First Night: Our Guide To The Music, Lights, Acrobatics And Parade

In June, it looked like First Night might not happen when the nonprofit that ran the city’s annual New Year’s Eve festival of music, art, dance and fireworks announced that it was folding because it was basically broke. The following day, the City of Boston announced it would take over leadership of this Dec. 31’s party. So the party’s on.

In addition to the beloved annual parade and fireworks, tomorrow's musical performers include the “Godmother of Punk” Patti Smith, gospel legends the Blind Boys of Alabama, and kids music star Dan Zanes.

Outdoor events are free. Admission to indoor events requires buying a $10 First Night button (children under 4 admitted free) online at or in person at participating Boston-area CVS Stores, Bank of America branches, and cultural institutions. Some musical performances offer special seating for additional fees.

PARADE | Boylston Street, 5:30 p.m.

The theme of this year’s Bank of America Grand Procession (pictured at top) is “Rise and Shine” starring the sun, moon and lights of the city brought to life by the Puppeteers’ Cooperative, Back Alley Puppet Theatre, inflatables, mobile sculptures, drummers, dancers, clowns and Duck Boats.

First Night's midnight fireworks. (Courtesy)
First Night's midnight fireworks. (Courtesy)


Family Fireworks |Boston Common Ballfield, corner of Boylston and Charles streets | 7 p.m.

The Mugar Foundation and Boston 4 Productions present a 10-minute “pyrotechnic extravaganza.”

Midnight Fireworks | Boston Harbor | midnight

Boston 4 Productions lights up the waterfront for the “State Street Corporation Midnight Fireworks."

Ice sculpture at First Night (Courtesy)
Ice sculpture at First Night (Courtesy)

ICE SCULPTURES | Beginning at midday

One of the landmark First Night traditions is ice carving. This year’s frozen creations include a bench, sleigh, family and World Series trophy at Fanueil Hall Marketplace, 1 Fanueil Hall Square; Kraken’s lair at the Boston Common Frog Pond; a lighthouse at District Hall, 75 Northern Ave.; a sailboat at the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, 20 Maverick Square; a replica of the USS Constitution ship in ice at the USS Constitution Museum, Building 22, Charlestown Navy Yard; a ram at Two International Place, corner of Purchase and High streets; and a whale at Boston Long Wharf Marriott Hotel, 296 State St. Additional locations include: Copley Square; the ice rink on Atlantic Avenue in front of the Boston Harbor Hotel, 70 Rowes Wharf; Aragosta Bar & Bistro Patio, 3 Battery Wharf; and Boylston Plaza at the Shops at the Prudential Center.


Dan Zanes and Elizabeth Mitchell | Hynes Convention Center Auditorium, 900 Boylston St. | 1 and 3 p.m.

Cheery music from a couple of the biggest stars of kids—er, all ages—folk music. Zanes has won a Grammy and Mitchell has been nominated for one. Together they released their first collaboration, the album “Turn Turn Turn,” last August.

Blind Boys of Alabama (Courtesy)
Blind Boys of Alabama (Courtesy)

Blind Boys of Alabama with Anais Mitchell | Hynes Convention Center Room Ballroom A (3rd Floor), 900 Boylston St. | 7:30 p.m.

The original members met at the Alabama Institute for the Blind in the 1930s. Now three quarters of a century later, with various lineup changes, the legendary gospel group continues to win accolades—including five Grammys since 2000. “I was born without sight,” founding member Jimmy Carter told Radio Boston in 2012. “I wondered why. I questioned God about that. But I realized why I am like I am. I believe if I had been able to see, I wouldn’t be doing this.” They’re joined by Anais Mitchell, a folk singer with an “arresting girlishness,” according to ARTery contributor Amelia Mason.

Patti Smith (Courtesy)
Patti Smith (Courtesy)

Patti Smith | Hynes Convention Center Auditorium, 900 Boylston St. | 8:30 p.m.

Smith, the “Godmother of Punk” as well as a poet and author of a 2010 National Book Award-winning memoir “Just Kids,” graces Boston with her fiery, passionate, visionary presence. She’s joined by Dean Wareham, formerly of indie legends Luna and Galaxie 500.

