Son Quatro at Emilio's
Call it practice for the big night. No doubt wherever you end up on New Year's Eve, you'll find yourself shuffling across a floor with someone, mumbling something about stamp collections while trying to stay in step. How your make-out chances suffer! So consider visiting with salsa maestros Son Quatro the night before, Saturday, Dec. 30. These captains of rhythm will guide your stamp-collecting self through a half-hour of dance lessons before the show, investing, with any luck, in your future success. It gets started at 10 p.m. $5. 359-1224.
Robert Parker Vaughan at Hyperlink Café
A young singer-songwriter with potent hair, Vaughan finishes out his year with the release of his EP "Glitterbaby." Divining his influences is like reading the old bones: slow, melodic pop that veers into a toothy country sound just before getting too sweet. Lyrically, there is romance and meditation, but it's his weird noir moments girls with guns and unexpected bursts of minor vulgarity that really give "Glitterbaby" some color. The show is Friday, Dec. 29, at 7 p.m. 254-1942.
Tattoo Red at Babes and Ironhorse
The acoustic trio, like any three-legged stool, had better be well-built, else everyone's going to end up on their asses. So 3 Tattoo Red, whose legs are vocalist Julia Dooley, singer and guitarist Ames Arnold, and mandolinero Tripp Johnson, balances voices and instruments to make a stool that looks a lot like the blues and sounds a lot like harmony. They get out there and perform arrangements by Gram Parsons, Dusty Springfield, Robert Johnson and others for two shows, Dec. 29 at Babes of Carytown (8-11 p.m. $5. 355-9330), and Dec. 30 at Ironhorse in Ashland (8 p.m. Free. 752-6410).
Doug Clark's Hot Nuts at Alley Katz
As if to remind us that though time progresses, the world gets no more mature, Doug Clark's Hot Nuts with John Clark, the perennial frat boys, come once again, regular as the unfortunate New Year's hook-up, to funnel filthy humor, in the form of R&B, into your ear holes. What they've done for college parties in the last 50 years is hard to measure, but it seems sure that they've held us all back from evolving. And with such strong harmonies, singing about those testicles and what-all. They play Saturday, Dec. 30, 9 p.m.-1 a.m. $8-$10. 643-2816.
Last Train Home at Ashland Coffee & Tea
OK, one more seasonal staple, should the melodic sex talk of Doug Clark's boys not do it for you. There's always Last Train Home, perennial country boys, crossing the land of Americana one last time this year with their big roots sound. It's all pedal steel and trumpet and wild strings, something well-worn and familiar to carry you into the New Year. They play Ashland Saturday, Dec. 30, at 8 p.m. $12. 798-1702.