VS. FOR THURSDAY, DEC. 31:
THE BEAST, HAMMER NO MORE THE FINGERS
A few of the best musicians in the state gather on one stage. The Beast is bonded by three dexterous jazz players, epitomized by the multiple keyboard majesty of Eric Hirsh. He splits his time between this loquacious live hip-hop party, big-time jazz work and a number of area Latin bands. The hooks and harmonies of Hammer No More the Fingers are one thing, but the way the trio writhes around crazy chords and builds from inventive bridges to addictive choruses puts them alongside Oxford Collapse or No Age—that is, in the upper echelon of young, essential indie rock. BROAD STREET CAFE. $8/ 8:30 p.m.
FIRST NIGHT: ANNUALS, BOB MARGOLIN
The city's sanctioned New Year's Eve party features a falling metallic acorn, a potpourri of activities like ballroom dancing and Shakespeare, and a mix of musicians that's always at the very least curious. This year, Hindugrass mixes Appalachian and Indian influences, while former Muddy Waters sideman Bob Margolin unplugs for the blues. Crucial Fiya passes the reggae around, and Brian Engel brings the world's largest glass harp (made with, you know, drinking glasses) to Capital Bank Plaza. Headlining band Annuals appropriately convey that scrambled and stuffed aesthetic: Their swirls of symphonic pop flourish, pop-punk charge and art-rock twists hit and miss grandly and will more than flummox a few people looking for a way to classify what they're watching. Hey, best of luck. DOWNTOWN RALEIGH. See firsnightraleigh.com for more. $10-$12/ 5:45 p.m.-midnight
THE LOVE LANGUAGE, VIOLET VECTOR, DIRTY LITTLE HEATERS
If you spend too much time thinking about The Love Language's romantic bust-up songs tonight, they might serve as a malediction for your own romance in 2010. So don't pontificate: Just belt the contemptuous refrain of "Lalita" and the woozy head of "Sparxxx" with the band and the throng. Listen up for the Heaters, though: No matter the size, Dirty Little Heaters—first a duo, then a trio, and now a quartet with keyboards—will always be the band towed, dragged and pushed by Reese McHenry's voice, a righteous yowl capable of soul-singing and rock-screaming. No one wants you singing over it. The lysergic pop of Violet Vector is the soft center between these two different hard rocks, but don't be fooled by the chirp and the costumes—there's an understated and underappreciated touch of vinegar in these sweet tunes. LOCAL 506. $8/ 9:30 p.m.
YARN, THE HOTWIRES
Like Chatham County Line with a little less skill and a few more adult spirits, New York sextet YARN moves from sentimental country ballads to jaunty love-and-liquor tunes. Though YARN won't fill that hankering for New Year's Eve Avett Brothers, who play a sold-out show in Asheville on the 31st, they do offer a similar roots comfort and occasionally hint at the Concord band's energy. New Raleigh quintet The Hotwires plays its bluegrass sharp and steady, adding group harmonies and mandolin and fiddle solos around one gleaming microphone. THE POUR HOUSE. $12-$15/ 10 p.m.
"From the costumed, fake-pus-tossing mongoloids in GWAR to the grandeur of film composer Bernard Herrmann to the theories of Jung, Malt Swagger cite and extract creative juices from multiple sources to create a narcotic bouillabaisse," Finn Cohen wrote in the Independent Weekly in 2002, a week before Malt Swagger played a New Year's Eve show at Ringside in Downtown Durham. Ringside is gone, and The Swag doesn't come out to play too much anymore (not since June 2008, in fact), but their sound remains as distinct as Cohen described it seven years ago—tenacious and teeming instrumental music with Morricone-size themes and Varèse-size details. Shark Quest Attack? Hungry Tortoise? No, man: Malt Swagger Reunion. THE PINHOOK. $5/ 10 p.m.
THE BRAND NEW LIFE
Horn-toting, mood-exploring Triad septet The Brand New Life should turn out a sweaty party in Chapel Hill's cramped subterranean space. Moving between Afrobeat anthems and free jazz squeal, between hip-hop and reggaeton suggestion and soul jazz proclamation, the band switches themes and streams with aplomb, energy and the occasional shout-along. Bet you can't stay all night without the ceiling spinning like color wheels. THE CAVE. $5/ 10 p.m.
Correction (Jan. 4, 2010): In print, we incorrectly stated the band name as The Brand New Times. The Brand New Life's next show is at the Ackland Art Museum Friday, Jan. 9, for the Ackland After Dark series. Visit the band's MySpace page at www.myspace.com/thebrandnewlife.
2010: A MUSICAL ODYSSEY
"I'm completely operational, and all my circuits are functioning perfectly," HAL 9000 said in the Kubrick classic. Lets hope the same goes tonight, when more than a dozen DJs and producers gather for this beat-driven blast. On the stage, expect a mix of live hip-hop, drum-and-bass and jungle techno, highlighted by Texas-based wizard SOL.ID and a guest appearance by Ron G., who's been pushing these forms forward in North Carolina since the mid-'90s and recently relaunched his label, Nemcron Recordings. BERKELEY CAFE. $10/ 9 p.m.
MEL MELTON & THE WICKED MOJOS
Washboard, harmonica, big rolling rhythms, talk of mojo parties, women, cooking, the bayou and celebration: That's right, it's Mel Melton & the Wicked Mojos. Melton leads his band for a closing 2009 stand in the Cajun cooking enclave he opened in 2008. See, Melton's band isn't the only thing that cooks; he's the owner/ head chef at PAPA MOJO'S ROADHOUSE, which means you can taste his food until 10 p.m. and party to his tunes well into the first morning of the New Year. $20/ 10 p.m.
JAM PAIN SOCIETY
Four area metal favorites combine for heavy diversity: Jam Pain Society shoulders the legacy with boisterous, tightly realized arena-ready epics, while H.O.W. gets high to play low and slow, their weed-overrun jams pounding along at a mid-tempo growl. Broadslab goes for the pharmaceuticals, too, but their viscous metal pummels and pauses, thanks to an irregular diet of extreme uppers and downers. Age of Despair renders grimy death metal with snarls and swears. Party loud. VOLUME 11 TAVERN. $10-$13/ 8 p.m.
DEXTER ROMWEBER & THE NEW ROMANS
Dexter Romweber's big, mighty band—horns, back-up singers and a rhythm section of local all-stars—hits the stage around 10 p.m., following the aggressive strumming of new area singer-songwriter Lizh. ("The H is silent," she'll say.) The New Romans will play until 2010, at which point The Clockwork Ball: A Steampunk Masquerade will take the space. The Davenport Sisters, who host WCOM 103.5 FM's show The Clockwork Cabaret on Monday nights, lead the ball. A costume gets you in for $5. No costume will cost you $10. MANSION 462. 9 p.m. — Grayson Currin