NEW YEAR'S EVE offers the opportunity to look forward, to greet the future with a toast and a smile, to party for the possibilities.
But nobody could blame a trio of Southland event promoters -- and some of their patrons -- for looking over their shoulders at the ghost of New Year's past. One year ago Sunday, rain precipitated the eleventh-hour cancellation of two major celebrations, Giant Village in downtown Los Angeles and Gridlock LA at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, sending ticket-holders scrambling. Another, the inaugural OCNYE "Orange Drop" at the Orange County Fairgrounds, proceeded in citrus-y, pyrotechnic splendor even as its founder knew he was in for a financial bath.
"New Year's Eve can't be rescheduled," says Wayne Coyne, frontman of the psychedelic pop band the Flaming Lips, which were supposed to be one of the headliners last year at Giant Village. "People spend a lot of time and effort to be in a special place on New Year's Eve having their special year."
Indeed, with the echoes of what-if and oh-no still ringing, these events are back with bigger plans and better contingencies. Giant's street festival, called off the afternoon of Dec. 31 last year because of safety concerns, has been re-imagined as Giant Maximus, a three-ring dance-music circus in massive tents pitched in a downtown L.A. parking lot. Gridlock, canceled last year after the collapse of a stage on which the Pussycat Dolls were scheduled to perform, returns to the New York City-styled streets of the Paramount lot with the Killers as headliners -- and the contingency that it can move to indoor soundstages in case of inclement weather. And OCNYE reemerges in Costa Mesa with a retooled promotional team, a deeper lineup anchored by Blondie and, organizers say, the kinks from its freshman year worked out.
With Giant Maximus sprouting a couple of blocks away from Staples Center, there are three major New Year's Eve events within a three-mile radius of downtown. The others? The dependable dance-music festival Together as One goes off at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, and the Flaming Lips join Gnarls Barkley and Cat Power for a concert at the USC Galen Center.
The forecast as of Wednesday calls for lows in the mid-40s on Sunday night, with a 10% chance of rain. If you're not one to celebrate on your couch, here's a rundown of major Southland events (and, please, party safely):
Together as One
If nothing else, the ninth annual installment of this bash from Go Ventures and Insomniac Events asserts the steadfast popularity of dance music. "The music is universal," says promoter and DJ Reza Gerani. "There are no racial barriers, no language barriers; it makes for a perfect celebration."
Thousands agree. Together as One attracted a crowd of 18,000 last year (Gerani expected 15,000, but Giant's cancellation gave him a late surge at the door), and more than 20,000 are expected this year. Big numbers? Gerani says more than 30,000 flocked to this year's edition of his Halloween blowout, Monster Massive, so you can forgive the hyperbole when he boasts: "We have the No. 1 DJ in the world at the No. 1 party in the world with the No. 1 promoter in the world."
The first of that troika is the least arguable. Together as One will be headlined by the 35-year-old titan of techno, Paul Van Dyk, with a supporting roster of DJs that includes Deep Dish, Marco V., Christopher Lawrence, Danny Howells and Steve Angello providing the Sports Arena's multiple dance areas with a mix of trance, house and drum-and-bass. The music will be augmented by a laser-light show, other visuals and what the promoter calls "the biggest indoor fireworks show we've ever done."
"The crowd we're going for are the real dance music people," Gerani says.
And isn't that the same crowd as Giant? His reply: "There's room for everybody."
* Together as One, L.A. Sports Arena, 3939 S. Figueroa St., L.A. 7 p.m. $40 to $100. (323) 960-5155; www.newyearsevela.com.
OCNYE's Orange Drop
As he watched the rain last Dec. 31, promoter Rich Goodwin had the feeling he was going to get soaked. "A half an hour before the event, I thought to myself, 'I've got insurance; I could go hide right now and lose only half of what I might,' " he recalls. "But I saw everybody who had worked so hard setting up and the people lined up outside the gate and said, 'Let's roll with it.' "
Most attendees didn't feel as if they bought into a money-loser. There were the foibles you might associate with a first-time event: Staffing problems caused occasionally long beer lines, sight lines weren't always optimal and some in the crowd were caught unaware when the 10-second countdown began. Still, the event attracted almost 15,000, and special-effects guru Dennis Condon's pyrotechnics-loaded orange dropped as scripted, setting the Orange County Fairgrounds aglow.
