Party Like It's - You Know 

Tonight We're Gonna Party

A tippler's guide to New Year's Eve in 'Zoola

Last New Year's Eve, I merrily cashiered 1997 with the help of around 200 sauce-addled goons vacuum-packed into a three floors of a former nunnery. The police-or at least, one female officer whose Auld Lang Syne duties I wouldn't have taken on for all the vodka in Vladivostok-showed up promptly at midnight, only to be drenched by errant champagne. I locked my self in a bedroom with a fresh bottle of Cordon Negro, waited for the forces of law and order to retreat and bid les bon temps to rouler without delay.

So, granted, it'll be hard to top that. The pressure is on, of course, because by my reckoning, this weekend's festival of calendrical renewal begins the cycle of the three greatest new years of all time. The dawn of 1999, of course, is just a warm-up for the Apocalypse-tinged revels slated for a year from now, when we will all hopefully be well lubricated by the time Western Civ grinds to a halt. Then, for those still standing after the Y2K Ragnarok, NY 2001 will doubtless be a somewhat more subtle and refined celebration of the century's real beginning.

The action will be fast and furious around the globe, of course, and our homey little Rocky Mountain cul de sac is no exception. Peripatetic celebrants have no shortage of opportunities to get their groove on come Thursday/Friday: There's the booze-free community fun of First Night, of course, and the vast multitude of private parties. For those who prefer to indulge in baggage-free kissing and skull-splitting antics in a public forum, the many tavern owners of G-City plan to come through with colors flying.

The Moonlighters get the Union Club jumping on New Year’s Eve.


Missoula bar-goers have to feel good about the advent of Sean Kelly's, the tony pub that opened this summer in the old digs of the determinedly low-brow Connie's. While it's hard to infuse a brand-new bar with character, owners Kelly Leary and Rob Evanger (the pub is named in honor of Leary's granddad) deserve props for their project's warm atmosphere, competent staff and crackin' good pints of Guinness. For those who'd like to honor Kelly and Rob's enterprise and douse their New Year's in the pitch-black brew James Joyce called the "wine of Ireland," the Revelators provide a classic-rock soundtrack. Hot tip from a Sean Kelly's bartender: "They rock."

Right in the neighborhood, the Iron Horse puts champagne on ice for free midnight distribution (many bars offer the same), reserving the Bloody Mary and Mimosa specials for the 'morrow. Folks at the Old Post have a blue New Year planned, courtesy of Blue Emotion.

The 10,000 Silver Dollar Bar must have been booked, because the heavy metal tigers of Mike & Rick opted to play Jay's Upstairs. I know these boys, and there's no place they'd rather party than the 10K. Jay's will do nicely, though, given that bartendress-in-residence Robin Dent always throws together a decent New Year's bash. Look for the Mike & Rick anthem "Sunset on Evaro" to unleash a legion of spear-toting demons. The millennially minded Humpy and the manfully excessive Prosciutto pile on to the bill as well.

For those in search of less punk-like but still rollicking music (and let's not even pause to consider how many times we're all going to have to hear that one song by the Artist Formerly Known As...), the choices are many. The Moonlighters, perhaps the best R&B act per capita in the country, keep their usual haunt, the Union Club, jumping. Blues Solution provides some good-man-feelin'-bad accompaniment at the Top Hat. Brickyard Hill breaks out some covers at the Ritz, a bar that's been asserting its claim to a place on Missoula's music map of late.

Out at Buck's Club, Saint Rage feels the noise-girls, rock your boys! The heavy combo is a local favorite and things could get downright decadent. Mere yards and a subcultural universe away, Haywire caters to the downhome crowd at the Cowboy Bar. I've always thought you could learn something elemental and essential about life in Montana by walking through the front door of Buck's and continuing through into the adjoining Cowboy Bar. I'm not sure what, but you amateur sociologists are encouraged to come to your own conclusions.

There's much more to be discovered, of course, with a little something special planned just about everywhere. A crafty partier can accomplish a lot on the biggest celebration night of the year. Just remember to plan carefully and make sure your nearest and dearest surround you when the hands of the clock go straight up and 1998-the year of Monica and home runs and ancient astronauts and the World Cup and everything else-takes its leave. Back to all the vodka in Vladivostok again: Russians believe that those who spend New Year's with you will still be there in 12 months' time. Word to the wise.


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