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Every December 31, downtown Gainesville rocks as revelers prepare to ring in the New Year with a live concert starting at 9 pm. The countdown to the New Year at midnight is celebrated with great music, free noisemakers, lively dancing and spirited camaraderie.
They are a nine-piece Motown soul band built on a foundation of blues, soul, jazz, rock ’n’ roll, punk and ska. In 2015, the band released the EP “Sunday Best,” which followed the release of 2014’s full-length LP “Downtown Sound.” The band performed at the Red Gorilla Festival at South by Southwest in 2017, and they have shared the stage with acts such as Charles Bradley, The Original Wailers, Thomas Wynn & The Believers and Selwyn Birchwood.
According to the band, “Soul music, like all great American popular music, is the blues cleaned up for a specific audience. In this case, divorced from its rigid 12-bar structure and filtered through jazz with a healthy dollop of rock ‘n’ roll, it retains its gritty heart but moves from the delta into the city as dance music. The Savants of Soul, in this tradition of genre melding, have taken southern deep soul and seasoned it with Motown, added some punk energy, jazz and modern R&B to end up with a sound that reveres its traditions without slavishly emulating them. The Savants of Soul are here to spread their gospel their way.”
The Savants of Soul are Justin McKenzie (lead vocals), Austin Van Wie (guitar), John Gray Shermyen (bass), Zack Emerson (keyboards), Alex Klausner (drums), Mandy Moo (trumpet/vocals), Jason Beverung (trombone), Jordan Jones (tenor saxophone) and Ray Vigil (baritone saxophone).
The Duppies are a high-powered, seven-piece band formed in Gainesville in 2004. Since that time, this popular ska, rocksteady and reggae band has received the attention of audiences beyond the local scene by touring throughout the United States. Band members include The Duppies founder, Brian Hiebel (lead vocals/percussion), Tony Farah (bass), Ryan Bonner (keyboards), Daniel Kinney (drums), Chris Chiares (guitar) and Jose Pineiro (sax/backing vocals).
Ska music was born in Jamaica in the 1950s, predating rocksteady and reggae. It combines the Jamaican folk music styles mento and calypso with jazz and R&B. Ska frequently resurfaces in popular culture infused with different music genres. One of the most successful recent combinations is ska and punk, which achieved its greatest popularity in the 1990s. In the mid-1960s, ska transformed into the more sophisticated sounding rocksteady, which emphasized a heavy base line and finally, by the end of the decade, into the more familiar reggae form.
The band’s name is taken from the Jamaican word duppy, which in Jamaican folklore is described as “an unruly spirit risen from a consecrated grave; a ghost; a poltergeist.” The Duppies say their music has been known to send audiences into “frenetic dancing spasms that can only be described as musical convulsions of the soul.”