From first to last 

How to make the most of First Night Missoula

This year’s 12th annual First Night Missoula boasts more than 100 acts performing variously from 2 p.m. on New Year’s Eve all the way through the first moments of 2006 in 31 venues. It’s a daunting schedule, wrought with potentially troublesome overlaps and saturated with a dizzyingly diverse array of performers. But fear not, good and active citizen: the Indy humbly proposes the following 12-hour itinerary to allow you a taste of almost everything without missing the biggest happenings.

2:00–2:30 p.m.
It’s best to start where you’ll probably end up. The University Center (UC) will host the majority of the day’s events, and the UC Game Room is open for free gaming until midnight. To get the blood flowing, play a quick match of air hockey, pool or ping-pong.

2:30–3:00 p.m.
Now that you’re warmed up, take a few steps out of the Game Room and head over to the UC Commons to take part in or just watch a Round Dance by Native Ed-ventures. The participatory performance is taken from an American Indian tradition celebrating collective unity using hand drums and traditional and contemporary vocals.

3:00–4:00 p.m.
Native Ed-ventures lasts until 3:30, but if you need to catch your breath before continuing with the dance groove, just walk across campus to the University Theatre to watch Headwaters Dance Company. Montana’s only professional touring modern dance company—formerly known as MoTrans—provides a sneak peek of their upcoming February concert.

4:00–5:00 p.m.
Take advantage of the First Night Missoula bus service and get away from campus for a few hours. At Missoula Children’s Theatre, Christian Ackerman will be performing mime in the lobby and Michael Delaney will become Mark Twain for a one-man show in the Theatre. If they performed together, it might be similar to The Candidatos performance on the MCT stage earlier in the year, but that’s probably not going to happen.

5:00–7:00 p.m.
It’s time for dinner and drinks. Stay downtown, grab a bite to eat and toast the New Year early with a glass of champagne at your favorite watering hole. If you’re south of the bridge, stop in at Bernice’s Bakery to hear the rootsy acoustic tunes of Larry Hirshberg (5–6 p.m.) or the contemporary folk of Lori Skyrud (6–7 p.m.). North of the bridge, swing past Break Espresso to hear country blues and rockabilly originals from Street L’Eagle (5–6 p.m.) or “raw, gutbucket blues” from Mudslide Charlie, aka Marco Littig on bottleneck slide and Charlie Hopkins on harmonica (6–7 p.m.).

7:00–8:00 p.m.
Things start to get tricky here, but we’ve got you covered with two options. One: Stay downtown and catch the Celtic Dragon Pipe Band at the Wilma Theatre. This bagpipe and drum ensemble, a First Night Missoula favorite, is quite a spectacle. Or, get back to UM early and check out two of Missoula’s most accomplished female crooners: country singer Liz Carlisle plays at the UC Lounge at 7 p.m., and, at 7:30, folk favorite Amy Martin takes the stage in the Masquer Theatre in the PAR/TV building for a one-hour set.

8:00–9:00 p.m.
If you’re still downtown, stay at the Wilma for the first-ever First Night Idol competition. Eight high-school finalists have already been chosen and the potential for either stellar performances or an unintentionally comedic mimicry of Fox’s popular reality competition makes this a “can’t miss” event. Even better: local rocker Bob Wire is a judge, possibly playing the role of Simon Cowell.

If you’re already on campus and can’t make it to the Wilma, just head to the UC Atrium and try to beat Greg Nowak, aka The Octopus, as he simultaneously plays all comers at chess. The 10-time state champion can compete against up to 50 players at once, hence his nickname. If you lose, don’t fret: Nowak’s there from 6 to 11 p.m.

9:00–11:00 p.m.
Knowing there’s already been a ton of music in your day—and more still to come—this may be a good time to get a taste of a different performance art. Craig Menteer, a veteran of the local theater scene, presents Tongues by Sam Shepard and Joseph Chaikin at the Union Hall (above the Union Club) from 9–10 p.m. Needless to say, proximity to the Union Club means one last chance to have a cocktail before heading to the Grand Finale back at the UC.

Otherwise, there’s more music to be heard: Following First Night Idol, the Wilma offers the sweet vocals and expert accompaniment of Bozeman’s Jeni Fleming Acoustic Trio from 9:30 to 11 p.m. If you’ve never heard Fleming and the trio’s blend of original and standard jazz tunes, don’t miss this—her voice is outstanding.

If you desire something with a little more thump and grind, hit the Missoula Boys and Girls Club for locally-flavored hip-hop. The lineup includes an original set from high schoolers Dawgclan, aka Massakur (aka Nick Petersen) and G-Dawg (aka Alex Benishek). With all of these akas, look for name tags at the door.

11:00 p.m.–12:30 a.m.
If you haven’t already taken your shot at beating The Octopus, by all means do that first upon returning to the UC. Then, head toward the “Snow Lady,” a 20-foot street puppet that was part of the original First Night in Boston in 1976. The puppet was donated to First Night Missoula and will be unveiled sometime during the Grand Finale in the UC Ballroom.

For the Grand Finale, which actually begins between 9:30 and 11 p.m., take your pick of three different rooms, each offering its own performer and countdown to the New Year. The Drum Brothers (UC Atrium at 11 p.m.), Big Sky Mudflaps (UC Commons at 9:30 p.m.) and the Ed Norton Big Band (UC Ballroom at 10 p.m.) will take their respective crowds—world beat percussion, contemporary rhythm and blues, classic jazz and swing—through the stroke of midnight. Our recommendation: make sure to catch a bit of all three, and try to time your appearance at the Ed Norton Big Band’s show during the time when they’re joined by the winner of First Night Idol.

12:30–2 a.m.
Bars will still be open. Be safe.

To purchase your button for access to each and every First Night Missoula event, visit any of 11 outlets in Missoula, including Rockin Rudy’s, Worden’s Market and Good Food Store. Buttons cost $10 before Dec. 31 and $15 on New Year’s Eve. For more information and a complete schedule, visit www.firstnightmissoula.org.

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