Thanks to the national recession and the statewide battle over the Walker agenda, many locals would choose the word "painful" to describe 2011. At the same time, the year has marked some of the most momentous events in recent history, from the Libyan revolution to the Occupy movement that's taking the world by storm.
Madison singers, instrumentalists and DJs - and a few out-of-towners - aid the history-digestion process this New Year's Eve, whether blazing trails toward new genres, summoning memories with retro-themed tribute acts or inspiring resolutions to rock harder in 2012.
Rock 'n' roll
1855 Saloon & Grill, Cottage Grove, 8 pm
Soul, folk and alt-country mingle in original tunes shaped by Casey's love of Martin Sexton, James Taylor and Ryan Adams.
Dan Harvey Band
Whiskey Jack's Saloon, 8 pm
Harvey and his Milwaukee-based collaborators swathe the saloon in pop, blues and classic rock as champagne makes patrons float and giggle toward 2012. With Badger State DJs.
Lucas Cates Band
Quaker Steak & Lube, Middleton, 9 pm
A sonic salad of rock, pop and country with a dash of punk, shows by the Lucas Cates Band feed late-night cravings for head bobbing, fist pumping and out-and-out rug cutting.
Robert J. & Michael Tully
Erin's Snug Irish Pub, 9 pm
During an epic three-and-a-half-hour performance, the singer and guitarist from the local Americana group Rowdy Prairie Dogs pair award-winning songwriting chops with whiskey-steeped vocals.
Pop Evil, Bobaflex
Marriott West, Middleton, 9 pm
WJJO's Acoustic New Year celebration is a surprisingly formal affair with a sit-down dinner at the west-side hotel. But once the drinks start flowing, the event will strip down to its gritty, beer-stained core with hard-rocking performances by Michigan's Pop Evil and West Virginia's Bobaflex. Sand opens.
Hody Bar & Grill, Middleton, 9:30 pm
Fedora peppers its original tunes with blues and rock, earning fans from all over the musical spectrum and gigs at prestigious events like South by Southwest.
Pooley's, 9:30 pm
The rollicking local six-piece takes cues from Journey, Bryan Adams, Sugarland and the Black Eyed Peas as it performs gritty rockers and power ballads that make even the toughest dudes a little misty.
Harmony Bar, 9:45 pm
Fueled by banjos, accordions and a zany sense of humor, these local rock 'n' rollers infuse each performance with the style and soul of Irish music. The bar will be stocked with fresh brews from Furthermore and Ale Asylum, and its checkered floor will be primed for dancing, romancing and plenty of toasting.
Frequency, 10 pm
With nicknames like Scuzzbucket and Trashbag, the members of this local five-piece excel at musical garbage collection, recycling metal and hardcore into a messy but exhilarating stage show. With the American Dead, the American Plains and Bereft.
Mickey's Tavern, 10:30 pm
Featuring members of the No & Maybe Game and the Penfield Mood Organ, this local quartet pairs punk drumming with dance-friendly melodies, New Wave flourishes and lyrics that furrow eyebrows. With Jakeleg, the Manginas, Lonesome Savages, and Sexy Ester & the Pretty Mama Sisters.
Soulful bands, funky jams
Charlie Brooks & the Way It Is
Knuckle Down Saloon, 9 pm
A consummate R&B crooner who has opened for Ray Charles, the Supremes and the Temptations, Brooks honed his vocal skills in a church choir and his showmanship as a Motown backup singer. Praise his five-decade career as you welcome another year to the calendar.
The People Brothers Band
Club Tavern, Middleton, 9:30 pm
This local octet blends funk, folk, reggae and R&B into the kind of cocktail that makes people unfurl their craziest dance moves. In addition to serving prime rib and champagne to bid adieu to 2011, the Tavern is offering free rides home so everyone makes it to 2012 safely.
Alchemy Café, 10 pm
This wacky collection of jazz-trained musicians cranks up the bass and unleashes the funk. A portion of the evening's proceeds benefit WORT-FM, which lets DJs from the community share their favorite tracks over the radio waves.
Jazz and blues and...
Johnny Chimes & the Tru-Blues
Louisianne's, Etc., Middleton, 7:30 pm
Boogie-woogie piano and fingerstyle guitar summon the soul of the bayou when this local band gets cracking amid the delicious scents of creole and Cajun fare.
Edgewater Hotel's Cove Lounge, 8:30 pm
Blessed with nimble fingers and a big heart, pianist Bicknase fields requests from listeners and performs original compositions, which he describes as his effort to "discover the beauty within all things, to make some sense of the mystery of life and to make composing a fulfilling and hopeful process for growth as a person." Now that's a New Year's toast if we ever heard one.
Rand Moore Quartet
Liliana's Restaurant, Fitchburg, 8:30 pm
Drummer extraordinaire Rand Moore gave his name to the Drums n' Moore percussion store in Monona and is a proud member of the Madison Mellophonium Jazz Orchestra. He teams up with fellow jazzmen to make diners tap their toes as they devour New Orleans-style cuisine. Midtown Jazz gets the party started at 6 p.m.
Cash Box Kings
Crystal Corner Bar, 9:30 pm
Popular in both Mad Town and the Windy City, this talented ensemble specialize in the Chicago blues of the 1940s and 1950s but keep listeners guessing with Delta blues tunes from decades earlier. Buy them a beer, and they may tell you about their latest tour of Europe or the time they jammed with Buddy Guy.
