Better Late
Derek Rippe

Better Late

TUES, 1/4

I worked for years in the retail world, where the general atmosphere always builds to an apocalyptic frenzy in December. Then there's the day-after sale and, after that, inventory to be taken. No rest for the weary. Even after I retired to a behind-the-scenes buying job in the same industry, I was still thrust back onto the floor come December, in order to get to know my customers. At their very worst, I might add. And though it's been a long time since I toiled so, I still feel a bit guilty about getting to take time off during the holiday season.

It's surely much the same for the hardworking restaurant and club workers who so subtly keep the wheels turning smoothly every New Year's Eve while the rest of us are so damned busy donning lamp shades and spilling champagne down our neighbor's décolletage as we greet the unfurling annum. I, for one, take my lamp shade off to them.

Tonight's Industry New Year's Eve Party at the Martini Ranch, the upscale burger palace and cocktail haven newly opened at 1317 14th Street in Larimer Square, delivers appropriate homage beginning tonight at 8 p.m. They'll serve up the usual New Year's hoopla, including a countdown and ball drop at midnight. So what if the calendar says it's January 4? Admission is $25; call 303-534-6100. -- Susan Froyd

Desert Passage
FRI, 12/31

Resolve to reset your karma for the new year while sipping the "nectar of devotion" pouring forth from sitar pluckers Bhakti Rasa at the Arabian Nights Masquerade 2004 tonight at Rock Island. DJs Yahya and Milk will stream transcendental tunes while artist Erik Rieger chisels live sculpture and tummy-savant Sadie belly-dances through the temple of sound. Party patrons are encouraged to drape themselves in harem pants, headdresses and loincloths for this Shiva-approved affair. The faithful can pay $10 for advance tickets at SpiritWays, 3301 East Colfax Avenue, or $12 at Rock Island's door, 1614 15th Street. Portals for the 21-and-over soiree open at 9 p.m., with a complimentary champagne toast at midnight. For details, call 303-572-ROCK or visit -- Kity Ironton

Happenin' Happening
A Factory-direct NYE affair
FRI, 12/31

While the Beatles were mucking about on their magical mystery tour and Engelbert Humperdinck was dancing his last waltz, the boho kids of underground Manhattan were frolicking in a psychedelic silver wonderland know as The Factory. Its reflective walls beamed with artist Andy Warhol's ultraviolet femmes fatales, while whiplash children purred to the black-eyeliner-clad beat of the Velvet Underground. Tonight, the Hipster Youth Halfway House invites you to a New Year's Eve taste of Warhol's superstardom scene at All Tomorrow's Parties, featuring a full cast of locals strumming in tribute to the band.

Members of Pinku, Call Sign Cobra, Pacific Pride and the May Riots will be in attendance as the fully costumed Velvets, with DJs David Kerr and Michael filling in on the turntables. "We want to bring the Factory experience to New Year's Eve," says Hipster Youth's Moses Montalvo, "so people should bring their platinum wigs, silver sunglasses, aloof attitudes and blank stares."

All Tomorrow's Parties starts at 9 p.m. at the hi-dive, 7 South Broadway. Superstars must be 21 or over; the $6 cover includes a free champagne toast at midnight. Call 720-570-4500 or visit --Kity Ironton

Nuba Year's Eve
The cool cafe kindles Kwanzaa
FRI, 12/31

Step aside, Dick Clark. Cafe Nuba, the monthly poetry and performance rap, is decked out with principle and prose for tonight's Cafe Nuba: Kwanzaa Edition. It's the first time the five-year-old spoken-word series has shared a date with the holiday -- specifically, the night on which Kuumba, or Creativity, is showcased. "We want to enjoy Kwanzaa, honor our culture and heritage, and then perpetuate it in the community," says Nuba's Ashara Ekundayo. "This is social change, and Cafe Nuba is a consciousness-raising activity."

Alongside emcees Isis and Dominique, Ekundayo will host the evening with a ceremonial lighting of the menorah-like kinara, followed by a traditional Kwanzaa feast, African drumming and the reading of poetry written by incarcerated African-Americans. Nuba devotees can rejoice in the familiar fare of the open mike, with DJ K-Nee and house band Dragonfly filling in the gaps. "We're going to still do it like we do every month," Ekundayo says. "Hot, black, funky and fly."

Cafe Nuba: Kwanzaa Edition will be held from 8 p.m. to midnight at Blackberries Espresso Cafe & Ice Cream Salon, 710 East 26th Avenue. The smoke-, alcohol- and censorship-free Cafe Nuba is open to all ages; admission is $10 or a donation of African-American hair- or skin-care products for the Gathering Place. Call 303-298-8188 or visit -- Kity Ironton


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