FESTIVAL REVIEW ‘First Night’ Celebration Electrifies Boston

Boston Arts Scene Rears Its Electric Head

Various theatres and performance halls

December 31, 2008

I boarded the 12:30 December 31 New York-Boston bus at the Port Authority, as my peers in line scoffed “I wonder why so many people are going to Boston for New Years.” At the time, that made sense. I had initially planned to stay in New York, but convenience and fatigue turned the Peter Pan bus line into an inexpensive and only slightly sketchy hotel. I knew vaguely that there was an arts festival in Boston on December 31 — the so-called “First Night” — and that it had some pretty slick events. I was down, and I was looking forward to sleeping in a bed that belonged to me.

What I discovered was the best-kept secret Boston ever had to offer.

The festival consisted of nearly twelve hours of events, accessible for nothing more than an $18 button. Fare ranged from family activities to face-melting concerts for even the most selective music listeners (see the review on Hiromi’s SonicBloom).

Before making my way to the Berklee Performance Center, I had the pleasure of seeing “Aurelia’s Oratorio,” produced by Aurelia Thierree and the American repertory theatre. Thierree’s brilliant technical work created an astounding, fantastic atmosphere, which translated as part circus, part magic act: a whirlwind of absurdity and impossibility. I walked out reminded of why live theatre lives on.

Afterward, I made my way to Hiromi. Enough said.

I spent the final hours of 2008 listening to Black Taxi on the Common, and then heading over to a dance party and countdown in front of the Boston Public Library (making good use of the free evening subway rides, courtesy of Mayor Menino). What astounded me was how friendly everyone in Boston seemed after my brief trip to New York. People don’t have urban dance parties the way they do here. Instead, they freeze their noses at Times Square and go home.

I guess I remembered why I like this city so much.

There were also brass bands, improv comedy troupes (from the likes of Improv Boston and Improv Asylum), Shakespearean sonnets and scenes from the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, as well as ice sculpture displays. A fireworks show was tentatively scheduled, but canceled due to weather.

So if you find yourself in Boston in the final hours of 2009, don’t despair. Rejoice. There’s a whole lot more party in this city then New York would like to admit.