DANNY ROBINS' INDIE TRAVEL GUIDE TO NEW YEAR'S EVE
It's the last Indie Travel Guide of 2010 so it seemed fitting to give y'all a few ideas on some of the many ways you can spend New Year in the UK and around the world. So here's my Top 5 ways to spend the New Year...
There are plenty of awful, over-priced club nights out there on New Year's Eve but here's a few that should actually be good.
Fear and Loathing in Bad Vegas
Leeds Indie club Bad Sneakers is throwing a Las Vegas-themed party at trusty indie-tastic pub The Faversham. Part of the pub will become The Flamingo Hotel with a working casino, slot machines and showgirls. Remember, what happens in Vegas, stays in... Leeds.
Want to get all morose and miserable at New Year? Course you do... Head down to Feeling Gloomy, one of London's best indie clubs, at the O2 Academy in Islington for some shoegazing classics. Their policy is to only play 'miserable songs' - in reality it's an excuse for a cracking Indie night out. If you want a test of their Indie credentials, they're having a Belle and Sebastian theme night on Jan 15th.
In Edinburgh, one of the best places to celebrate New Year, you can get your Indie dancing fill at the Liquid Room where Hogmanay Hijack has enlisted the DJing talents of Tim Burgess from The Charlatans and former Babyshambles drummer Adam Ficek, now fronting his own band Roses Kings and Castles.
Fireworks are a big part of the New Years Eve tradition these days. Probably the most impressive display anywhere in the world is Sydney. Sydney is the first major city in the world to celebrate New Year (due to the difference in time zones they get it at 1pm our time) and they take this responsibility very seriously setting off about $5million worth of fireworks. I think it's the most expensive display in the world. Well worth checking out if you're ever in Oz for New Year. And of course, the best bit of all is it's really hot as it's their summer.
Of course the Aussies may not be celebrating quite as much if England win the 4th Ashes test, which finishes on the 30th.
If you don't fancy going to Australia and fireworks sound a bit safe and tame for you, there are some suitably dangerous fire-based options here in the UK.
Allendale in Northumberland has a Tar Barrel Ceremony - billed as a 'pagan New year's fire celebration and test of courage', it involves 45 men called 'guisers' parading around town with half whisky barrels full of burning tar balanced on their heads in what could be very windy conditions. At the end of it all, the barrels are used to light a giant bonfire and everyone has to shout "Be damned to he who throws last".
There's a song by folk band The Unthanks about it - here's a Youtube vid with the song set to pictures of the festivities...
And to step up the danger even more, get yourself to the Stonehaven Fireballs. Stonehaven is about 16 miles south of Aberdeen. This is another event whose origins are a bit lost in the mists of time, but basically it involves 45 men (same number as Allendale - anyone know the significance?) swinging burning fireballs around their heads as they walk down the street. So brilliantly dangerous you'd think it would have been outlawed long ago but no, it attracts huge crowds. At the end of the procession they very sensibly chuck the fireballs in the sea.
It makes carrying a lump of coal around look pretty sedate.
Obviously going abroad is a nightmare right now but we're hoping and assuming that the chaos or 'travel woe' as the BBC website described it the other day, won't still be going on by the time New Year rolls around.
You might think you there won't be any cheap flights left by now, but you can still find affordable tickets. I just checked Easyjet and you could still get a return ticket to Barcelona for about £100, leaving on morning of 31st, depending on when you come back. Ryanair's possibly even cheaper - they fly to Girona, about 1hr 20 on the train to Barcelona.
Barcelona is fun at New Year - the main street, La Rambla, is packed with people. If you go to there to celebrate 'Noche Vieja' as they call it, then you'll be expected to eat 12 grapes on the stroke of midnight - one for each of the chimes. This symbolizes passing the sweet flavour of grapes into the New Year so it begins sweetly. Corny eh? Another tradition is that wearing red underwear at New Year will bring you luck and help you find love. Yeah, that and alcohol...
Whilst you're there, get yourself down to the Manchester Bar a bar devoted to indie music from Manchester and Fantastico Club an indie music-oriented bar and 'art space' where you're likely to hear the retro likes of Pavement and Stereolab on the sound system.
The party lasts most of the following week and it's worth staying in town till January 5th when they have the Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos (Three Kings Parade). The Three Kings arrive by boat at the waterfront of Barcelona and are welcomed by a 21 gun salute. They then process through the city lobbing barley sugar sweets to children lining the route.
4. In a capital of culture...
It's had a bit of a reputation as a place to go for stag dos in recent years but it's a stunningly beautiful and historic city (Europe's oldest capital) that's keen to shake off the stag image and show the world its cultural side.
For a population of only just over a million they have an amazing amount of music and film festivals. There's a big tradition of folk choirs - in fact Estonia's breakaway from the Soviet Union was known as 'The Singing Revolution' because of the amount of mass protests where people would get together and sing traditional songs.
They are having the opening ceremony to welcome in the Capital of Culture year on 31st December with fireworks and folk bands. You could be there. Flights were between £200-300 when I checked today. Not super bargain basement I know and you could certainly get there cheaper at other times of the year, but accommodation and food and drink over there would be pretty cheap and it'd be a beautiful and buzzy place to see in New Year. The clubs are pretty good too.
Oh, and there's free Wifi absolutely everywhere. Estonians are technology obsessed - they invented Skype.
5. In the concrete jungle where dreams are made, oh...
And finally... New York at New Year. NY at NY. Where else would you want to be? A quick check on Lilligo, one of many flight comparison websites you can use to check for bargains, tells me that you can still get there for under £300. That's pretty darn good if you fancy really going big this year.
The New Year tradition in the Big Apple is for people to gather in Times Square to 'watch the ball drop' -sounds slightly rude - but this is a glowing crystal ball that descends over the course of a minute to mark the moment of New Year. I realise that sounds quite mystical as I write it - it's not, it's a ball made of Waterford crystal that is attached to a pole on top of the New York Times building which is 1 Times Square.
The square gets rammed with people and it can be pretty cold in NY in the winter (-16 degrees at New Year last year) but the atmosphere looks pretty amazing. Check out this footage of the ball drop If you do make it over to Huey's hometown, go to PDT (it stands for Please Don't Tell) it's a secret bar - you have to go into a specific phonebox and call a certain number to be let in (best to call ahead for a reservation).
And remember to leave Manhattan and check out Brooklyn, especially Williamsburg - one of the best areas for places to see up and coming bands. There's a good list of music bars to go to here. Pete's Candy Store being a particular tip.
Got any New Year tips yourself? Tweet me or send me a Facebook message.