September 3, 2008

76 Trombones: Ears to the Ground In Ithaca

Print More

Hello. My name is Julia Woodward. You may recognize it from numerous other Daily Sun contributions throughout the years (note the sound of me tooting my horn, please), but here I am undertaking something that is an entirely new experience for me. I am going to write a column about music. This prospect scares me in a do-I-really-know-what-the-eff-I’m-talking-about kind of way. But I’m going to do it anyway, because I really love music. Yes, everyone does; and yes, many, many people probably love it more than I do — I can name more than several off the top of my head — but I think all that means is that it’s worth writing about it. So, deep breath. Here goes.
I come from a strong musical background. My mother currently teaches seventh and eighth grade band at Trumansburg Middle School. She has taught chorus, band and “General Music” at all levels, and has been recognized by the state for excellence in teaching. My father is the dean of the School of Music at Ithaca College, but was also a long-time professor of music theory and composition. He’s an accomplished composer himself, probably best known for his 1999 soprano saxophone concerto, Amati Music. I, myself, play the piano and trombone (see column moniker); my sister plays bassoon and piano; and my brother, the trumpet and guitar. We’re not total nerds, I promise (except for me … I really am). What I’m trying to get across is that music is in my genes.
Perhaps as a result, I have been a frequent patron of Ithaca’s local music scene for quite some time. Although I have little (read: no) experience with other local music scenes, I still have to say that I think Ithaca has one of the best. There are shows to attend nearly every night (and they’re almost always good). On-campus, you check out the Fanclub Collective for really superb indie and alternative up-and-comers. And the Cornell Concert Commission, for the first time in a while, I think, has managed to snag what I believe is a fantastic fall concert — the Decembrists. In Barton Hall. You had better be pumped.
But most of the real scene exists elsewhere. There is of course the notorious GrassRoots festival in the summer — which is admittedly worth it — but the cold months are not dry months in terms of music. Ithaca has countless venues featuring hundreds, probably thousands, of local bands. There is also a radio station, run by Ithaca College students, that devotes quite a bit of time to local music — WICB, 91.7 F.M. My favorite venues are Lost Dog Café, Castaways and anything in the Commons. The Haunt is a bit on the sketch side, but otherwise good; just don’t go alone.
The local bands themselves are often great, and offer a huge variety of style and genre. There is the Sim Redmond Band, IY (featuring bassist John Zinder ’09), and Jennie Stearns. Ithaca College offers the Tundra Toes, who put on a live show like you’ve never seen before (note, however, that someone starts bleeding almost every time). Cornell has Tristero and Steve Gollnick, who works with me at the Catherwood Library. And I haven’t even scratched the surface.
This week, rather selfishly, I am going to spend a little time on one group in particular. (Although, I would like to clarify that this is not a local music column, it is simply the topic for the week. Don’t get confused.) It is the local band I know best, because they all went to high school with me, and I have been dating the drummer for the last four years and eight months — to the day, actually — as of this writing. Kites in Space (or the artists formerly known as Seth Feldman) have been around for, oh gosh, seven or eight years now, since the middle school days when they used Midi software because they couldn’t actually play any instruments. Since then they have released two full-length albums and an EP, and have played many, many shows. They have made no money. Such is life.
Recently, Seth Feldman got a big makeover and re-emerged as Kites in Space. They spent the summer recording their third full-length release and, I must say, I was impressed. They changed their name because they wanted to disassociate themselves from their old stuff, which was less mature and significantly more poppy than the new. This latest album is nine tracks long, an eclectic mix of indie, pop, rock and alternative styles that is altogether beautiful, rockin’ and lyrical, in the sense that they have some really interesting lyrics. There is a new unique-ness to the sound: They even bang on a radiator during one song.
You should definitely get involved in the local music scene in Ithaca. Perhaps the best way to do this is via, a recently launched site which includes (or will soon include) artist bios for dozens of bands, an incredibly complete events calendar of shows/festivals/goings-ons all over Ithaca, videos and a music chat forum. You should also check out Kites in Space, whose newest album will be available for free downloading on within the next few days (because they are genuinely interested in sharing what they have to offer). And in my humble, completely un-biased opinion, I think they have something pretty good to offer.
Thanks for listening, Cornell. Hang with me for much, much more to come — band reviews, contemplations of genre, information about finding music, maybe even a guest columnist (whoa, whoa; pulling out the big guns). And I sincerely hope that if there is anything you want talked about, you will let me know. Until next time.