A Guide to Bay Area New Year’s Eve Celebrations By KEN BULLOCK Special to the Planet

Friday December 30, 2005

A plethora of local and internationally known favorites will ring in 2006 around Berkeley and the bay, with an array of festivities to choose from: nostalgia to glitz, humor to hillbilly music, jazz to DJs, cruise to battle ships, circus to Japanese bell-ringing. Prices also vary from high ticket extravagance, to high or low culture on the cheap, or for free.  

Among the free events is San Francisco Chamber Orchestra’s concert with special guests, the Jacques Thibaud String Trio from Berlin, 8 p.m. at the First Congregational Church on Channing Way. Dedicated to the late Edgar Braun, SFCO director for over 40 years, the program will begin the group’s 53rd season with works by Mozart, variations on Mozart’s “La Ci la Mana” from Don Giovanni by Beethoven and Franz Danzi, and 20th century music by Jean Francaix and Osvaldo Golijov (an homage to Astor Piazzola). Like the majority of SFCO concerts, admission is free; reserved seating available for associate members. For more information, call (415) 248-1640 or see www.sfchamberorchestra.org. 

At the more lavish end of the scale, the San Francisco Symphony (415-552-8000) hosts a formal party at Davies Hall, with performances by Broadway stars Christiane Noll, Doug LaBrocque and William Michals, with dancing before and after to The Martini Bros, Peter Mintun’s Orchestra and Soul University. 

A New Year’s bash in the Berlin of the Weimar Republic, onstage and off, will be featured by the Shotgun Players in a special performance of Cabaret at the Ashby Stage (841-6500), followed by a dance and holiday partying. The musical spotlights a New Year’s countdown in the Kit Kat Klub on the brink of the end to the Roaring ‘20s. The spirited cast interacts with the audience throughout, and shares the dance floor with them in all-out “carpe diem” style. 

Cabaret, pure and simple, will be served up royally in San Francisco when Lorna Luft plays The Plush Room (415-885-2800), and Weslia Whitfield holds forth with Mike Greensill at the piano at The New Conservatory Theater (415-861-8972), Van Ness and Market. 

Jazz will ring in the new at many clubs and restaurants around the Bay, including the David Jeffrey Fourtet at the Albatross Pub (843-2473) on San Pablo Avenue near University ($7), and in San Francisco at Pearl’s (415-291-8255) with Kim Nalley. The Richard Harris Trio will play on Pier 23 (415-362-5125). Dixieland will resound in North Beach with Mal Sharpe at Enrico’s (415-982-6223) and as part of an all-day New Orleans Carnival at Andrew Jaeger’s House of Seafood and Jazz (415-781-8222) in the old Condor ($5-25). Yoshi’s (238-9200) at Jack London Square in Oakland will host Latin master trumpeter Arturo Sandoval. 

Jesus Diaz and His Bay Area AfroCuban Allstars will fuel the dancing at La Peña (849-2568) on Shattuck Avenue ($25). For Blues, R&B and Funk, the reopened Eli’s Mile High Club (654-6124) in Oakland features Baron Edwards’ Motown Revue ($10), while nearby Jimmie’s (268-8445) has Disco Dave and Don Mitchell ($20-30). In San Francisco, North Beach’s oldest boite, The Saloon (415-989-7666) hosts old pro Curtis Lawson ($10), while Biscuits ‘n Blues puts up “Godson of Soul” Marvin Banks, an Afrofunk Shakedown at The Elbo Room (415-552-7788), and Oscar Myers & Steppin’ at The Boom Boom Room (415-861-5016).  

Freight and Salvage (548-1761) celebrates with Bluegrass faves High Country ($27.50) and San Francisco’s Cafe Du Nord (415-861-5016) has a Super Hillbilly Hoedown ($20). Good old Rock-&-Roll, Folk and related beats at the Starry Plough (841-2082) on Shattuck with Dave Mo’re & The Bluesdrivers and The Happy Clams ($8). Blakes (848-0886) on Telegraph will feature a Medicine Show (four bands, “belly dancers, fortune tellers and other oddities” $15). Meanwhile, Phil Lesh and the John Mayer Trio will be at San Francisco’s Bill Graham Civic Auditorium (415-974-4060), while innovators The Mermen celebrate their 10th New Year’s at the Beach Chalet (415-386-8439) for $25 a ticket. 

Decadenal nostalgia flowers in ‘80s fashion in San Francisco’s SOMA as the Cherry Bar (415-974-1585) features “New Wave Eve” with DJs and live music ($25), while a few blocks away, “1984” at The Cat Club (415-703-8964) offers all that plus a “classic 80s video game arcade” ($30-$25 in ‘80’s wear). 

For the ultimate holiday nostalgia, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas will stage its final night at The Orpheum (415-512-7770). 

The Glitz is out with SOMA’s Levende (415-864-5585) transforming into Sin City with “Vegas, Baby!” featuring lounge comics, showgirls (The Blackjack Girls), dead celebrity lookalike appearances (Elvis, Liberace, Siegfried & Roy, The Rat Pack), DJs and live music and something not off the Strip: nouvelle cuisine and a complimentary champagne or Red Bull toast. The Rat Pack is re-enacted in The Tribute to Frank, Sammy, Joey and Dean, created by Sandy Hackett, Buddy’s son, at the Post St. Theatre (1-800-348-8499). A stranger, more recent nostalgia fuels “New Year’s Eve On Fantasy Island” with hosts Cody The Pimp and Bobby Montalban at the Castro’s Lingba Lounge (415-355-0001). 

Celebrations get out on the water with a romantic cruise under the fireworks aboard the S.F. Spirit (415-453-9001) from Pier 9, or on the USS Hornet (521-8448) at Alameda Point, with swing-dancing to Cab Calloway’s Orchestra, zoot suits and military apparel encouraged.  

The Pickle Family Circus presents an afternoon family show of “High Water Radio” at the Palace of Fine Arts (415-567-6642)—which later that night will feature Comedy Countdown, headlining Mark Cross. Other comedy shows include Black Comedy Explosion with D. I. Hughley and others at the Oakland Paramount (763-7308) and Marga Gomez and Nick Leonard at the Mission’s Victoria Theatre (415-581-3500) with “Stand-Up At Its Gayest,” produced by Theater Rhino. 

The 10th annual Japanese Bell-Ringing ceremony will take place at San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum (415-863-7576) from 11 a.m.-1 p. m. to ring out the old in Buddhist style, with bamboo flute playing, children’s arts and crafts, and ceremonies ($6-10). A quick search didn’t turn up any Scottish Hogmanay celebration (no Robert Burns? No “Auld Lang Syne,” nor haggis?)—though San Francisco’s Edinburgh Castle (415-885-4074) cheerfully reports that it’ll be open, tuneful and free. 

Many clubs, restaurants and bars everywhere will be featuring some kind of celebration, cheap or for free. But a special mention goes to the Stork Club (444-6174) on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland, which last week advertising being “Open For Suggestions” and, on being asked midweek who was on for New Year’s, announced, “Nobody—and it’s free!”