Let’s face it: New Year’s Eve is the single most disappointing holiday of the year. The constant refrain, “So what are we doing?” among your friends in the weeks leading up to the big night never leads anywhere, and a holiday that’s designed to culminate in a kiss just ends in overpaying to squeeze into a crowd. Well, this year, we’re taking back the night.
The basic flaw of New Year’s Eve is in the anticipation. We’re accustomed to believing the night will be a swirl of sequins, champagne and sex when, in reality, we’re lucky if we can just push through the line to get our hands on a few well drinks.
What we need are new expectations, among them that a good time can be had for little to no cover. Second, the kissy, couples aspect of New Year’s is done. Gone forever. From now on, it’ll be friendship focused with a secondary ambition to over-imbibe (yet arrive home safely), and that’s it. Now let’s pick a venue.
Dec. 31, 2010, will be remembered as a strong day for Houston’s music scene. Good people who love good music have several concerts to choose from, the biggest at Groundhall, with L.A. art-rock group Warpaint headlining. Local favorites the Ton Tons as well as Tax the Wolf, the Young Girls and Texas bands Girl in a Coma and UME will take the stage earlier in the evening. The show should be a high-energy one, but arriving early to snag a table on the more tranquil second-floor balcony is an option. Tickets are $22-$27.
Expect even more local bands, including the Wild Moccasins, Weird Party, Limb and Golden Axe at the newly renovated Fitzgerald's. Admission is free for everyone 21 and older, and free passes to Summerfest 2011 and T-shirts will be given away throughout the show. A more danceable option may be the four turntables at the Mink, where the ScratchLife Crew will spin a mix of hip-hop, house and funk for only a $5 cover. The two floors of the Mink’s back room are inescapably crowded, but ironic fist-pumping is fun only if the dance floor is tremendously sweaty anyway. There’s the added bonus of the bar’s proximity to the Continental Club and Big Top, in case a single location bores you (and neither is charging cover).
If the light moshing at Fitzgerald’s doesn’t sound hard-core enough, you might find yourself at home among the crowd at 222 Yale. Now, Dirt Bar isn’t for everyone. But an air of danger can be a good thing when your friends are looking to rage. The pitch-dark, signless bar once patronized by Lady Gaga is closing, and New Year’s Eve is its last night of business. That means an unprecedented level of recklessness for an already rowdy crowd and a sure way to start 2011 with a hangover.
For more laid-back activities, the recently opened Barcadia in Midtown has a huge cache of retro games including pinball, mega-sized Jenga, skee ball and Ms. Pac-Man. There will be no cover charge, and there’s a spacious patio to turn the 20 beers on tap and a game of Connect Four into some competitive drinking.
The vibe will be similar at Moon Tower Inn in east downtown. The only game at this icehouse is the horseshoe pit, but between the dollar Lone Stars and the smattering of picnic tables, New Year’s Eve here will be both cheerful and undemanding. If you’ve got a few extra bucks in your pocket, several other higher-end microbrews are available as well as a not-to-be-missed list of gourmet sausages served on Slow Dough pretzel buns.
Of course, if dressing up is enjoyable for you, there are still some classy parties with a reasonable price tag. The beautiful, historic dining room at Hearsay will be open for regular dinner service until 10 p.m., when the tables will be moved aside for a DJ. Champagne cocktails are $8, and a toast and party favors are planned for midnight. It’s an easy walk from there to the elegant but casual La Carafe and Warren's, which are both celebrating like any other night with no cover.
For stellar cocktails, check out the The Queen Vic, which will be open for dinner and drinks past the usual midnight closing time. The mood inside is dimly lit New York chic, and the kitchen sets a high bar to beat as far as the curry Scotch eggs go. The drink list consists of craft beers, and the Dark and Stormy is perfection.
If you’re looking for to impress that special someone with a posh place, then Hearsay may be the perfect not-so-casual downtown option.
Given all these options, it’s safe to say that there are ways to spend New Year’s Eve in Houston that aren’t horrible. Just remember: There’s no shame in not getting kissed at midnight, or beyond that, just buying 10 bottles of Andre and spending the night on the couch.
And don’t let society tell you otherwise.
Find more New Year's Eve ideas here.