New Year’s Eve used to be the year’s most social and elegant evening in casinos. Every hotel featured major stars and dinner shows before the inevitable countdown and orchestras breaking into “Auld Lang Syne.” These days, however, it’s all about parties. Few entertainers in that previous sense are featured, and the night generally belongs to DJs. The prices are more reasonable for sure, with the days of a $250 Liza Minnelli ticket seemingly long gone.
However, one local hotel-casino is offering that almost irresistible combination of old-school performance and night-club party Dec. 31. That would be Thunder Valley with a $100K Big Easy night, themed, of course, after Mardi Gras with casino-wide decorations, strolling performers, specialty menus, and the excitement of chances to win shares of the $100,000 to be given away.
In keeping with the boisterous atmosphere, a true party band is playing in Pano Hall. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy has lasted way past the swing-revival era that introduced them, and they’re still capable of playing memorable versions of “Minnie the Moocher” and “Diga Diga Do,” along with more thoughtful fare like Randy Newman’s “It’s Lonely at the Top.”
Probably the best way to experience the entire evening is to begin with Big Bad Voodoo Daddy if you can score tickets (7:30 p.m.; $47.75, $64.75; thundervalleyresort.com), and then proceed to the grand opening of the resort’s new lounge Illusions, in the former location of Falls Bar. The well appointed venue features two stories of seating, as well as specialty cocktails and food. Unlike most lounges, it will be open seven nights a week from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. with a $10 cover charge. Tickets for New Year’s Eve are going for around $50 each.
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▪ Cache Creek hosts Film Ratapoom this weekend, featuring a mix of Thai, Lao, and Mien artists Saturday (8 p.m.; free with club card of $20); Francis Yip and Johnny Yip are set for a Chinese concert Sunday ($58, $88, $128; cachecreek.com).
▪ Saturday will see Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real at Harrah’s. Lukas will be playing the South Shore Room, the very location his father Willie made his casino debut in the 1970s, shocking everybody with his casual dress and attitude. Lukas’ mein appears to be as casual but his music is assuredly different, definitely more rock ’n’ roll. (7:30 p.m. $36.30; Ticketmaster)
And of course, New Year’s Eve would not be the same without the mob scenes on the streets. One of the biggest is on Highway 50 in front of South Shore’s hotel-casinos; another is in Reno on Virginia Street, which will feature a fireworks display shot from three casino rooftops.