New Year’s Eve In New York City: Seven Shows In One Night

By Adam McCullough Jan 4, 2016 2:45 pm PST

Words & Images by: Adam McCullough

New Year’s Eve In New York City :: 12.31.15 :: Multiple Venues :: NYC

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When I tell most people I’m going to New York City for New Year’s Eve, their first thought is I’m going to Times Square, as the general public assumes it’s the only thing happening in the city on NYE. Four years ago I decided to showcase what else happens in New York City, not only on NYE but almost every night of the week, which is dozens of great shows happening on a nightly basis. To do this, I try to photograph as many shows as I can in one night, on one of the busiest nights of the year in the city. This year I confirmed seven shows and this is my journey that night.

7:30 p.m. – I arrive at Madison Square Garden to check out the scene outside the main entrance. Phish phans pour into the Garden, most smiling and ready for a great musical end to 2015, some desperately looking for a ticket with a finger in the air, and one purple gorilla offering free hugs.

8:05 p.m. – Escorted into the Garden and brought into the photo pit. Being told the band will go on around 8:30 p.m., which is not good as I’m supposed to be at the Beacon Theatre at 8:45 p.m. for my escort in. I pace nervously hoping to get to go in at any second.

8:25 p.m. – Phish takes the stage. The five minute early start is a blessing and as they hit the first few notes of “The Moma Dance” and I hurry around the pit grabbing as many shots as I can. We’re allowed to shoot the first three songs, but if I miss my escort into the Beacon, I may miss my second of seven shows.

8:33 p.m.-ish – As Phish moves onto “Possum,” I make the decision to forgo the next two song I can shoot and book it to the Beacon. I’m escorted to the backstage “elephant elevator” (dubbed that by MSG staff for the circus that comes in every year) and rush out of the Garden and onto the subway.

8:53 p.m. – Arrive at the side stage door at the Beacon, where the escort has already brought photographers in. Luckily I had emailed her that I might be late so I shoot her a text and she is gracious enough to come out and get me. Unfortunately she delivers the not so great news that we can only shoot from the back of the orchestra, which is a tough place to shoot and doesn’t allow for a lot of creativity. But I’ll do the best I can.

9:01 p.m. Gov’t Mule hits the stage. The core four of Mule comes out with one of their many special guests of the night, Steve Kimock. A slow, improvised intro leads Mule into their first of three cover sets of the night, the Grateful Dead set, with a jam filled version of “Bird Song.”

9:15 p.m. – I leave the Beacon to head to show number three of the night in the East Village at DROM.

9:55 p.m. – Walk up to DROM to people dressed very fancily for DROM’s Masquerade and Burlesque New Year’s Eve Ball, a night that combines burlesque dancing, a DJ and some old time traditional jazz headlined by the Holy Crow Jazz Band.

10:10 p.m. – Burlesque dancer Amber Ray comes out dressed in white with large feather fans and goes through her routine to a raucous crowd.

10:25 p.m. – The Holy Crow Jazz Band takes the stage and starts their set of music with a lively instrumental followed by a song led by singer and washboard player Jessy Carolina, whose raspy voice fits perfectly with the time period of music they play.

10:40 p.m. – I leave DROM to head to borough number two of the evening, Brooklyn, for two shows.

11:05 p.m. – Arrive at the Music Hall of Williamsburg and as I wait to get my credentials, the crowd cheers as They Might Be Giants take the stage.

11:13 p.m. – As I walk into the Hall, the packed crowd is dancing and singing along to TMBG and enjoying the comical banter by frontmen John Flansburgh and John Linnell.

11:28 p.m. – TMBG start a song where Flansburgh sings to the crowd to start a conga line. The crowd cheers but John isn’t joking, they keep repeating the same opening chords of the song and John says the song won’t start until the conga line does. The crowd obliges and the band kicks into high gear as a group starts weaving their way through the packed Hall.

11:33 p.m. – Exit Music Hall of Williamsburg and take short walk to Brooklyn Bowl.

11:45 p.m. – Enter my favorite music venue in New York to Deer Tick’s second consecutive New Year’s Eve at the Bowl. Last year Deer Tick’s show was my favorite of the eight shows I hit and included a special sit-in by Stevie Nicks. It was also the most intense crowd I’d ever seen at Brooklyn Bowl.

11:58 p.m. – As they did last year, with two minutes until midnight, the band launches into “La Bamba” and the crowd goes crazy as they countdown the last 10 seconds of 2015 and balloons are launched into the crowd who hug and kiss their way into a new year.

12:10 a.m. – The band starts into their last song and I leave Brooklyn Bowl to head back to the heart of New Year’s Eve in New York, Times Square to the Playstation Theater for the Disco Biscuits.

12:45 a.m. – On the subway to Times Square where I’m told the band will play till 1 a.m. rather than 1:15 that I had planned.

12:53 a.m. – Running through Times Square to try and make it for last few minutes of the Biscuits second set, not a great idea with hundreds of cops and carrying a large camera bag.

1:01 a.m. – Get into the theater and the band is still on stage. The crowd is still pretty full, dancing and smiling to the Biscuits and their amazing light show. Move my way through the theater grabbing whatever shots I can get before they leave the stage.

1:12 a.m. – Biscuits leave the stage for their second set and start to set up for their third set, which turned out to be the band doing a live score to the movie Tron. I leave for my final show of the night, the Snarky Puppy late night gig at Irving Plaza.

1:45 a.m. – Arrive at Irving Plaza to a long line outside of people not ready to let the first night of 2016 end.

2:10 a.m. – Make it into Irving Plaza which is as crowded as I’ve ever seen it to see Snarky Puppy playing a very unique style of upbeat, almost jammy, jazz. The 11-piece ensemble is smiling as they play off each other and the crowd feeds off the energy, making their first show of 2016 a great one.

3:30 a.m. – After a long night and I eat my annual chocolate chip pancakes, I look back on a great night of uniquely different music, all of which played to packed crowds that show that live music is alive and being appreciated across many genres and by many people.

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