A New Age, A New Year -welcoming 2013

by Rebecca Austin
A New Year’s Eve Celebration wouldn’t be right unless of course you had an insane amount of noisemakers, balloons and confetti plus 40 bottles of champagne thanks to the good people at Underbelly. Along with Warner Brothers Studio for the Gangster Squad party favors, they set the night’s party scene with the release of the film properly named Gangster Squad. Not that this comes as a surprise, but the New Year’s celebration always seems to bring out the wild and crazy out of people. With the collaboration of Warner Brothers and the release of their new film, Gangster Squad, people were dressed head to toe in the common NYE attire of black and gold with some giving off there best impression of “gangster”.
The night, beginning early with Jackie Stranger, that consisted of lead singer Jack Ringca’s angelic vocals, which gave a soulful and romantic twist on rock and roll. Not shy of being overly honest about the stories behind the music, whether true or false, the songs played made the crowd feel both at home and wanting more. After two “Good and Soda’s” – an Underbelly local favorite drink, it was impossible to feel alone on New Years Eve with these guys starting the night off right, giving everyone a chance to fall in love with music and find a beat to dance to.
Twenty minutes before 10, Underbelly began to pop with people ranging from mid sixties to early twenties along side older locals that are no stranger to Underbelly’s eclectic music scene. The night began to unravel its identity with the well-established and locally known band DigDog. Jamming fan favorites that had the crowd mouthing words to songs like, “You Owe Me A Dollar” and “Captain Computer” just to name a few. The band was established in 2009 and has grown to be a hard funky rock band that is not scared to let their inner wild children loose. Giving the lyrics a mind of their own with the loud vocals of Brad Metz and hard drums brought to you by Jack Ringca, along with crushing bass riffs by Steve Ezell who practically melted the strings right off. This band was kicking ass and taking names to put it softly.
The accumulation of good looking people, music and drinks set the mood just right for when the ball dropped and everyone smooched with their “one and onlys” even if they were just that for the night.
At 11, Antique Animals started their set with the edgy lead vocals of Joseph Schuck, whose suspenders and bowtie made just the right feel for the wannabe gangster in all of us. These guys are known for making the crowd dance their faces off with their original lyrics and outstanding instrumentation. With Sergio Valdes’ trumpet solos absolutely killing mixed with Dan Hunting’s incendiary guitar playing, these guys are a freight train of sound that would mow anyone down. As Boff would say “I am just the bassist of the band” but as anyone in the crowd watching, his hair flowing to the rhythm of the music is a spectacle in itself. Taking a step back from present tense, when Dan Hunting played the slide guitar, it made the music feel as though it was running through your veins at an impeccable pace. Making the crowd dance is one thing, but to make a room spin back to the good ole days with a nostalgic mix of blues and rock is a delicious dish for the senses. It was impossible to stop dancing after the champagne bottles were passed around and the night was finished with celebrity DJ Jessica Lauretti from “This Frontier Needs Heroes” and VICE magazine.
Bringing in 2013 will be remembered to most as just another flip in the calendar day, but for those who celebrated downtown at Underbelly, it will be remembered as one heck of a dance party. The music scene and beautiful people of Jacksonville can be reassured that downtown is on the up and up for the center of the place to be. If you’re not involved in it yet, you should do yourself a favor and get with the program, you will surely not regret it.