This fall, after school is in full swing and the August heat subsides, Ithacan band X Ambassadors are bringing a music festival to Stewart Park in Ithaca. Focused on drawing diverse national acts to the town and showcasing music, food and drink in Ithaca, the first Cayuga Sound Festival is set for September 22-23. The Roots will be co-headlining with X Ambassadors, and K.Flay, The Knocks, Margaret Glaspy and Jukebox the Ghost are also on the bill.
The festival is a collaboration between the X Ambassadors, This Fiction artist management and DSP Shows, an Ithaca-based concert promotion and production company formerly known as Dan Smalls Presents. They’re already thinking about the festival in the long-term — “We want to start this small, but eventually grow it into something really special that will draw people from all over the world to see all the incredible things Ithaca has to offer,” said X Ambassadors’ lead vocalist Sam Harris.
While it’s not on the same scale as many major festivals, it’s no small event that they are putting together. They’ve booked 14 artists — a full bill for the 10 hours at Stewart Park — and may add a few more for pre- and post- parties. The lineup is broad and well-rounded, with dance, pop, hip hop and indie well-represented. Several big national names are on the ticket, as well as upcoming artists like K.Flay and Margaret Glaspy, and local performers, like rapper Sammus and soul band Stone Cold Miracle.
According to Seth Kallen, X Ambassadors’ manager at This Fiction and festival organizer, the unifying factor of these acts is that they were “hand-picked” by the X Ambassadors, based on their tastes and experience. Dan Smalls ‘92, founder of DSP Shows, echoed this, adding that “a festival works better when it’s curated by the artists.”
The main event is Saturday, when there will be two stages in Stewart Park, with staggered set times for live music, almost without interruption, from noon to 10 p.m. There are more events with VIP tickets, including dinner at Ithaca Beer Company, shows at The Haunt and The Dock on Friday night and even talks and seminars, no less, about the music industry. The VIP tickets are structured differently than a lot of major festivals by adding more niche events to the weekend.
Though Stewart Park itself is large enough to support the event, parking and transportation are limited. The event organizers are working on this, saying they have planned for buses from downtown, and are considering busing from college campuses and designated off-site parking areas. The buses will be free to and from the festival, according to Dan Smalls ‘92, founder of DSP Shows.
X Ambassadors and DSP Shows both conveyed that the festival was largely about giving back to the Ithaca community. Smalls said that talks about the festival started because “the band owes a lot to Ithaca and wanted to give back.” They’re planning to do so by bringing national touring acts to the city, featuring local eateries and supporting local nonprofit organizations. They have outlined some of the nonprofits they are planning to support, such as Friends of Stewart Park and The Ithaca Youth Bureau, but not how much of the money they earn will be donated.
The festival is open to all ages and children under five years old enter free. In addition to the Friday seminars and shows, VIP tickets include access to special parking, bathrooms and a viewing area with a bar. General Admission tickets will cost about $60, while VIP tickets will cost over $200. All tickets go onsale March 31.
Katie Sims is a freshman in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org