Manson, Aerosmith, Phish Among New Year's Eve Choices

Many other rockers, including Soul Asylum, Primus and Patti Smith, to play for hometown crowds Thursday night.

Not everyone gets to eat, drink and be merry Dec. 31. Some people have to work that night -- bartenders, waiters, cab drivers, cops and, of course, musicians such as Marilyn Manson and Phish.

This year, as always, a lot of rock and pop bands will work it for their hometown fans New Year's Eve. In Boston, for example, Beantown hard-rock heroes Aerosmith, who became pop stars anew in 1998 with "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" (RealAudio excerpt), will ring in 1999 with their annual show at the Fleet Center. Across the continent, hyperbolic improvisational rockers Primus will play their yearly San Francisco Freak-Out gig, this time with genre-blending rappers and fellow locals Spearhead opening.

In Minneapolis, area rockers Soul Asylum and the Jayhawks will share a New Year's Eve bill at the State Theatre, while in neighboring Wisconsin, roots-rockers the BoDeans will be at the Dane County Expo Center Coliseum in their hometown, Madison.

Also sticking close to home Thursday night will be Denver-based rock band Big Head Todd & The Monsters; jamming rock ensemble Widespread Panic, who will be playing Atlanta; thrash-metal group Speedealer in Dallas; hot-jazz revivalists the Squirrel Nut Zippers in Fairfax, Va. (on a bill with the '80s idiosyncratic acoustic-rockers the Violent Femmes); and rock band Local H in Chicago.

With its storied Times Square crowds gathering to watch the traditional New Year's Eve ball drop, New York City has been long associated with the night of Dec. 31. Among the local talent on display in the Big Apple on New Year's Eve will be punk poet Patti Smith at the Bowery Ballroom, brainy art-rockers Luna at the Knitting Factory and geek-rock duo They Might Be Giants at Tramps.

Also, neo-psychedelic rockers Phish are bringing their annual New Year's Eve extravaganza to New York this year.

In years past, Phish have put on elaborate New Year's Eve shows. At their Dec. 31, 1994, show, the improv-crazy band flew over the crowd in a giant hot dog; another New Year's Eve, Phish decorated the stage to look like a giant fish tank and lowered themselves onstage, dressed as divers, at midnight. The ensemble has been mum about this year's show, which wraps up a four-night stand at Madison Square Garden. Phish fans report that the past few years have seen the band play a concert with three sets, but sans extravagant props and pyrotechnics.

"All Phish has to do is show up and play," Phishead Neil Vestra wrote in an e-mail from his home in New Haven, Conn. "If they put together some cool sets or whatever, to me that's just gravy."

Other choices in New York include tongue-in-cheek rock duo Ween, '80s pop stars Culture Club and former James Brown saxophone player Maceo Parker.

New Year's Eve gigs are "extra special shows," P.M. Dawn frontman Prince Be (born Attrell Cordes) said. "Everyone's there to have a good time, so things usually go well."

Though "conscious"-rappers P.M. Dawn aren't playing a New Year's Eve show this year, Prince Be said that, all things considered, he'd rather be working that night. Last year, he said, "I was watching Busta Rhymes on MTV and I got drunk for the first time. It was really stupid."

Elsewhere New Year's Eve, jokey Canadian pop-rock group the Barenaked Ladies will be in Philadelphia, harmonica-driven blues-rockers Blues Traveler will play for Chicagoans and shock rocker Marilyn Manson, singer of "The Dope Show" (RealAudio excerpt), promises to light up Las Vegas, where he's playing at the Joint.

The alternatives in Vegas include glam-metal '80s band Warrant at Pink E's, funksters Kool and the Gang at the MGM Grand, pop singer/songwriter Neil Diamond at the MGM Grand Garden and legendary jazz crooner Tony Bennett at Caesar's Palace.

Music fans looking for pyrotechnics should set their sights on the suburbs of Detroit, where '70s heavy-metal veterans Kiss will bring their Psycho Circus tour to the Palace of Auburn Hills. The tour features the group performing such hits as "Rock and Roll All Night" and "Beth" (RealAudio excerpt) in full make-up, amid their trademark array of flashing lights, fake blood and explosions.

Also in the Motor City that night will be gritty rock band Nashville Pussy and funk veterans Maze. Virginia rockers Everything will do their thing in Washington, D.C., as will the blues band G. Love and Special Sauce and zydeco performer Buckwheat Zydeco.

If you can't decide on just one band to see to welcome 1999, you can always go the multiple route. In San Diego, a number of punk and ska bands -- including Reel Big Fish, the Queers, Vandals and Good Riddance -- will take over the San Diego Sports Arena for a mosh fest. In San Francisco, the Brian Setzer Orchestra will swing and Isaac Hayes (a.k.a. Chef on TV's "South Park") will dish out the soul at the S.F.N.Y.E. Superior Bash at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. In Houston, power-poppers Fastball headline a show at Bayou Place that also includes rockabilly singer Reverend Horton Heat and Santa Barbara, Calif., rockers Dishwalla.

Finally, devoted headbangers can check out the Black Sabbath show at Bank One Ball Park in Phoenix. In addition to the British heavy-metal icons, the show will sport appearances by such hard rockers as Megadeth, Pantera, Slayer and Soulfly.