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Ring it in right

The most joyous Tacoma band, the Cutwinkles, saves New Year's Eve from itself

For the Cutwinkles, the audience may be the fourth member. Photo credit:

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Last week, famed Genesis drummer and frontman Phil Collins took to Twitter with a suggestion of how to ring in the New Year. He said that, if you start listening to "In the Air Tonight" on New Year's Eve at 11:56:40 p.m., that iconic drum break will start at precisely the time midnight rolls around. "Start your new year off right," he said, because Phil Collins has a heart that beats, just like the rest of us. It was a good-natured bit of viral self-promotion from the man that brought us DukeInvisible Touch, and the best scene in American Psycho. Best of all, it was a tip for how to spend Dec. 31 that doesn't involve leaving your house to endure the crushing disappointment that is the worst holiday of the year.

Alright, look: I have never minced words when it comes to how I feel about New Year's Eve as a holiday. This is a celebration that only exists to rend your dreams asunder, leaving you a broken shell of your former self as a new year of pummeling mediocrity looms menacingly on the horizon. Even if you're not bothered by the existential dread of New Year's Eve, it just stands to reason that a party that's been built up for 365 days can only ever emerge as a colossal dud. Add to that the seemingly sadistic tradition of finding someone to kiss as the ball drops, and it definitely begins to feel like a conspiracy designed around the desire to make you -- yes, specifically, you -- unhappy. It's a garbage holiday for garbage people, and I won't hear another word about it.

All of that having been said, if you were to venture out on New Year's Eve, I can't think of a much better way to celebrate than with a Tacoma institution that remains the most purely joyous band in town. I speak, of course, of the Cutwinkles. I've written for this fine rag for nearly nine years, and the Cutwinkles have been around for nearly 15 years, so naturally I've had an opportunity to write about them several times. For the uninitiated, the Cutwinkles is a group that was formed by some friends during their tenure at the Tacoma School of the Arts, and exists now, and for a long time, in this formation: Mike Kopf on guitar, Louis Messina on keys, and Chuck Scheuerman on drums.

As for the fourth member of the Cutwinkles, if we're being cliché, that might well be the audience; this is a party band, if there ever was one, and the crowd's feedback and enjoyment of the show is an invaluable component of the experience. The Cutwinkles, after all, have barely released any recorded material in the 15 years of their existence, but do semi-regularly slay dragons in the course of their live shows. It's not uncommon for the Cutwinkles to pull out all the stops for a gig, putting together roof-raising sets that mix original songs with ringer covers like "The Final Countdown" and Cee-Lo Green's "F@#* You." A couple years ago, for a New Year's Eve performance of theirs -- a relatively new tradition for the band -- they busted out a legitimate laser light show.

This is a band that is obsessed with video games, pop-punk and reveling in the giddiness of experiencing live music with other drunken revelers. A delicate balance is struck between their highly proficient musicianship and the "f@#* it" attitude of three friends doing what they do best. New Year's Eve sucks, and you'll never convince me otherwise, but the Cutwinkles do more than their share in making it a little sweeter.

Cutwinkles, 9 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 31, no cover, Half Pint, 2710 6th Ave., Tacoma, 253.272.2531

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