The Heavy Pets at The Westcott Theater, November 30

As Syracuse greeted its familiar friend, snow, back for a season of lake-effect whiteouts and heavy winter coats, The Westcott Theater hosted the return of two performing acts, veterans of Snow City U.S.A., with nearly as much experience in Upstate New York as harsh winter weather, Sophistafunk and The Heavy Pets.

Sophistafunk, a three-piece electric funk group opened the evening to a crowd of dancing and hula-hooping Westcott attendees. Making sure everyone in attendance left the venue considering their money well spent, the trio performed for over an hour, often lengthening their songs as instrumental groves involving solos from multi-instrumentalist Adam Gold and drummer Emanuel Washington. During the prolonged jams, lyricist/vocalist Jack Brown would bust some moves not unlike those demonstrated by audience members making the most of their Friday night. The frontman encouraged the party-like atmosphere, occasionally calling out specific concertgoers on their dancing skills and involving the crowd in mid-song shouts.

Although the entirety of The Heavy Pets’ lineup doesn’t call Upstate New York home, the region was well represented Friday night by the band’s guitarist/singer Jeff Lloyd and keyboardist Jim Wuest. Meeting at Syracuse University over a decade ago, Lloyd and Wuest are veterans of the Upstate music scene, and the band’s reception by Westcott occupants made the Upstate appreciation for The Heavy Pets loud and clear.

Read Johnny Goff’s interview with Jeff Lloyd

Continuing the trend of hula hoopin’ and shoe-shufflin’ from Sophistafunk’s previous set, the crowd found themselves movin’ to The Heavy Pets’ whaling keys and funky guitar riffs. Sharing vocal responsibilities, Lloyd, Wuest and guitarist Mike Garulli, each provided leads and harmonies throughout the show, diversifying the set and demonstrating each member’s musicianship. At one point, Sophistafunk frontman, Jack Brown joined the Heavy Pets, delivering his own style of vocal accompaniment to the Pets’ jams.

The good-time atmosphere associated with bringing friends up on stage stayed prevalent throughout the entire headlining set. As if they were back at school in Syracuse, the band took beers from friends in the crowd between songs and jammed to a venue full of dancing music lovers.

After a band experiences the type of success The Heavy Pets have had throughout their career, a show back where it all started is something special for not only the musicians, but also the fans in attendance. Bands like The Heavy Pets and Sophistafunk represent Upstate New York as they travel all over the country and its nice to get a taste of what they’ve been up to whenever they’re back in town.

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