The It List special: Five things to do in Berkeley over the holidays

The Mark Morris Dance Group in The Hard Nut for Cal Performances at Zellerbach Hall. Not your grandmother’s Nutcracker. Photo: Julieta Cervantes

THE HARD NUT If you want to start the holidays off right, what could be better than a Nutcracker? As you probably know (and if you don’t, you should), Mark Morris has a different take on the classic Tchaikovsky ballet. Think go-go boots, dancing G.I. Joes, gender-bending snowflakes, and a spirited, slightly out-of-control family Christmas party. The Hard Nut has been entertaining holiday crowds for 25 years and it’s back in Berkeley for Cal Performances after a five-year hiatus. Friday, Dec. 22, 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 23, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 24, 3 p.m., Zellerbach Hall.

CALIFORNIA HONEYDROPS How’s this for an origin story? The California Honeydrops’ guitarist and trumpeter Lech Wierzynkski and drummer Ben Malament got their start busking in an Oakland BART station. Now they’re known for their vibrant energy and infectious dance-party vibes. The Honeydrops draw on diverse musical influences, from Bay Area R&B, funk, Southern soul, Delta blues, and New Orleans second-line. According to the UC Theatre, where the Honeydrops will be doing a New Year’s Eve gig, they “don’t just play music – they throw parties.” The band’s “shared vision and purpose remain: to make the audience dance and sing.” Sounds right for a New Year’s Eve party. Sunday, Dec. 31, 8 p.m., UC Theatre, 2036 University Ave.

PETE ESCOVEDO Go Latin jazz for New Year’s Eve at the Freight. Percussionist and bandleader Pete Escovedo (left) will be heading his eponymous orchestra with its high-energy Latin jazz. The dance floor will be open and tickets include a complimentary finger food buffet before the show and a glass of champagne at midnight. In addition to Escovedo, FLO – Funky Latin Orchestra – and the Latin Jazz Youth Orchestra of San Francisco will be performing. The evening is emceed by KCSM’s Jesse “Chuy” Varela. Sunday, Dec. 31, 9 p.m., Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse, 2020 Addison St.

BACK ROOM The Back Room has both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day scheduled. Bluegrass lovers can celebrate New Year’s Eve with High Country, Dix Bruce and Julie Cline, and Hurricane Sam Rudin. High Country is one of the West Coast’s premier traditional bluegrass bands, influenced by the classic styles of Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs and the Stanley Brothers. Bruce and Cline sing and play a combination of Americana and original compositions. And Hurricane Sam, owner of the Back Room, will be sure to have you stomping your feet. On New Year’s Day, the Back Room hosts a Power for Puerto Rico benefit with six hours of performances from 15 different artists. The benefit will help the Coqui Solar Project, Puerto Rico’s only community community organized and implemented solar network. New Year’s Eve, Sunday, Dec. 31, 8 p.m., New Year’s Day, Monday, Jan. 1, 12:30 p.m., Back Room, 1984 Bonita Ave.


BALKAN BASH Ashkenaz has made a tradition of a Balkan Bash on New Year’s Eve. This year, the venue will have both Édessa, one of the Bay Area’s premier Balkan dance bands, and Drómeno, a Seattle-based pan-Balkan group. Édessa’s music comes from Albania, Greece, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Armenia, and Turkey, and Balkan Roma (Gypsy). The group has George Chittenden on clarinet, gaida (bagpipe), zurna (shawm), and guitar; Lise Liepman on santouri (hammered dulcimer) and accordion; violinist Ari Langer and percussionist Sean Tergis. Drómeno plays dance music from all over the Balkans, including the driving brass band music from the border of Greece and the former Yugoslavia, the mournful clarinet tunes from Ipiros and Albania, the energetic dance tunes from Greek and Bulgarian Thrace. Christos Govetas (clarinet, bouzouki, zourna, and voice) and Ruth Hunter (accordion and voice) and joined by their children Eleni (doumberleki, defi, drums, sax, zourna and double bass) and Bobby (daouli, drums, trumpet), as well as Nick Maroussis (laouto, guitar, and baglama). Additionally, Peter Lippman and Benji Rifati play trumpet for full-tilt Macedonian brass pieces. Sunday, Dec. 31, 8 p.m., Ashkenaz, 1317 San Pablo Ave.

Also covered on Berkeleyside:

Tom Rozum (reluctantly) in the spotlight