Howe Gelb, Marie Frank, Al Perry, The Physics Factory

Hotel Congress, Saturday, Dec. 31

In the pocket of my long black coat, I found a relic of the last time I'd worn it: a ticket stub from the Bottle Rockets, New Year's Eve 2002, Chicago. I remember that night, snow had glistened under the street lights, piled high along curbs, burying cars until the melt, and icicles threatened the integrity of eaves and drain pipes.

How wonderful to pretend I needed that coat this New Year's! Standing by the blowing soap-bubble snow, I watched it melt on the black wool, under a canopy of fairy lights, near the stage decked with iridescent paper icicles the size of small stalagmites. Giant snowflakes decked the front, like the ones we used to make in school, only oddly asymmetric, appropriate to the surreality of a winter wonderland in the desert.

Al Perry held forth in the twinkly lobby while outside, The Physics Factory made fire dance to the music of a keyboard, and created evaporating fireworks of treated paper. They let me light one among the blowing soapflakes--trippy in the warm glow of a hot toddy.

Danish pop star Marie Frank warmed our hearts with music that pops like champagne corks. She said she appreciated the effort to make her feel at home with the snow, and she brought us greetings from Denmark, where it already had been 2006 for eight hours. "They say it's going really well so far."

That lots of Tucsonans would just as soon not risk any coldness was evident in the packed inside music space, where bodies churned shoulder-to-shoulder to DJ Buttafly's eclectic mixes. Two dancers on a busman's holiday from Orts Theatre of Dance stole the show.

Outside, Howe Gelb and his Danish band mixed a pre-recorded "Auld Lang Syne" into "Blue Marble Girl," then paused for several minutes of bagpipe music ("Because it's vaguely wintery," emcee David Slutes explained) as we counted down to the midnight drop of a sparkly, lighted ball from the hotel's roof to its canopy. Kisses and toasts all around!

Gelb launched the New Year with his "Nick of Time," then Al Perry joined him for a medley of "Ring of Fire" into "Hey Jude," because "Jude" is sort of like "June," as in Carter Cash, Gelb explained later.

I made this Hallmark-sounding New Year's resolution: Fear less, hope more. May we all find less to fear and more to hope for in 2006.

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