Tucked away in a side street off the Ithaca Commons is the new Wildfire Lounge. The exposed brick walls and industrial piping that greet you after you walk up the steps to the bar seem out of place in a décor marked by mini-chandeliers and couches with oversized pillows. This was the perfect venue to see Why the Wires and A Sunny Day in Glasgow, who played the Lounge last Sunday night. Both bands took traditional genres of music and added their own style and flavor to it, although one group had more success than the other.
Opening the show was local Ithaca band Why the Wires, which featured the traditional rock instrumentation of guitars and drums set, plus added drums, xylophone, accordion, saxophone and electric violin. The band started off without an introduction, playing abstract music that could have been an extension of their sound check. As their set went on however, they seemed to fall more into a traditional sound, albeit one that seemed to contradict itself.
Perhaps because of the seemingly random instrument additions, the group seemed to be at odds with itself, with two different sounds battling it out onstage. In one corner was the instrumental rhythm and harmony section, which brought forth a strong sound that was fuzzy and layered, while remaining catchy. In the other corner was the vocalist/ guitarist, who seemed to be in his own world in which he led a trashing hardcore band where harsh vocals and high energy jumps reigned supreme. This bipolarity caused a split in the sound that seemed to drain the power from their music, leading to the conclusion that the group should have picked one sound and stuck to it.
In the midst of a tour taking them to college towns across the country were headliners A Sunny Day in Glasgow. Their name is exceptionally fitting for these Philadelphia experimentalists, who draw inspiration from the from the fuzzed-out noise of Glasgow bands like the Jesus and Mary Chain, but add a distinctly sunshine pop twist to the music. From the start of their show, each sound seemed to be battling the others to take center stage. Instead of devolving into chaos though, the band confidently wrangled this tension, creating a fusion where the instruments complemented, rather than dominated, each other.
The group’s sound was built on the dichotomy between the soaring vocals from their two frontwomen, coupled with the experimentalist electronics, and the discordant melodies of the guitars and bass. The six-person act seemed to be in control of this throughout their entire set, creating a buzz that reverberated and filled up the entire packed space, with sound hitting the ears from all angles. As the night went on though, the band revealed that at their core they were a pop/rock act. As they stripped away the electronics, the sound became more focused on the interplay between the guitars, drums and vocals, shedding light on the straight-ahead pop core of the music. The power of the group’s scratchy pop sound, combined with a distorted guitar crunch and shouts of jubilation, paid homage to their name in a way that was respectful and respectable.