NEW YEAR'S EVE SHOWS

Sinatra-loving crooner Bobby Caldwell, who has become a Twin Cities cult hero, is playing a two-nighter beginning Sunday to ring in 2008. Tickets for the smooth-jazz icon are available with or without dinner. (7 p.m. Sun., 8 & 10:30 p.m. Mon., Rossi's Blue Star Room, $50-$135.) (J.B.)

WookieFoot's carnival-freaky live shows are a wild party any time of the year, with costumes, flame dancers and loads of visual gimmicks. One can only imagine (or hallucinate?) what the acidic rock band/commune has devised for New Year's Eve, especially since it just returned from a stint in Brazil. Openers are Heatbox and perhaps the best-named jam band of all time, Hyentyte. (9:30 p.m. Mon., Cabooze. 18 & older. $18-$20.) (C.R.)

Two of the most original indie-rock bands in town, boozy piano-rockers Thunder in the Valley and thundering punks Vampire Hands, are cutting loose from their already loose sounds with a pair of cover-band sets for New Year's Eve. They will be masquerading as the Stooges and Kinks, respectively. Should be a ball, especially since both acts are likely to offer something more clever than a spot-on tribute set. Arctic Universe opens. (9 p.m. Mon., Turf Club. 21 & older. $5) (C.R.)

Some people (you know who you are) still want to live in the '90s. We're not talking Nirvana and Pearl Jam, but rather those Midwestern faves the Gear Daddies and the BoDeans, who shared a State Fair bill last year and are now playing back to back at the Fine Line. Kurt Neumann and Sammy Llanas, aka the Bo Deans of Waukesha, Wis., have drawn the New Year's Eve assignment in Minneapolis for the second time in three years. (9 p.m. Mon., Fine Line, $100 includes appetizers and beverages.) (J.B.)

As if his mate-finding, guilty-pleasuring VH1 series "Rock of Love" didn't profit him enough for the year, Bret Michaels will fit in one last big payday for the year with a Vegas-like bash in the wholly un-Vegas-like suburb of Maplewood. The Poison frontman just played gigs for troops in Iraq and now has a solo album, "Custom Built," in the works -- as well as a second season of "Rock of Love." No, ladies, they won't do any casting at the show, but you can dream. Fellow spandex-exes Firehouse opens. (9 p.m. Mon., Myth. 21 & older. $104, includes free drinks.) (C.R.)

If you like "Come Rain or Come Shine" as much as "Auld Lang Syne," classy swingin' singer Carole Martin will once again bring in the new year with ageless tenor sax wonder Irv Williams. The faces in the crowd tend to be familiar from one year to the next, the ample snack foods are free with your cover charge, the usual party favors (hats, blowers, balloons, shakers) abound, and a comfy time is had by all. (9 p.m. Mon., Artists' Quarter. $32-$40.) (T.S.)

It'll be a busy New Year's Eve at the Dakota, with two crowd-pleasing shows and a live broadcast feed to National Public Radio. An early-evening "dinner show" features the always popular gospel-tinged jazz vocal harmonies of Moore By Four. (8 p.m. Mon. $100.) Cuban piano wizard Nachito Herrera will salute 2008 soulfully at the "cocktail show," as he mounts his unlikely yet unstoppable "Tribute to Earth, Wind & Fire" with guest singers J.D. and Fred Steele, and a national radio audience listening in. (10:30 p.m. Mon. $75.) It airs locally on KBEM (88.5 FM) at 11:15 p.m. as part of a coast-to-coast audio club tour starting at 7 p.m. (T.S.)

POP/ROCK

One of Low bandleader Alan Sparhawk's two active side projects, the foot-stomping, howling blues-punk band Black Eyed Snakes, somehow wound up playing ski resorts in Utah and Colorado last year with Duluth filmmaker Hansi Johnson in tow. The results are featured on a new DVD, "Cross Country With the Snakes," which is a great excuse to bring their noise to a typically quiet venue. Opening act is twangy pop-rockers Romantica, whose sophomore record "America" scored big in this week's Twin Cities Critics Tally. (8 p.m. today, Cedar Cultural Center. All ages. $12-$15.) (C.R.)