The sophomore event, co-promoted by Folgner Entertainment (the Coach House and the Galaxy Theatre), figures to offer more bang for the buck: higher fireworks, a longer countdown, a more dramatic orange drop and, thanks to new permits, the sale of mixed drinks. Promoters are hoping for a crowd of 20,000.
The music lineup, spread over six stages, might read like the roster from a year-end countdown a decade or two ago, but talent buyer Roger LeBlanc says it largely fits "the kind of bands that the O.C. demographic wants to see."
Blondie will be on the main stage at midnight, preceded by the Violent Femmes and the English Beat. Soul Asylum, Everclear, Bret Michaels (of Poison), Thomas Dolby, Buckcherry and Berlin are among the others, with a side stage showcasing promising newcomers such as American Eyes, the Colour and the Randies.
"It's not a concert, it's a New Year's Eve party. We're trying to make that distinction," LeBlanc says. "These are the kind of bands people want to enjoy at a party."
* OCNYE's 2007 Orange Drop, Orange County Fairgrounds, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa. 6 p.m. $85 to $300. (714) 740-2000 (Ticketmaster); www.ocnye.com.
For Giant, the veteran promotions outfit behind some of L.A.'s most popular weekly club nights, the cancellation of last year's street festival because of safety concerns left a wound that still festers, with scattered complaints about no or slow-arriving refunds.
"There's a sting for me still," Giant director Dave Dean says. "We've done our best to refund the ticket-holders or offer them make-up packages."
Giant bounced back, establishing Giant Village as a summertime event and drawing 9,000 to Wilshire Boulevard in July. Now comes what Dean describes as a "crazy carnival circus meets Giant club night," staged in and around three massive tents in a seven-acre parking lot at 8th and Figueroa streets.
"It's impossible to do an outdoor event that's completely weatherproof," Dean says, stopping himself to interject, "Gosh, it sounds like we're doing this in Anchorage."
Hence, the tents.
The ringmasters of Giant Maximus' three-tent circus will be the heavyweight DJ talent for which the promoter is known. Sasha & John Digweed will team up for a six-hour set, with Ferry Corsten, Armin Van Buuren and Sander Kleinenberg also getting top billing. Circus performers will entertain throughout the midway, which includes a Ferris wheel; capacity is about 10,000.
The carnival atmosphere "is very tongue-in-cheek," says Dean, who plans to bring live bands back into the mix next year.
"Since there are no street closures, we have three days to set up. We can pay a lot more attention to detail."
* Giant Maximus, 831 Francisco St. (8th at Figueroa), L.A. 8 p.m. $80 to $150. (323) 464-7373; www.giantclub.com.
Charles Lew makes no secret of his aspirations for his event at the Paramount Pictures Studio Lot. "We want to get this televised," he says. "We want this to be the event with the Dick Clark feel ... , to produce something synonymous with L.A."
There, the CEO of Hardball Productions might have his tongue in his cheek. After all, Gridlock will be staged in the area of the Paramount lot built out to look like New York City streets, so his headliner -- popular Las Vegas rockers the Killers -- will perform their headlining set at "Times Square."
The Killers? How did an event that was aborted in its inaugural attempt last year get the Killers?
"A lot of money," Lew says with a laugh.
Gridlock sold (and then refunded) 3,500 advance tickets last year, says Lew, who expects the Killers, combined with the celebrity cachet of countdown host Carmen Electra, to help the event reach its capacity of 6,000 this year. With five stages of entertainment and circus-like accouterments (including a Ferris wheel), there will be enough music to go around.
"My friends in Florida and on the East Coast would always ask me, 'What's going on New Year's Eve?' " says Lew, who moved to L.A. in 1997 and has been in the club and restaurant business since. "It was the same story every New Year's -- it was never anything grandiose.
"There needs to be something so crazy that people everywhere will be talking about it."
* Gridlock LA, Paramount Pictures Studio Lot, 5555 Melrose Ave, L.A. 9 p.m. $125 to $250. (323) 571-4000; www.gridlockla.com.
Flaming Lips at the Galen Center
As memorable as the costumed crazies of the Flaming Lips, Gnarls Barkley and their fans figure to make this night (See story, Page 18), the concert is also notable because it punctuates the emergence of USC's new arena as a music venue.
"We're aggressively promoting it for concerts," USC spokeswoman Donna Heinel says. "We always knew it would be a multipurpose facility."
The Galen Center seats 10,258 for basketball; crowds for live music will be slightly smaller.
* The Flaming Lips, Gnarls Barkley and Cat Power, USC Galen Center, 3400 S. Figueroa St., L.A. 8 p.m. $55. (213) 480-3232; www.goldenvoice.com; www.ticketmaster.com.