Tributes, covers, live karaoke
Ivory Room, 9 pm
Madison West choir director Anthony Cao and wife Leslie, a multi-instrumentalist, take to the pianos to perform requests until the cows come home, which would be about bar time here in Madison.
Claddagh Irish Pub, Middleton, 9 pm
Headbang your cares away as this local quartet performs hard-rocking covers of material by Megadeth, Led Zeppelin, Tool and Stone Temple Pilots.
The Big Show with Mitch Henck
Kennedy Manor Dining Room & Bar, 9 pm
Comedian and radio host Mitch Henck morphs into Frank Sinatra for an evening of side-splitting stories and easy-listening standards.
Morbid Tales, Hell Toupee, Grinder, Sabra Cadabra, I'm Cramped
High Noon Saloon, 9 pm
Over-the-top tributes to Celtic Frost, Turbonegro, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and the Cramps melt faces during the High Noon's celebration of rock's staying power. With DJs Jenni Ladd and Reverend Velveteen.
Cardinal's Nest Sports Bar & Grill, Sun Prairie, 9 pm
Made up of musicians from retired local bands like Pine and Innatrance, this group performs tight covers of songs by Nada Surf, Radiohead, Cee Lo Green and the inimitable Lady Gaga.
Tricia's Country Corners, McFarland, 9 pm
Pop and rock from the 1980s rule this band's nostalgic sets, which include selections like "Walkin' on Sunshine" by Katrina & the Waves and "Pour Some Sugar on Me" by Def Leppard.
Brink Lounge, 9 pm
Anything goes at this dueling-pianos event. Audience members request jazz standards, Elton John classics, Bon Jovi sing-alongs and even a few hip-hop jams.
Badger Bowl, 9:30 pm
Rat your hair and don your leather pants, then brandish your devil-fingers as this band shreds its way through the catalogues of Skid Row and Dokken and charms the ladies with Firehouse ballads.
Talula, 9:30 pm
Classic rock by Tom Petty, Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles may be this cover band's bread and butter, but their mean renditions of 1990s alt-rock hits are the icing on the proverbial cake.
Rock Star Gomeroke
Brocach Irish Pub, 10 pm
Helm the tribute act of your choosing as the Gomers serve as your backup band. Options include Johnny Cash, Madonna and Fine Young Cannibals. Can't make it at 10 p.m.? Head to the High Noon Saloon at 4 p.m. for a warm-up show featuring an all-bar sing-along with lyrics projected on the walls.
Saturday Morning Cartel
Lazy Oaf Lounge, 10 pm
Though its name suggests a band composed of cartoon villains, this band is made up of humans who use music for good, whether boosting spirits with a sugary 1960s pop tune or exorcising angst with a 1990s grunge-rock hit.
DJs David Muhammad and Chamo Candela
Cardinal Bar, 8 pm
Strut your stuff as the DJs blast remixes of Latin house, reggaeton, salsa and bachata.
'80s vs. '90s
Majestic Theatre, 9 pm
Leading up to a free champagne toast at midnight, Nick Nice and Mike Carlson flaunt their curatorial prowess as they project videos by icons like Michael Jackson and Madonna on the theater's oversize screen. Beforehand, from 7 to 9 p.m., Nice courts 1970s enthusiasts with a juicy selection of disco cuts.
DJs Mazi & Zeez, Psychotron, Weaztek
Inferno, 9 pm
A cross between a Mardi Gras fete and a scene from Eyes Wide Shut, the club's New Year's masquerade will teem with mysterious masks and black-and-white finery. Industrial music and other dark electronica power the event, which features prizes for the best costumes and most fabulous accessories.
DJ Frecuencia Infinita
Murphy's Tavern, 10 pm
The watering hole invites revelers to showcase dips, spins and swivels to a soundtrack of sultry salsa tunes.
Dirty Disco Kidz
Orpheum Theatre, 10 pm
The love child of a rave and a continental breakfast, the Orpheum's New Year's Eve celebration will teem with free glow sticks, doughnuts and coffee when the clock strikes 4 a.m. Local DJ collective Dirty Disco Kidz fill the main theater with electronic grooves and a crazy laser-light show, and the remixing enthusiasts of Mad Major Melvin host a dance party in the venue's opulent lobby. With Team Bayside High, Von & Swampp Cat, Slam Dunk Champion, DJ Fuzzy Duck and Khoa Le.
DJ Kid Cut Up
Great Dane Downtown, 10 pm
This Milwaukee-based DJ splices hip-hop with punk and other hard-edged sounds, making crowds writhe with joyful aggression and winning readers' choice awards from his hometown alt-weekly, Shepherd Express.
DJ Vilas Park Sniper
Jolly Bob's, 10 pm
Armed with a well-curated collection of reggae and dancehall tracks, Nathan Foulks, a.k.a. Vilas Park Sniper, transforms the Willy Street bar and restaurant into a Caribbean celebration of past, present and future.
DJs Jeremy Thomas and Homewrecker
Merchant, 11 pm
The bar supplies the punch, champagne and party favors, and the DJs craft a dizzying soundtrack that's likely to include vintage soul spiked with '90s hip-hop and a bit of deep house.