Basement Jaxx/Macy Gray: San Francisco Civic Auditorium

If you want someone else to clear up the mess and play the records, this looks the best on paper...

New Year’s Eve – it’s amateur hour in the bars, taxis are rarer than Virgin trains and there’s sick in the hallways of house parties from the Outer Mission to the Lower Haight. If you want someone else to clear up the mess and play the records, this looks the best on paper. Seventy bucks gets you the Jaxx, Macy Gray, five rooms of DJ’s and an ’80s cover band blowing up the lounge with ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’.

The heeled-up, well-pissed crowd is here mainly for Macy, entrusted with the countdown to midnight and giving it a bold, bold stab. In the 13-piece band she’s the tall one with the floor length silver mirror coat, in case you were wondering. That distinctive voice is not flaunted quite as obviously. It’s well down in the mix, swaddled with horns and backing vocals and outnumbered by the crowd on ‘Why Don’t You Call Me’ and ‘I Try’.

She sasses and swings, climbing ever higher up the lighted staircase that

leads to Diana Ross-dom. For most artists it’s a career-long struggle from interesting first album to Vegas-style revue, but as ‘Que Sera Sera’ is belted out to the swaying suits and cardboard tiaras, you know she’s made it already.

Melanie’s ‘Brand New Key’ takes us to midnight, and after the balloons drop none other than George Clinton first-foots onstage and he’s carrying more than a lump of coal. The “We” in ‘We Got The Funk’ now numbers about 27 for a sparkling half-hour of P-Funk mayhem.

At the closing notes of ‘One Nation Under A Groove’, a giant sheet lifts from the back of the hall revealing Camberwell’s finest, armed only with two turntables and no microphone. Starting with a nod to SF’s homegrown house scene – Dubtribe’s ‘Samba Dub’ – it’s a commercial but typically inventive set for a crowd that doesn’t go clubbing very often, judging by some of the dancing.

The Jaxx anthems are interspersed with plenty of old school and a twitchy finger on the EQ. Public Enemy’s ‘Bring The Noise’ is cut with Talking Heads ‘Once In A Lifetime’. Every bedroom DJ in the house will be trying that one out when they get home.

After the bar shuts at two, the last hour sees the crowd thin and huddle into

groups of disheveled survivors. Others suddenly look around and wonder why

they are sliding around on a carpet of burst balloons to ‘Whoomp, There It Is’. The lights go up at quarter to three and NME.COM is already on its way out the door to join the taxi queue, wondering if any of those house parties will still be going…

Andy Wilkinson