Walter Sickert & the ARmy of BRoken Toys | Hynes Convention Center Hall D, 900 Boylston St. | 10 p.m.

Join the Boston “steamcrunk” band as they present a musical “adventure through time and space from Jules Verne to Jim Henson, sliding down the rabbit wormhole like Alice.”

Gentlemen Hall | Liberty Mutual Copley Stage, Copley Square | 11:15 p.m

You’ll recognize the Boston sextet from the appearances of their pop anthem “Sail into the Sun” in Samsung and Target commercials. Spend the last minutes of 2013 listening to their infectious, twinkling, dreamy tunes.


Penrose Triangle | Boston Common | noon to midnight

A 3D optical illusion by Blake Courter and Blake Courtney

First Light Boston: A Flurry of Technological Creativity at Family Fest | Hynes Convention Center Room 201, 900 Boylston St. |1 to 6 p.m. and 7:30 to 11 p.m.

A 15-foot-tall model of the Prudential Tower animated with video projections is one of the interactive and immersive art installations here.

Zebbler Studios Video Mapping Installation | Copley Square | 5 p.m. to midnight

Zebbler Studios, founded by artist Peter “Zebbler” Berdovsky, taps into its kit of physical and software sensors, custom Fourier analysis, lasers and LEDs to project dazzling, kinetic images onto the facade of the Boston Public Library (concept video above).

FIGMENT Boston | Boston Common |7:30 p.m. to midnight

Fire spinners plus 15 interactive art projects.

Tensor | Hynes Convention Center hallway, 900 Boylston St. | 1 to 11 p.m.

Light sculpture by Andrew Bressen.


Simply Circus | Hynes Convention Center Hall D, 900 Boylston St. | 1 and 2:15 p.m.

Watch and learn all about gym wheels, tight wire, aerial lyra, and other circus arts. Then try it yourself. For ages 3 and older.

Airborne Comedians | Hynes Convention Center Ballroom, 900 Boylston St. | 2:30 and 4 p.m.

Airborne Comedians “frantically fling objects at one another” and perform other juggling feats while balanced atop 7-foot-tall unicycles.

Skyriders | Hynes Convention Center Hall D, 900 Boylston St. | 3, 4:15 and 5:15 p.m.

Acrobats who bounce on a trampoline while wearing snowboards and hula-hoops.

Maximum Velocity | Hynes Convention Center Hall D, 900 Boylston St. | 3:45, 4:45 and 5:30 p.m.

A professional cycling and skating team performs stunts from the ground and flips off ramps.

First Night Skating Spectacular | Boston Common Frog Pond | 6 p.m.

Students from the Skating Club of Boston Skating Academy as well as seasoned competitors and champions from the local and national scene perform spins, jumps, lifts and fancy footwork.


Beantown Outloud | Boston Public Library, 700 Boylston St. | 3 p.m.

Readings by bestselling authors Sue Miller (“The Good Mother” and “While I Was Gone”); Chris Castellani (“A Kiss From Maddalena” and “All This Talk of Love”); and WBUR Cognoscenti contributor Steve Almond plus poet Regie Gibson and members of the Grub Street Teen Slam Poetry Team.

Improv Boston | Hynes Convention Center Hall C, 900 Boylston St. | 7:30, 8:45 and 10 p.m.

Comedy troupe builds sketches and songs based on audience suggestions.

Boston Poetry Slam | Hynes Convention Center Room 208, 900 Boylston St. | 7:30, 8:15, 9, 9:45 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.

A live poetry competition—part storytelling, part lyricism, part stand-up comedy—judged by people randomly selected from the audience.

MassMouth Story Slam | Hynes Convention Center Room 207, 900 Boylston St. | 8 and 9:30 p.m.

A live storytelling competition judged for content and performance. Sign up to compete at or at the door.

Laugh Boston Presents | Hynes Convention Center Hall C, 900 Boylston St. | 8:15 and 9:30 p.m.

Humor from Laugh Boston, a stand-up venue that opened in Boston’s North End in September of 2013.

This article was originally published on December 30, 2013.

This program aired on December 30, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

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Greg Cook Arts Reporter
Greg Cook was an arts reporter and critic for WBUR's The ARTery.



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