Fabulous Thunderbirds frontman Kim Wilson hasn't played a venue this small in the Twin Cities since he was leading Aces, Straights and Shuffles back in his Minnesota days in the early 1970s. His revamped T-birds returned to primo roadhouse form on 2005's "Painted On," their first studio effort with hotshot guitarist/singer Nick Curran. (9 p.m. today-Sat., Rossi's Blue Star Room, $35.) (J.B.)

A week after Soul Asylum's end-of-the-year blowout, frontman Dave Pirner is returning to the stage with his side band the Volunteers. A loosely knit, bulging all-star act featuring Michael Bland on drums, five guitarists and a horn section, it will play tunes from Pirner's 2002 solo album plus lots of fun covers and maybe a couple old Soul Asylum tunes. Two former Jayhawks open: Tim O'Reagan will do his solo thing, and Marc Perlman will play with his new duo Janey & Marc, featuring Astronaut Wife's Janey Winterbauer. (9:30 p.m. today, Cabooze. 21 & older. $10-$14.) (C.R.)

That Conor Oberst sure is a slippery one. Omaha's most famous (and, at 27, youngest) indie-rock vet threw fans a curve ball two years ago when he simultaneously released two wildly different albums by his alter ego/band Bright Eyes. Next year, he's putting aside the Bright Eyes moniker altogether and reportedly planning two unique releases: one a solo album and one a collaboration with his longtime cohort, Portland tunesmith/guitar wiz M. Ward. Oberst is coming to his favorite Minneapolis bar to test-drive one project or the other or both. Details were decidedly fuzzy, except for the promise that he absolutely won't do any Bright Eyes songs. All the more intriguing. Los Angeles songwriter Nik Freitas opens. (9 p.m. Sat. & Sun., 400 Bar. Sold out.) (C.R.)

After another full year of touring, including a long jaunt with novelty pop-punkers Bowling for Soup, the boys in Quietdrive are back in town for their second annual year-end gig. Last year's was their first First Ave sellout. Considering the Top 40 airplay that the young emo-flavored quintet scored off its whiny cover of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time," this one should hit capacity, too. This is the band's last show before heading into the studio to work on the followup to last year's Epic Records debut. Dropping Daylight, June and more open. (5:30 p.m. Sat., First Avenue. All ages. $18-$20.) (C.R.)

After years as a Minneapolis events czarina, Camille Gage got the bug to sing again. So she has teamed with Cindy Bartell, one of her collaborators in the late, almost-great 1980s arty popsters Tetes Noires, to form Truant Lovers. The eclectic new group, which also includes Terri Owens, Patrick Mulligan and Joe Steinger, plays a few originals (R&B, pop, alt-country) plus covers of Chuck Prophet and Donovan. (9:30 p.m. Sat., Bryant Lake Bowl, $8 advance, $10 door) (J.B.)

A lot of early-'90s college-rock fans around the country are jealous over this one: House of Large Sizes -- an always-underrated, Pixies- and X-like power trio from Cedar Falls, Iowa -- has booked four first-ever reunion shows around the holidays, and only one doesn't have an Iowa address. Husband/wife team Dave Deibler and Barb Schlif decided to close the books on HOLS in 2003, after one major-label release (1994's "My Ass-Kicking Life," actually their best), a half-dozen more indie albums and enough tours to blame them for global warming. Theirs was a band you could always count on delivering a grade-A show for a punk-rock price. Fellow Iowans the Beat Strings open along with the Melismatics. (7 p.m. Sun., Triple Rock. 21 & older. $8-$10.) (C.R.)

