Black Thought onstage as The Roots close out the first Cayuga Sound Festival.

(Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor)

Black Thought onstage as The Roots close out the first Cayuga Sound Festival.

September 24, 2017

Cayuga Sound Festival Rocks Stewart Park

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Local and national artists came together Saturday at the first Cayuga Sound Festival, delivering quality music to the unique Ithaca community and creating a one-of-a-kind experience that can only be found here in Ithaca.

There was something special about the laid-back attitude of the Ithaca community, the musicians, the familiar location at Stewart Park, and the local businesses selling food. The familiarity and friendliness added comfort to the experience, breaking the stereotype of chaotic music festivals. There were two stages set up next to each other and artists alternated between them. Businesses and radio stations had tents set up along the park, with food trucks serving most of the local food found at the Ithaca Farmer’s Market.

First on the main stage, local post-rock band Imperials kept the crowd growing and satisfied with their driving tunes. Ithaca-based soul band Stone Cold Miracle provided laid-back, swing-influenced sounds that were easy to listen to and enjoy. Izzy True, another of the better-known local bands, kept the friendly energy going and delivered an enjoyable performance to a more unified crowd. Afterwards, Jukebox the Ghost performed new and old songs, along with a cover of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” There was a constant crowd in front of the stage, as well as listeners scattered farther from the stages on picnic blankets and lawn chairs. Next, rapper, producer, activist and PhD student Sammus’s exposed, well-executed and energetic raps could be heard throughout Stewart Park and provided music different to that of the indie and rock music prevalently being played by the rest of the other artists. Regardless, the crowd enjoyed her music. As the pleasant, sunny afternoon wore on, New York City-based Margaret Glaspy’s indie, mellow music and smooth vocals provided a contrast to Sammus’s rugged but pleasant beats.

Unfortunately, one of the bands set to play, The Knocks, had to cancel their set due to a death in their family; nevertheless, the rest of the festival was rearranged seamlessly. Crush Club continued to build up anticipation as the afternoon wore on. Each act kept getting better and better as K. Flay and Savoir Adore delivered solid performances full of passion and excitement. New York City-based singer Tei Shi, also one of the more anticipated acts, met all expectations and left the crowd ready and pumped for the next act, X Ambassadors.

The curators of the music festival, X Ambassadors, were the most anticipated act of the day for many and did not disappoint. The crowd screamed and clapped as lead singer Sam Harris and Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 stood at the front of the stage and thanked all of the people that helped Cayuga Sound happen. The crowd easily sang and swayed along to all their music, as the band delivered a highly energetic and interactive performance. Right before playing their song “Gorgeous,” Sam Harris talked about how “gorges” Ithaca looked as nearly the whole crowd, it seemed like, recorded him on their phones. After playing “Gorgeous,” Harris spoke once more and talked about the way he always “dreamed of having a show like this in my hometown,” then played two unreleased songs, “Joyful” and “Don’t Stay.”

“Joyful” had many similarities to “Unsteady” in that vocals were highly exposed and Casey Harris’s keyboard-playing provided most of the backdrop to Sam Harris’s vocals. However, “Joyful” was far more upbeat and inevitably happy than “Unsteady.” “Don’t Stay” featured the band’s signature bass drum on downbeats, which led the crowd to happily clap along and dance, even if the song had never been played live before. Afterwards, Sam Harris gave a small speech once more and introduced the last song as one “celebrating our differences. What makes each and every one of us unique in this world … You don’t have to be afraid. Not here, not tonight, not ever.” The final song the band played was “Renegade,” which the whole crowd clapped and danced along to. The band then began to leave and the crowd began to yell out for an encore. Unsurprisingly, X Ambassadors returned and played “Torches” for an enthusiastic and emotional audience.

After X Ambassadors left the stage and The Roots set up for their show, Myrick came back onstage to talk about the process of getting The Roots to perform at Cayuga Sound. The Roots began to play and the energy and dancing was more intense than with the X Ambassadors. The Roots’ sousaphone, saxophone and trumpet players to create the jazz and hip-hop fusion they’re known for, which the audience easily danced to. When the energy seemed to be getting low with the musicians playing long improv solos, they began to loop a riff of their solo and add instruments and a beat until they either resumed or started a song. This went on until the end of the festival, leaving everyone happy and excited.

A public space goes under drastic transformation to accommodate any sort of crowd, and Stewart Park was no exception. I expected it to feel “disrupted” by so much sound, but it was enjoyable, and the music felt genuine. Seeing the Ithaca community so unified and knowing that most of the festival was “home-grown” incited a greater appreciation for the diversity and quality of music Ithaca has to offer.

Viri Garcia is a sophomore in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at vgarcia@cornellsun.com