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Firing Up First Night

Alexandria’s New Year’s Eve party gears up for year-end celebration

What goes on at a stereotypical New Year’s Eve party?

Lots of alcohol, some food, some fireworks, and a lot of noise. In the background, maybe someone puts on a CD, or a band competes with revelers’ roar.

First Night Alexandria bucked that trend, and puts the music front and center this New Year’s Eve, as it has since 1994, said Anne Dorman, executive director of First Night. This year, organizers hope to draw some 6-7,000 people to hear bands from across the musical spectrum, playing in small venues across Old Town.

“First Night started at the behest of performers who were tired of being background noise to loud, drunken New Year’s Eve celebrations,” she said. “They wanted people to listen to them.”

Ruth Logsdon agreed. The lead singer of Washington roots rock band Ruthie and the Wranglers, Logsdon and her band will perform three sets at the Masonic Memorial on First Night. New Year’s Eve used to be an “adult’s holiday,” she wrote in an e-mail interview.

“Years ago many people only used the night for wild partying,” she said, “I know I did.”

BUT AS the nation became less tolerant of drinking and driving, and as people had children, they looked for a more family-friendly way to celebrate New Year’s. “They can make ringing in the New Year fund for the whole family,” Logsdon wrote, and “it’s probably cheaper in the long run than paying a babysitter those New Years’ Eve prices!”

First Night isn’t intolerant of alcohol and spirits. “We’re not preaching temperance,” Dorman said. “We just don’t have any establishments that sell alcohol as venues.”

In fact, the list of venues expands this year to include the Campagna Center, hosting two acts geared towards teenagers, Dorman said. “We’ve also contacted a number of restaurants this year,” she said. “Sandwich shops, places to grab a quick bite to eat.”

THE LIST OF musical acts expands as well, attracting some familiar faces like Bonnie Rideout and the Irish Breakfast Band, and newcomers like the Carpenter Ants, from Charles Town, W.Va, playing Christ Church.

First Night is a departure for the band, said guitarist Michael Lipton. “We quit playing New Year’s Eves several years ago,” he said. “It’s one of my least favorite holidays; the cliché is that it’s amateur’s night. It seems like everybody tries way too hard.”

Lipton’s band is far from amateurs: he plays guitar on public radio’s “Mountain Stage,” and the band has shared the stage with Taj Mahal, Robyn Hitchcock and Chip Taylor, of the Troggs.

They have been playing more shows in Virginia, creeping closer and clsoer to Washington, so First Night Alexandria seemed like a natural way to expand their audience. It was also a departure from New Year’s Eve shows past.

“It’s a nice venue, and a nice celebration,” said Lipton, “very well run. We’re happy to be a part of it.”

The more bands, the better, Dorman said. Established acts in the area will pull in some of their fans, and out-of-towners like the Carpenter Ants might bring in people who have seen them before, as well as curious newcomers.

While Dorman is looking forward to this year’s First Night, she’s also anticipating what to think about for First Night 2003. “It’s a year-round process,” she said. “We really do start planning in January.”

Where Are They Playing?

Venues for First Night Alexandria are scattered across Old Town. Information is also available online at www.firstnightalexandria.org.

George Washington National Masonic Memorial, 101 Callahan Drive.

*Master Yang's Taekwondo Demonstrations, 6:30, 8, 9:30 p.m.

*Laura Schandeimeier, Dance Performance, 7:15, 8:45, 10:15 p.m.

*Miranda Miller, Magician, 6, 7:30, 9 p.m.

*Chuck Durfer, Finger Style Guitar, 6:45, 8:15, 9:45 p.m.

*High Bridge Consort, Medieval and Renaissance Music, 6:30, 8, 9:30 p.m.

*The Stairwells. Male a-Cappella Singers, 7:15, 8:45, 10:15 p.m.

*Ruthie & the Wranglers, Roots Music, 6:30, 8, 9:30 p.m.

*The Grandsons, Rock & Roll, 7:15, 8:45, 10:15 p.m.

*Linda Fang, Children's Storytelling, 7, 8, 9 p.m.

*Front Lawn, Fireworks at Midnight

Amtrak Train Station, 110 Callahan Drive

*Michelle Swan & Rachel Cross, Vocal and Acoustic Music, 7, 8, 9, 10 p.m.

*Grand Finale: Bandstand outside the Amtrak Train Station beginning at 11 p.m. with countdown to fireworks display at midnight.

Hilton Alexandria Old Town, 1767 King St.

*Sue Richards, Celtic Harpist, 7, 8, 9, 10 p.m.

Regent University, 1650 Diagonal Road

*Lisa Moscatiello Band, Folk Rock, 6, 8, 10 p.m.

*Hot Soup, Three Part Harmony on Nostalgic Music, 7, 9 p.m.

Embassy Suites Hotel, 1900 Diagonal Road

First Night Alexandria Headquarters and Volunteer Check-in

*Pablo Antonio y La Firma, Salsa Band, 7, 8:30, 10 p.m.

*Skystone, Country and Bluegrass, 6:45, 8:15, 9:45 p.m.

*Apple A Day Chair Massage, 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Society Of Human Resource Management, 1800 Duke St.

*Ruby Hayes, Blues Singer, 6, 7:30, 9 p.m.

