Ah, New Year’s Eve! Though on the surface, NYE would seem to be a favored holiday of this here party-loving column, I’ve gotta admit, I’ve never been a fan. First of all, NYE is amateur night, as scores of people who only go out once or twice a year get hideously hammered and overcrowd our favorite nightspots. It’s kind of like St. Patrick’s Day, only without the vaguely offensive cultural stereotyping. Second, has there ever been an NYE that’s really lived up to the hype? I can’t think of another holiday that requires so much planning for, generally, so little payoff.
On the plus side, there is certainly no shortage of things to do. Obviously, there are several First Night celebrations around the state — though, technically, shouldn’t it be “Last Night”? But I digress. (New Year’s resolution No. 1: Stop digressing so much. Ah, but there I go again.)
Anyway, with so much on the docket, here are a few entertainment options for NYE that may have slipped under your radar in all the hubbub. (Resolution No. 2: Never use the word “hubbub” again.)
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals  decided not to do their annual three-night NYE run at Higher Ground this year, much to the dismay of fans. But, come on, people. They threw a two-day festival in Burlington this summer — Grand Point North — plus two significant Irene benefits this fall. Throw in that bassist Catherine Popper recently left the band, and you can understand why they elected to break with tradition this year. However, Vermont’s marquee juke joint is not bereft of local talent to ring in the new year. Opening for Martin Sexton at the Ballroom this Saturday, December 31, is none other than Burlington’s own mistress of light and dark, good and evil, naughty and nice, Nuda Veritas . On the surface, the experimental-loop-loving songwriter and the soulfully crooning Sexton may seem an odd pairing. OK, they kind of are. Still, I would strongly encourage folks planning to drop the ball at HG to not drop the ball — see what I did there? — and show up early and catch the opener. One, Veritas’ new record, Verses of Versus , was easily among the best local recordings of the year . Two, you would be hard-pressed to find a more daring, inventive and progressive songwriter. Three, because I said so.
Looking to jam out while rocking in 2012? Might we suggest the Dead Sessions  at Morrisville nightspot Moog’s? The local Dead acolytes begin a three-night stand at the club this Thursday, December 29, and rock right on through New Year’s Eve. Doing a little jam-band math on the fly, that means they will play roughly seven songs total. Just kidding, Deadheads! (Resolution No. 3: Retire lame jam-band jokes.)
Meanwhile, at the House That Phish Built, local rootsy soul man Joshua Panda  and his band take the stage on NYE with support from Montreal’s Patrick Lehman . No word on whether Bret Michaels will be joining Panda. But we can hope. We can hope.
Over the river in the ’Noosk, DJ Disco Phantom  is hosting a NYE throwdown at the Monkey House featuring a sampling of the Burlington area’s favorite-est indie bands, including Hello Shark , tooth ache. , Missy Bly  and Rough Francis . (Resolution no. 4: Write a profile on Hello Shark. Those guys are awesome.)
The Capital City gets irie on New Year’s Eve, as Satta Sounds  and MC Humble  turn Positive Pie 2 into a dance hall undulating with dub and reggae vibes. Also, it’s apparently “ladies night” at PP2, so there’s that. (An aside: Isn’t the idea of ladies night kinda creepy? I get the logic: Women get in free, ergo, lots of women will come. But the reality is usually the opposite, right? Because what you’re essentially saying when you advertise a ladies night is “we need to bribe women to come.” Hot.)
Moving on, local blues man Dave Keller  released one hell of an album earlier this year, called Where I’m Coming From . The record featured a sampling of funk, soul and R&B classics that informed Keller’s musical leanings. But the remarkable thing was how well he plays the soul dynamo. Keller is best known for his monster guitar chops, but dude can seriously howl. He’ll be at the Black Door in Montpelier on NYE. Sorry, ladies, you’ve gotta pay for this one.
We won’t have to wait long for the first great local albums of 2012. Four days into the new year, to be precise. On Wednesday, January 4, Katie Trautz and the Tall Boys  — love that name — release their new album, with a party on tap for Saturday, January 7, at the Black Door in Montpelier. Though I have yet to hear the full record, Trautz was kind enough to send along a teaser track. She describes the material as being on the “outer edge” of Americana, resembling Eilen Jewell, but with a honky-tonk touch. I’m inclined to agree. Like Jewell, Trautz has a sweetly innocent voice. But the twangy atmospherics with which she surrounds herself lend the material a darker, heavier quality. Trautz also writes that the new Wooden Dinosaur  album should be along sometime in February or March. Wow. 2012 is already awesome.
Continuing on a theme, Justin Levinson  releases his new record with backing band the Valcours, This Side of Me, at Nectar’s on Saturday, January 7. A follow-up to his 2009 effort, Predetermined Fate, the album finds a more introspective and mature songwriter. We’ll dish fully on the record after the new year, but it’s safe to say Levinson has a few things on his mind, and he’s done a masterful job capturing them this time around.
But wait, there’s more. Former Burlingtonian and heady hip-hop/reggae songwriter Vizionary  — “Zion,” get it? — returns to Vermont on Friday, January 6, with a new album in tow called Third-I. After perusing some tunes on his website, I’ll say this: the world probably wasn’t begging for a throat singing and dulcimer duet. But now it has one. It also has a song called “Jesus Puppy.” So we’ve got that going for us, which is nice. Vizionary will be at the Firefly Collective in downtown Burlington.
Happy anniversary to the Monkey House! On December 29, the Monkey celebrates five years as the area’s hippest indie hot spot with a blowout local showcase including Dino Bravo , Joey Pizza Slice , Swale , the Smittens  — who played the first show at the Monkey after the joint changed hands five years ago, FYI — Kelly Ravin  and, of course, Paddy Reagan , the man largely responsible for the indie-rock renaissance in the ’Noosk in the last half decade. Congrats, guys. And thanks.
Last but not least, welcome back, Burgundy Thursdays. A staple at dearly departed Parima, the singer-songwriter showcase hosted by Joe Adler  makes its return, albeit on a slightly smaller scale, at the 1/2 Lounge earlier this month. After a holiday hiatus, it’s back full time beginning Thursday, December 29, with the Poison Oaks. The following Thursday, January 5, the Amida Bourbon Project ’s Aya Inoue is the featured guest.
Since it’s the last Soundbites of 2011, in this week’s totally self-indulgent column segment, I’m sharing a less-random sampling of what was on my iPod, turntable, CD player, 8-track player, etc. this year.
Bon Iver, Bon Iver
A.A. Bondy, Believers
Thao & Mirah, Thao & Mirah
We Were Promised Jetpacks, In the Pit of the Stomach
Various Artists, Muppets: The Green Album