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So Long, 2004 

Celebrate city-style at First Night in the Grand Center Arts District

Promise yourself: This will not be another typically lame New Year's Eve. Don't waste the last night of the year waiting for Dick Clark's ball to drop, especially since it will be tended to by Regis Philbin this year. Don't spend these precious final hours staring at a bar full of strangers, searching for that magical midnight kiss that never comes. If you've had a good 2004, you deserve a better New Year's Eve. If not, you need a better New Year's Eve.

Wouldn't it be nice to wake up without a hangover on January 1? Maybe a clean and sober start would bring all kinds of karmic rewards your way in 2005. Stand straight, and stand proud at First Night Saint Louis, the alcohol-free, arts-oriented New Year's Eve bash presented by Celebrate 2004 in the Grand Center Arts District.

Only a diseased maniac would try to cram the entire First Night schedule into this tiny space, but a few highlights couldn't possibly hurt anyone. Want to hear some live music? Looking for the psychedelic thrills evoked by this year's "Lights... Color...Action" theme? Got kids? Brother, have we got some suggestions for you.

Rock in the new year: OK, so rock is about the only musical style not represented at First Night. But with choices from blues piano legend Johnnie Johnson (9:30 p.m. at the Sheldon Concert Hall, 3648 Washington Boulevard) to the salsa and merengue of El Caribe Tropical (10 p.m. at the Busch Student Center, 20 North Grand Boulevard), from bluegrass Americana by Lonesome Pines (6:30 p.m. at the Sheldon) to a Eurodisco record spin by DJ Baron (9 p.m. at Le Continental, 3615 Olive Street), only the most rockist black-clad snob could fail to be entertained. And it's all over by 11:30 p.m., leaving you time for loud guitars at the dingy club of your choice.

Hear the taste of purple: With the "Lights...Color...Action" theme, First Night aims to alter your headspace without the benefit of chemicals. The Nuclear Percussion Ensemble promises mind-altering Afro-Cuban polyrhythms at 6:30 p.m. on the main stage (at Grand and Lindell boulevards). During Art in Action (8 and 10 p.m.; main stage), Brian Olsen paints action portraits of celebrities and "top corporate heads" with an assortment of implements and body parts, choreographed to music. Buy a pair of $2 neon gloves from the information tent, and be a part of the "Color Waves" at 9 p.m. and midnight. And blast off to the colorsphere with the midnight fireworks show.

Bring the parents: Your family-friendly frolic starts at 6 p.m. with longtime storyteller Bobby Norfolk at the Busch Student Center. Stick around for Piwacket Theatre's 7 p.m. presentation of SnowMan's Revenge, a "bluesy winter musical." Then swing by Strauss Park at 8 p.m. (southeast corner of Grand and Washington boulevards) for a Chinese Lion Dance presented by the Oriental Martial Arts Society. After a quick face-painting at 512 North Grand Boulevard, look east for the early fireworks display, launched at 8:40 p.m. from the parking garage at Olive Street and North Compton Avenue for the benefit of the early-to-bed set.

And there's so much more, all free, all within a few Midtown blocks. See for yourself at or call 314-289-8121. Neither Dick nor Regis has to know.

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