*Bassama Dance Troop, North African and Middle Eastern Dance, 6:45, 8:15 p.m.

Uptowner Café, 1609 King St.

*David Alberding, 7:30, 8:30, 9:30, 10:30 p.m.

A Likely Story, 1555 King St.

*Jane Harrington, Children's Book Reading, 6, 7, 8 p.m.

Alleyne AME Zion Church, 1419 King St.

*Funshine Children's Choir, 6, 7, 8 p.m.

*Trumpet Kings Gospel Choir, 6:30, 7:30, 8:30 p.m.

Jefferson Houston School, 1501 Cameron St.

*Don Bridges, Children's Music, 5, 6, 7, 8 p.m.

*Karl Kalbaugh, Didgeridoo, 5:30, 6:30, 7:30, 8:30 p.m.

*Don Becker, Marionette Show, 7, 8 p.m.

*Leandra the Clown, 5 to 9 p.m.

*Eileen Joyner with Richard & Audrey, Songs and Dance, 6:45, 8:15, 9:45 p.m.

*Choreographers Collaborative, Modern Dance, 6, 7:30, 9 p.m.

*Face Painters, 5 to 9 p.m.

*Teddy the Clown, Balloon Artist, 6 to 9 p.m.

Imagine Artwear, 1124 King St.

*Janine Wilson Trio, Blues and Roots Music, 7, 8, 9, 10 p.m.

Nickells And Scheffler, 1028 King St.

*Pat Wictor, Singer/Songwriter, 7:30, 8:30, 9:30, 10:30 p.m.

Gallerie La Taj, 1010 King St.

*Izolda, Violinist and Vocalist, 7:30, 8:30, 9:30, 10:30 p.m.

American Red Cross, 123 N. Alfred St.

*Tom Teasley and Charles Williams, World Beat Music, 6, 7, 8, 9 p.m.

Friendship Firehouse, 107 S. Alfred St.

*Lori Kelley & Cletus Kennelly, Folk, Pop, Country & Rock, 6:30, 7:15, 8, 8:45 p.m.

Christ Church, 118 N. Washington St.

*Don Keyser & His Country Rhythm Boys, 6:30, 8, 9:30 p.m.

*Carpenter Ants, Rhythm & Blues, Gospel, Soul, 7:15, 8:45, 10:15 p.m.

*Washington Balalaika, Russian Folk Music, 6, 7:30, 9 p.m.

*Irish Breakfast Band, Traditional Irish Music, 6:45, 8:15, 9:45 p.m.

Washington Street United Methodist Church, 115 S. Washington St.

*Bonnie Rideout, Scottish Fiddler, 6:30, 8, 9:30 p.m.

*Musikanten, a-Cappella American Music, 6:30, 8, 9:30 p.m.

*Java Kings, Latin Jazz and Blues, 7:15, 8:45, 10:15 p.m.

The Lyceum, 201 S. Washington St.

*Laura Mann, Musical Theater, 6:45, 8:15, 9:45 p.m.

*Reverb, a-Cappella Gospel, 6, 7:30, 8:15 p.m.

*Teresa Meeks, Classical Flute, 7, 8, 9 p.m.

Campagna Center, 418 S. Washington St.

*NFACT, Hip-hop and R&B, 6:30, 8, 9:30 p.m.

*Lea, Jazz, Folk and Acoustic Guitar, 7:15, 8:45, 10:15 p.m.

The Little Theatre, 600 Wolfe St.

*Mike Rose, Comedy Magic Show, 7, 8, 9, 10 p.m.

Old Presbyterian Meeting House, 321 S. Fairfax St.

*Al Petteway and Amy White, Celtic Music, 6, 7, 8 p.m.

*Wayne Earnest, Trip Into 18th- and 19th-Century Meeting House, 6:30, 7:30, 8:30 p.m.

Radio Del Ray will broadcast live all evening with roaming reporters at www.radiodelray.org.

Buying Buttons

Admission buttons for this year’s First Night Alexandria are on sale at several locations in Alexandria.

*A Likely Story, 1555 King St.

*Brahm & Powell Opticians, 127A North Washington St.

*Burke & Herbert Bank 100 S. Fairfax St., 306 E.Monroe St., 1775 Jamison Avenue, 621 King St., 155 N. Paxton St., 1705 Fern St.

*Hallmark, 610 King St.

*Hilton Hotel Old Town, 1767 King St.

*Mango Mike’s Cook Caribbean Restaurant, 4580 Duke St.

*Nearman Financial, 1005 Cameron St.

*Ramparts Restaurant, 1700 Fern St.

*Ramsey House Visitors Center, 221 King St.

*Red Cross, 123 North Alfred St.

*Rick’s Wine & Gourmet, 3117 Duke St.

*St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub, 2300 Mt. Vernon Avenue

*Tisara Photography, 1607 King St.

*Torpedo Factory Arts Center, 105 North Union St.

*Virginia Commerce Bank, 506 King St., 1414 Prince St., 5140 Duke St.

Through Dec. 30, buttons cost $10. Children under 12 do not need a button, but must be accompanied by an adult wearing one. On Dec. 31, admission buttons will cost $15. They can be purchased after noon at the First Night Alexandria headquarters or at any of this year’s First Night.