spanning multiple genres set to take the stage, including country voice Keith Urban and “Mr. Roboto” masterminds Styx. The countdown again culminates with the dropping of a 15-foot-tall red “Music Note Drop,” and organizers are again expecting a massive crowd for the always-free celebration. But there’s one big change this year: Last year’s crowd was the biggest yet, with an estimated 150,000 people on site, so for 2016, more breathing room was worked in, with the Bash moving from Broadway to Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park (600 James Robertson Pkwy).
Grab all the info you could need about Music City Midnight at VisitMusicCity.com, and plan accordingly.
But while many, many people here in Nashville and in many neighboring cities are Music City Midnight-bound, plenty of us would rather get our New Year’s music fix among a slightly more manageable crowd Saturday. And, Nashville being Nashville, we have plenty of other worthwhile options.
Here are a few of our favorite New Year’s Eve music options for 2016 to ’17:
Nostalgia with My So-Called Band
It’s been a tough year for kids who came of age in the ‘80s and ‘90s — heroes left us en masse, it feels like, and it’s not letting up. So it might be a particularly good year to revel in nostalgia, and locals My So-Called Band are some of the best providers of it. For years now, they’ve been offering pitch-perfect renditions of some of the ‘90s’ biggest hits, from Green Day to Dr. Dre, and they’ll be doing so again on New Year’s Eve at the Cannery Ballroom (1 Cannery Row). Tickets run from $30 (GA) to $190 (VIP pair), and are on sale online now. Not a Gen-X survivor and still need some nostalgia? Upstairs at The High Watt, Thee Rock N’ Roll Residency are channelling the ‘70s (and you might find some ‘60s and ‘80s thrown in too). Tix for that one are $20.
Songwriting excellence, with John Prine, Jason Isbell, Kacey Musgraves
We live in a city whose cultural identity, to a certain degree, sits on the foundation of the song. So celebrating songwriting excellence to ring in a new year: not an unfitting thing. At the Grand Ole Opry House on New Year’s Eve, you’ll be able to marvel at the art via pens that span generations, from songwriting hero John Prine to in-his-prime player Jason Isbell and rocketing star Kacey Musgraves. Tickets run from $250 to $650, and are on sale now.
Over-the-top showmanship with The Protomen and The Dead Deads
Among those we lost this year: some of the best examples of unfettered showmanship the music world has ever known, including Prince and David Bowie. Some younger locals who’ve taken notes from those formative acts’ ability to take audiences to another world: The Protomen and The Dead Deads, who’ll take a hometown stage to help neighbors ring in the New Year. Both acts use big hooks and big personalities, just painting with different colors — The Protomen work in prog-rock tones and robot/video game mystique; the Dead Deads, meanwhile, bring a tough, feminine glamor and intergalactic musings to muscular radio-rock. Tickets for their Exit/In New Year’s Eve show run $16 to $20, and are on sale now.
Low-key surroundings, masterful musicianship with The Grascals
When musicianship moves you, there’s nothing like bluegrass, and week after week, we get some of the best players in the genre taking one of the city’s coziest stages at the legendary Station Inn in The Gulch. On New Year’s Eve, there’s an appropriate bill: multiple Grammy nominees and multiple International Bluegrass Music Association Entertainers of the Year The Grascals head up the Station Inn’s party. You won’t see costumes or fireworks, but these folks’ remarkable musical abilities will make your eyes widen all the same. Tickets are $25/person or $40/couple, on sale now.
Any of these shows make up your plan for the night? Something else we should be thinking about?
Wherever you end up on New Year’s Eve in Nashville, we hope it’s a great night for you and yours. And we hope to hear from you in 2017, whether you’re looking to buy a home, sell a home, or just say hi. Happy New Year, Nashville.