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Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2007 08:51 pm

Time for a new year

First Night is a family-friendly, alcohol-free event if youre into that sort of thing

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Silent Echo performs at Club 12/31 during First Night Springfield
Ready or not, here it comes: 2008 A.D. is well on its way. I would give a nice little rundown of all the highlights of 2007 — both of them — but that would be living in the past, and we like to move forward, correct? Onward and upward we go, marching into the future with nary a glance toward our past or a thought about what has been. With that in mind, let’s look to New Year’s Eve 2007 and all the wonderful music events happening in our lovely city to kick off 2008. Nothing says, “Happy New Year!” quite like First Night. The event, sponsored by our very own Springfield Area Arts Council, is truly a celebration of the arts. Children’s activities run from 1 to 4 p.m. in the commons area of Springfield High School. At 5 p.m., Mark Gifford continues a local tradition and fires up the Barton Theater organ in the SHS auditorium. From 7 to 11:45 p.m., enjoy the finest entertainers in central Illinois at various locations in downtown Springfield. The bash ends with a glorious fireworks display at midnight. Did you know that more than 100 other cities around the world celebrate the First Night concept? Springfield, now in its 21st year of participating, has been First Nighting it longer than any other city in Illinois. Call the SAAC at 217-753-3519 or go to www.springfieldartsco.org to find out more on the specifics. First Night is promoted as a family-friendly nonalcoholic event, and that is exactly what it is. I’ve heard more than one wag (there are lots of them where I hang out) commenting on the ridiculous idea of celebrating New Year’s Eve without any booze. Regardless of your opinion on the merits of getting sloshed, it’s nice to have an entertainment alternative to the nightclubs. Looking at it from the other side of the bar, it’s nice to have a tavern where you can hang out and listen to live music too. Speaking of live-music establishments that serve liquor, there’s a new joint in town, located in what was once called the Loft, above what was once Bauer’s Restaurant. The club, called Phil’s Lounge (620 S. First Street, 217-522-6300), opened a few weeks ago and books mostly jazz bands along with a few other acts, including Ralph and Juanita’s Acoustic by Request on Jan. 11 and 12. On New Year’s Eve the fantastic and dearly missed Rachael Lee returns to the stage, backed by the charming John Sluzalis and several of his talented friends. It’s a great room, and I for one am tickled to death to see live music in that space. Keep ’em coming, boys. In other exciting New Year’s Eve music shows, check out Go Tsunami and the Moonlight Rhythm Rangers at the Brewhaus (617 E. Washington St., 217-525-6399); Big Fur at Marly’s Pub (9 W. Old State Capitol Plaza, 217-522-2280); Lyman Ellerman and Ragged Jack, with special guests White Lightnin’ and Cadillac Ranch, at the Riverton Eagles Club (1146 E. Lincoln St., 217-629-7065); and the Station at City Nights (3149 S. Dirksen Pkwy., 217-529-8580), with special guests Enamel, Joe Frew, and Brand New Bag. At Ed Skube’s Pitstop (2248 N. Grand Ave. E., 217-523-7050), ring in the New Year by participating in a karaoke contest boasting a $150 first prize. Dec. 31 will also be the last night to enjoy a cigarette indoors for the rest of the state. Remember, all of Illinois’ public places go smoke-free on January 1. I wonder when enforcement begins — at the stroke of midnight or the next working day? I bet somebody knows. Well, there’s one way to find out — smoke ’em if you got ’em and see what happens.

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com.
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