For a lot of Cornellians, Slope Day is the last concert of the year. The barely-remembered boozefest marks not only the end of classes, but also the last display of musical talent before we head out separate ways for summer. Yet up here on the Hill, we tend to forget that Ithaca, not to mention the rest of Central New York, plays host to a vibrant music scene that really gets going once the snow clears up. If you’re one of the lucky few spending the next three months here, gear up for a concert-heavy summer on the shores of Cayuga. So while you’re slurring the words to “Hangover,” remember that Taio Cruz isn’t the best Ithaca has to offer.
To the surprise of pretty much no one, Central New York entertainment in the next few months will be dominated by Dan Smalls Presents. A local promoter that can seemingly do no wrong, DSP has provided a jaw-dropping summer series with something to please everyone.
The post-Taio season kicks off with two stellar Ithaca shows on Sunday night. Brooklyn-based psych rockers Bear in Heaven will headline The Haunt in support of their upcoming album, while California kings of swing Big Bad Voodoo Daddy will light up The State Theatre at the second annual Benefit My State fundraiser. Then, if you’re one of the lucky few whose finals wrap up early, be sure to trek over to Bethel to catch folk queen Suzanne Vega playing at the site of Woodstock on May 13. It’ll be an evening of good, clean, talented fun — just the thing to wash the taste of that Orgo exam out of your mouth. Forever.
Next, DSP and local music community Ithaca Underground team up to bring Maps & Atlases to The Haunt on May 17. The Chicago four-piece last visited Ithaca in 2009 as Ra Ra Riot’s opener for a sold-out show at Castaways, and they’re finally back to promote last month’s Beware & Be Grateful.
June gets off to a running start when Fleetwood Mac guitarist and singer Lindsey Buckingham headlines an intimate show at The State Theatre on the 8th. Just one week later, it will be time to break out the ol’ short skirt and long jacket combo, because Cake is appearing in Cooperstown. The innovative alt-rockers play the first show of the summer at Brewery Ommegang, the picturesque brewery under the stars. The second half of the month is a musical marathon that begins when indie folk group Bowerbirds plays The Haunt on June 17. The North Carolinian three-piece is touring in support of its emotional third album and it’s sure to be a phenomenal, if heartwrenching, show.
On June 19, baroque pop giant Fiona Apple kicks off her world tour at The State, and Jefferson Airplane spin-off Hot Tuna will occupy the same stage just two days later. Hot Tuna will bring along the unbeatable Steve Kimock for a huge night of pure rock. The month wraps up when emerging folk-punk Southerners Midtown Dickens makes its Ithaca debut at Lot 10.
And then there’s Grassroots. If you’ve ever spoken to a townie (or stepped inside my house) for more than five minutes, you’ve probably heard of the Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance. Billed as a “music lovers’ paradise,” it’s four days of hazy tie-dyed fun and camping in nearby Trumansburg. Grassroots is central to a true Ithacan summer, so expect the usual crowd. Raw vegan yogis, Birk-clad mountain enthusiasts, philosophical stoners — they’ll all be there. Better yet, this year’s lineup features country giant George Jones, T-burg natives Donna the Buffalo, local favorites the Sim Redmond Band and about a hundred other artistes.
But if Grassroots isn’t your thing, there are other options. Thanks to DSP, weepy indie superstars Death Cab For Cutie will play in Cooperstown on July 21. In the very same week, the reigning king of angst Conor Oberst puts on a rare solo show in Albany, while Lyle Lovett and Wilco play Brewery Ommegang on subsequent nights. All four shows are a bit of a challenge for our vehicle-less brethren, but unmissable if you can get there.
So, turns out Taio's not the end. In fact, he’s just a blip on the CNY music radar. If you find yourself crossing number 31 off The List and sticking around Ithaca this summer, start getting psyched about your entertainment prospects. Lie back, soak up some sun and be sure to tell us how it was come August.