Don't get me wrong. Iraq was fun and all. The whole SARS thing was hilarious. And woo-hee, did we have a good time at the Great White show in Rhode Island. But come on.
It was a grim year I was bidding adieu when I arrived at the Brick with 82 minutes remaining until 2004. I had come looking for Season to Risk, Dirtnap, Stella Link and a big hairy dude in a dirty, pink bunny outfit to make me forget the sins of the preceding twelve months, and I had pledged to remain pure on the most debauched of nights.
My one New Year's resolution was simple: Don't die. To aid that pursuit, I had begun what you might call the Mama Elvis Plan, a complicated scheme that involved curtailing my vices to avert a cardiac demise either sitting on the can or regurgitating a sandwich à la Elvis and Mama Cass Elliot. To accomplish this, I was prepared to adopt a strict regime of vigorous exercise, proper diet, no drinking, no smoking, no swearing and no hiring strippers from Dodge City to perform a "donkey show" in an abandoned freight elevator filled with I Can't Believe It's Not Butter. In short, no fun.
For its part, the Brick had doubled the size of its stage for the event. Which is to say the stage's land mass resembled a pingpong table instead of its usual cribbage board. Tinsel and velvet drapes were even strung about the stage to further signify the special in this special occasion. The Brick is where idle conversation comes to die. Discussing the weather or the Chiefs or the similarities between Jason Whitlock and Jabba the Hutt is futile; discourse is swept away with a roar that drowns out all but the most desperate plea for another PBR.
The crowd was made up largely of Goodwill hipsters in their best trucker hats and Cobain cardigans, along with a few wild cards, such as the Party Guy decked out in plastic leis and a T-shirt that said simply "Titties & Beer."
Dirtnap was knee-deep in its set when the countdown began. In my youth, I had celebrated this moment by surfing a shopping cart down a busy sidewalk or hanging upside-down from a street light or riding a vending machine down a ski slope. In those days, January 1 would find me splattered in filth, trying to explain why the nightstand looked like a toilet at 4 a.m.
Instead, I watched Dirtnap lead the congregation in the 5-4-3-2-1 hoo-haw.
"We fucking made it!" Billy Smith shouted as his bandmates launched into the next song, bucking off their silver party hats in the process. Outside, the air was filled with fireworks and/or automatic gunfire crackling in the streets, followed by howling police sirens.
The night ended, as exemplary nights are prone to do, with the dude in the soiled pink bunny suit spinning records.
But it was what came second-to-last that topped everything. I had broken down and bought a drink 53 minutes into 2004 -- a new record for me, though not the night's pivotal moment. That came eight minutes later, when Season to Risk gave the doe-eyed yearling a proper reception.
It's amazing what a little mascara and a lotta charisma can do. S2R ignited the place with a blur of not-quite metal, not-exactly punk and not-entirely indie rock. Lead singer Steve Tulipana writhed on the ground, butted heads with fans, jumped, twisted, banged beer bottles and yo-yoed the microphone as he screamed and strutted across the stage.
Stella Link and Dirtnap had put on commendable shows -- hardly a surprise considering the incestuous orgy of musician-swapping on the night's roster -- but S2R was the glove that fit just right. The band didn't seem to be hurting after its ominous six-month hiatus, and the introduction of new material suggested that this was more than a reunion gig.
Even if that's all it was, it was still memorable. The end came when Tulipana dived into the crowd under a shower of beer cups that gave me a nice Miller Lite cologne for the drive home. Uh, no, officer, I didn't drink anything this evening. Why do you ask?
As the twilight yawned toward the first sunset of 2004, I walked to my car reeking of sweat, beer and smoke, satisfied with a good start to a new year.