Local act, Sophistafunk, headlines NYE bash at the Landmark Theatre

Just two weeks before graduation, Jack Brown met a pair of musicians who would change his life forever. "I was playing a graduation show at this new place called Funk 'n Waffles and the owner comes on stage with us and he has this vintage clavinette," explained Brown. "He starts playing on it and then he flips the top up and starts making these ambient sounds and I'm like, who is this is this funky dude?" The dude was Adam Gold, a Syracuse alumnus who had just opened a cafe on the SU hill that featured live eclectic acts. Gold had recently made the acquaintance of a drummer who had moved to Syracuse, by way of Tennessee, to be a part of the New York music scene. "Every Tuesday night we would meet up at Funk 'n Waffles," recalled percussionist Emanuel Washington. "And one of those nights Jack came in and he just meshed in with the sound and we went from there." After earning a degree in broadcast journalism from Syracuse University, Brown decided to take a risk on a career with even less certain prospects: he decided to pursue a career in the music industry. "This was pretty radical to my friends and family and everyone who knew me," admitted Brown. "I said, I'm going to roll the dice and see what happens." And thus Sophistafunk, an alternative three-member act that blurs the lines between funk, hip hop and jazz, was formed. "I like to think of music very texturally," said Gold. "You'll notice in our group there's no guitar player, there's no bass player, there are no stringed instruments, which is a really classic sound for a band. Instead I'm doing those two roles with a keyboard and synthesizer. It's kind of reminiscent of The Doors. It's retro and new at the same time. I think it makes the texture of our sound very unique compared to a lot of other music." Sophistafunk's influences span genres and generations. A confluence of iconic musicians like James Brown, Sublime and Daft Punk can be heard on tracks like, "Tell My Baby" and "Lyrical Guide" while Brown's uplifting lyrics in songs like "Listen Up" and "Hard Enough" echo the hip hop of the bygone Slick Rick era. "Overtime we've become desensitized to music with such negative messages that it's almost become shocking to hear something like this music that actually makes you feel good about yourself," said Brown. Seven years, multiple US cities and a European tour later, and Sophistafunk is thrilled to have the chance to perform in the city where it all started this New Year's Eve. "It hits us on a few levels," said Gold. "A lot of times we're still on tour so to be able to be back in our hometown playing for the people of Syracuse on New Year's Eve is just incredible in itself. But to be in this gilded, grandiose venue that is the Landmark Theatre and to hear it's sold out and we'll be playing in front of over 400 people is just the icing on the cake." This is the third consecutive year that the New Year's Eve event, hosted by local non-profit 40 Below, has sold out.