The Downtown Countdown New Year’s Eve Celebration Concert Welcomes 2016


The City of Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department hosts Downtown Countdown, an outdoors New Year’s Eve celebration concert, in downtown Gainesville Thursday, Dec. 31 at 9 p.m. Headlining the concert is Heavy Petty. Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Famer Tom Petty is one of the most famous musicians to hail from Gainesville, Florida. Heavy Petty is Gainesville’s own Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers tribute band. The band first played on Valentine's night in 2010 at Common Grounds in downtown Gainesville. Since then, the five-piece rock ‘n’ roll band has played many different events and venues in and around Gainesville. Heavy Petty prides itself in playing Tom Petty songs with attention paid to strict interpretation, but also in being able to rock out, have a lot of fun and get the crowd involved.

The Downtown Countdown concert will be one of the rare opportunities to see a Heavy Petty tribute concert in the near future. The band will still play an occasional Tom Petty tribute, but is concentrating on original material which they play under the name Hedges. Jason Hedges is the front man for both bands, taking on the role of Tom Petty in the tribute. He is also the lead singer of Hedges. Hedges is a natural entertainer, and easily gets crowds riled up and singing along.  He leads the band by drawing on a vocal style surprisingly similar to Tom Petty.  Other members of the band include Daniel App (lead guitar/backing vocals), Drew Doerr (bass/backing vocals), Logan Fischer (drums) and Stu Strome (keyboards). Also joining Heavy Petty for the Downtown Countdown concert will be Brian Stevens (trombone) and Andy Lawniczak (trumpet). The concert will also feature some of Hedges’ original songs, and they plan to release a Hedges album later this year. The band will also play some popular covers by other artists.

Opening for Heavy Petty is the local group The Duppies. 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), Blaine Garvin (guitar/backing vocals), Patrick Oberlin (trumpet/trombone) 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.”

Downtown Countdown has a new location this year due to the closure of the Bo Diddley Community Plaza for renovations. The concert will be held in parking lot no. 10 at the corner of Southwest Second Avenue and Southwest Second Street in downtown Gainesville on the city’s new mobile stage. This is the same location that the Union Street Farmers Market occupies on Wednesdays, and is across the street from the Southwest Downtown Parking Garage. The public is encouraged to bring chairs, as there is no existing seating at this temporary site.

The free concert begins at 9 p.m. and continues until midnight when there will be a countdown to the New Year, along with the sounds of noisemakers passed out to the audience earlier in the evening.

The 2015 Downtown Countdown is sponsored by classic rock radio station WIND-FM (92.5, 95.5, 107.9).

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact David Ballard at 352-393-8746.