The Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department hosts Downtown Countdown, a free outdoor New Year’s Eve celebration concert, in downtown Gainesville Saturday, Dec. 31 at 9 p.m. at Bo Diddley Plaza. Headlining the concert are The Couch Messiahs, who will play tribute to the music of numerous rock ‘n’ roll all-star bands including The Allman Brothers, The Band, Bob Dylan, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Neil Young and The Rolling Stones.
Over the years, Mick Marino, a local musician who leads The Couch Messiahs, has organized tribute concerts for each of these bands especially for the “Free Fridays” Concert Series. According to David Ballard, coordinator for “Free Fridays” and the Downtown Countdown, “These tribute shows have been some of the most popular concerts at “Free Fridays” each drawing some of the largest audiences each season. The musical quality of these shows has been extraordinary and it seemed a natural fit to highlight them all at our Downtown Countdown.”
The Couch Messiahs were formed in 2007 in Gainesville by Mick Marino (lead vocals, lead guitar). Marino, has played music with various bands in the Gainesville community for more than 40 years. He also has been the organizer and promoter of the annual GramFest, which celebrates the music of country rock inventor Gram Parsons, since 1999. Bill Kellogg (drums) was a member of The Berkley Five, who had a Florida regional single “You’re Gonna Cry" in 1965. He was also a member of the Gonzo Gator Band for many years. Kenny Shore (bass guitar and vocal harmonies) previously played with many local bands, including The Archer Road Band and Skatterbrainz, and has opened for the legendary B.B. King. Paul Goble (lead guitar) also plays with the R. Mutt Blues Band.
Popular local band Wild Blue Yonder opens the tribute concert at 9 p.m. Wild Blue Yonder was formed in 2015 by Allan Lowe and Jeff Sims. Recent additions include Jim Millsaps (drums) and Frank Velosi (bass). Lowe, Sims and Millsaps are all formerly of the popular band Dixie Desperados. Formed in 1976 in Gainesville, Florida, Dixie Desperados toured the southeastern U.S. roadhouse circuit and as openers/co-headliners for The Allman Brothers, Axe, Molly Hatchet, The Charlie Daniels Band, Henry Paul Band, Johnny Winter, Three Dog Night, Grinderswitch, Louisiana Leroux, Doc Holliday, Winters Brothers, Johnny Van Zant Band, Pat Travers and more as they played their brand of southern country rock. Combining classic rock ‘n’ roll hits from other artists, along with their own special blend of original songs, Wild Blue Yonder enjoys a multi-generational audience at their shows.
Downtown Countdown 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, which are passed out to the audience earlier in the evening.
The 2016/17 Downtown Countdown is sponsored by classic rock radio station WIND-FM (92.5, 95.5, 107.9).
The Downtown Countdown is produced by the City of Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department, and is funded in part by a grant from Culture Builds Florida. Downtown Countdown is located at the Bo Diddley Plaza, 111 E. University Ave. in downtown Gainesville. For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact David Ballard at 352-393-8746.