Scott Miller took a vacation from New Year's Eve last year, only the second time he hasn't auld-lang-syned in Knoxville since 1990, so it's a good bet he'll be back with a vengeance this year. He's got a relatively new album out, the spring release For Crying Out Loud, but figure his set list will be heavy on his crowd-pleasing back catalog—you're almost guaranteed to hear "I Made a Mess of This Town"—and a handful of carefully chosen covers. Also count on Miller's former V-Roys bandmate Mic Harrison, with his backing band the High Score, warming the crowd up with their own mash-up of hard-driving guitar rock and classic honky tonk. This is the classic Knoxville rock 'n' roll New Year's celebration.
Royal Bangs cap their biggest year yet with a Pilot Light show too big for Pilot Light—it's taking place a few blocks away at the Midtown Arts Center, just off Fifth Avenue near the Broadway intersection. The band's coming off a European tour in support of their well-received new album, Let It Beep, released in September. The Bangs' clattering, chaotic synth pop is perfectly suited for besotted New Year's Eve debauchery, but don't get there too late—the folk blues throwback of Three Man Band and the '80s-style heavy-metal party of Warband promise to be a potent set-up for the Royal Bangs' shot of high-octane rock. Then you can dance until breakfast with DJ Megalon Esquire.
Kevin Abernathy's never gotten as much attention as he deserves in Knoxville. Maybe his straightforward classic-rock inspired songs are too straightforward and the subtlety of his songwriting is too subtle; maybe his old-fashioned guitar heroics are out-of-step with pop-culture fashion. Regardless, Abernathy always produces—his 2007 album Rock -n- Roll Fiasco is an underappreciated gem, and this year's A Beautiful Thing is almost as good. This is your meat-and-potatoes New Year's Eve pick.
The Tim Lee 3 are pulling double duty here, performing on their own and also backing ex-Tenderhooks singer/guitarist Jake Winstrom, who's making his local solo debut since the Tenderhooks split back in October. (The newly reconfigured Tim Lee 3 features ex-Tenderhooks drummer Matt Honkonen, who's replacing Rodney Cash.)