On the New Standards' new holiday EP, "Candy Cane," the groovy lounge trio throws a few curveballs. To be sure, Chan Poling, John Munson and Steve Roehm reimagine some Christmas chestnuts (a swinging, vibes-driven "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" is especially cool), but they also interpret unexpected yule stuff, including Trip Shakespeare's "Snow Days," Joni Mitchell's "River" and "My Favorite Things" from "The Sound of Music." (7 & 9:30 p.m. Sun., Dakota, $15-$20. ) (J.B.)

The Sunday night Old Stage series at the Turf Club literally takes place on the venue's smaller old stage, where the large half-moon booth usually sits. But it's also about showcasing old-timey acoustic folk and blues pickers. The best of its regular players -- and pretty much the best of this ilk in Minnesota -- are all playing the final show of the year: Spider John Koerner and Tony Glover, the Front Porch Swinging Liquor Pigs and Charlie Parr. (9 p.m. Sun., Turf Club. Free.) (C.R.)

Two local coed bands young enough to not know there was another President Bush, Gospel Gossip and the Chambermaids nonetheless sound less like their collegiate brethren of today and more like the fuzz-laden, dorm-room rock of the late '80s. Gospel Gossip evokes Jesus & Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine on its just-released debut CD, while the 'Maids' debut from last year had a grinding mix of Mekons- and Wire-like art-punk. (9 p.m. Wed., Triple Rock. 21 & older. Free.) (C.R.)

JAZZ

Red Planet is a trio of simpatico modern jazz explorers -- Dean Magraw (guitar), Chris Bates (bass) and Jay Epstein (drums). Are they named after Mars, or the Eric Dolphy composition better known as "Miles Mode," and also credited to John Coltrane? Even though Magraw sometimes seems like he just landed from cruising the cosmos, we'd guess Dolphy/Trane. And the compact band's repertoire? "Mostly original material with attitude, under the umbrella of Trane, Monk, Hendrix," says Epstein. (9 p.m. today-Sat., Artists' Quarter. $10.) (T.S.)


AND MORE

Mark Mallman returns for his second New Year's bash in a row at the Varsity, where last year he counted down with the help of the Roller Girls. This year, the "girls" joining the madcap piano-rocker -- let's hope it's all women -- will be wearing lingerie in a fashion show by Eclecticoiffeur. That should sell some tickets. So should the ever-solid Alarmists, who are a much better fit here than at the stiff Hyatt bash they played last year. Not to be confused with the dance party at First Ave themed after TV's "Solid Gold," dance-rock band Solid Gold opens. (9 p.m. Mon., Varsity Theater. 18 & older. $12.) (C.R.)

A possible stand-in for the Big Wu's feel-good New Year's Eve gigs of old, Duluth's high-strung bluegrass stompers Trampled by Turtles hope their fun-loving college/jam-band crowd won't mind catching them at a venue with porcelain toilets instead of portojohns. The Turtles' high-n-lonesome harmonies and roller-coaster arrangements should sound nice amid the polish, and just watch the ushers try to clear the aisles of dancers during some of the rocking new favorites off this year's album, "Trouble." Ever-boogying twang-rock favorites White Iron Band and younger bluegrass pickers Pert Near Sandstone also perform. (8 p.m. Mon., Orpheum Theatre. All ages. $25.) (C.R.)

Too late to make the cut for year-end music lists but good enough to be considered, Battle Royale's sophomore CD, "Wake Up, Thunderbabe," finds the barely legal-aged Minneapolis quartet graduating to national-worthy status. The album evolves from a delightfully freaky, danceable, high-pitched and higher-strung rock collection -- think Cloud Cult meshed with the Faint -- and takes an interesting turn halfway through to a series of warm and often pretty, Bright Eyes-like indie-folk tunes. For its CD-release party, the band is bringing along Afternoon Records labelmates We All Have Hooks for Hands and newcomers Haunted House. (5 p.m. Sat., 7th Street Entry. All ages. $7.) (C.R.)

 

Contributors: Staff critics Jon Bream, Chris Riemenschneider and freelancer Tom Surowicz.