Correspondent Jeff Miller contributed to this report.
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Prices listed are general admission and may include food and beverage service; consult the venue's website for details.
Under the stars
First Night Fullerton: Singer-songwriter James Intveld performs as part of this family-
friendly event; includes art, kids' activities, rides and fireworks. Downtown Fullerton, Harbor Boulevard at Commonwealth Avenue. 7 p.m. Free. (714) 738-6545; www.ci.fullerton.ca.us.
Brazilian New Year's Eve: Some serious samba at the Queen Mary. 1126 Queens Highway, Long Beach. 8 p.m. $35. (818) 566-1111; www.braziliannites.com.
Disneyland: At typically the largest gathering in the Southland, the "Fantasy in the Sky" fireworks show will usher in 2007. 1313 S. Harbor Blvd., Anaheim. $53 to $63; 2 and younger, free. Park open until 2 a.m. (714) 781-4565; www.disneyland.com.
Knott's Berry Farm: Christian artists BarlowGirl, Tree 63, Sanctus Real and others converge for the "Praise '07" countdown. 8039 Beach Blvd., Buena Park.
7 p.m. to 1 a.m. $38.95. (714) 220-5200; www.knotts.com.
The Manhattan Project: Dance event brings some NYC flavor to Universal Studios Hollywood; billed as "the biggest Asian American NYE party in the nation." 100 Universal City Plaza, L.A. 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. $85. (866) 824-8212.
Other major concerts
Lyle Lovett: Versatile Texan and his band ring in 2007 in concert-hall fashion. Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., L.A. 7 and 10:30 p.m. $53 to $150. (213) 480-3232; www.wdch.org.
Erykah Badu: Neo-soul/hip-hop songstress brings the beat to the Sunset Strip. House of Blues, 8430 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. $125. (323) 848-5100; www.hob.com/sunsetstrip.
Select club events
Avalon Hollywood: "The Greatest Show on Earth" features DJs Donald Glaude, Richard Vission and Eddie Halliwell, plus aerialists, stilt-walkers, a giant GI Gumby, sound-activated Tron suits for the dancing girls and a bar that reopens at 6 a.m. 1735 Vine St., Hollywood. 9 p.m. $60. (323) 462-8900; www.avalonhollywood.com.
Super Estrella's New Year's Bash: DJ Edmundo and Pablo Caststeleani top a bill of entertainers bringing Latin beats to the Grove of Anaheim. 2200 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim. 9 p.m. $67.50. (714) 740-2000; www.superestrella.com.
Hollywood Palladium: Flava and DJ Manny Lehman hold forth.
6215 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood.
9 p.m. $100. (323) 962-7600; www.newyearsla.com.
Select club shows
The Sounds: Swedish new-wave quintet indebted to Blondie rock in the heart of Hollywood. The Roosevelt Hotel, 7000 Hollywood Blvd. 8 p.m. $80 to $100. (323) 466-7000; www.trafficevents.com.
Chavez: Influential mid-'90s math-rock band fronted by Matt Sweeney reunites. Spaceland,
1717 Silver Lake Blvd., L.A. 9 p.m. $20. (323) 661-4380; www.clubspaceland.com.
Pop Levi: Transplanted Liverpudlian offers up his fractured glam-pop. The Echo, 1822 Sunset Blvd., L.A. 10 p.m. $5. (213) 413-8200; attheecho.com.
Particle: Funky jam band and
Joe Satriani-Blackalicious collaborators join Delta Nove and DJ Quickie Mart. Knitting Factory, 7021 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. $37. (323) 463-0204; www.knittingfactory.com
Goo Goo Dolls: Veteran pop-rockers bring hooky fare to O.C. House of Blues Anaheim, 1530 S. Disneyland Drive, Anaheim. $150. 9 p.m. (714) 778-2583; hob.com/anaheim.
The Ringers: Over-the-top hard rockers pair up with Valient Thorr. Viper Room, 8852 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. 9 p.m. $30. (310) 358-1880; www.viperroom.com.
B-Side Players: Cool Latin reggae outfit and guests bring the party. Temple Bar, 1026 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica. 8:30 p.m. $30 advance; $40 at door. (310) 393-6611; templebarlive.com.
Mickey Avalon: Lowbrow rap-punk for people who like that sort of thing. The Roxy, 9009 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. 9 p.m.
$30. (310) 278-9457; www.theroxyonsunset.com.