Last weekend marked the second annual Cayuga Sound. Lady D & Shadow Spirits and Sofi Tukker kicked off the first night of action from Stewart Park. While both acts performed some of their more well-known selections and energized the crowd, their sets were limited by the threat of thunderstorms and relatively small audience. As it got closer to 7 p.m., Dan Smalls ’92 of DSP Shows, the company which organizes Cayuga Sound and most other concert events in Ithaca, came on to the stage to introduce Young the Giant and to let festivalgoers know of the impending bad weather. “We’re hoping to give you all an hour of music,” Smalls said before turning the mic over to Friday night’s headliners Young the Giant.
It only took about 45 minutes until Smalls rushed onto the stage interrupting the headliners and forcing the audience to evacuate. But although Young the Giant were unable to play a full show, their energy was electric. They played songs like “Cough Syrup” and Sameer Gadhia danced across the stage with a distinct attitude that enhanced the performance. Further, their stage setup was perfect — if only they were able to finish their show and perform at their originally scheduled time for which their performance was designed.
Saturday was a much nicer day leading to much better festival turnout. The first performance was Cornell hip hop group No-Comply — showcasing their signature old school flow. Other standout acts included Towkio and Talib Kweli.
As the sun set, Matt and Kim took the stage. Their act was everything that they promised it would be in an earlier interview with the sun: “lots of booty shaking.” For many, their performance felt much like that of a headliner. The music perfectly blended hip hop, dance and dubstep and their original music shined. The set came-to-a-close with their widely popular “Daylight” which was a perfect Segway into X Ambassadors.
After roughly 20 minutes of setup, Smalls took the stage once more to thank the audience for helping to make the festival happen. He then introduced the hometown heroes, and the entire atmosphere changed. X Ambassadors performed all of their hits, including songs from early on in their discography like “Love Songs Drug Songs.” They gifted the crowd a first look at a brand-new song which Sam Harris, frontman of X Ambassadors, left unnamed as well as an acoustic version of “Litost.” The Ithaca natives’ set truly showed off the groups versatility and put Harris’ vocal prowess into the spotlight for the world to see.
During their performance of “Unsteady,” there was an altercation in the crowd which even prompted Harris to stop the performance for a minute.
While their entire concert was incredible, their performance of “Low Life.” “Who here is just a low life?” asked Harris. He was meet a sea of handwaving and shouts from a crowd who proudly embraced their imperfections.
Activism is a large part of what makes X Ambassadors unique and it is certainly a partial catalysts for the groups success. Towards the end of their show, Harris gave a speech in about the festivals future and the state of the music industry:
Did you all know that venues are charging a higher and higher tax to host hip hop and R&B shows? How fucked up is that? I make this promise to you right now, next year [at Cayuga Sound] we will have an entire day dedicated to artists from these genres. A whole day of only hip hop and R&B.”
While never specifically mentioning it, this statement calls attention to the discrimination that black artists face when scheduling performances.
Smalls wrote to The Sun that “we will start discussing next year soon. Sam’s vision has been a strong dictator of our direction…within reason and as costs of talent allow.”
If it’s one thing that we learned from this year’s edition of Cayuga sound is that X Ambassadors and DSP Shows are enhancing their festival to become one of the best in the region. The past two years show expansion in the festival lineup, and if next year is anything like what DSP and X Ambassadors hinted it would be, expect even more growth.
While the music and festival site itself may be constantly improving, the festival team will have to find a way to solve the problems that will come along with this growth. Already this year some issues in parking and transportation became apparent as buses from the designated parking areas ran upwards of 20 minutes late in some instances — although it is important to note that most public complaints were made by ticket holders who parked in areas that did not have shuttle service to the festival grounds.
In a recent email to The Sun, Smalls wrote “that all ticket buyers were emailed (regarding the threat of weather on Friday) and that all social media was updated by 10-11 a. m. on the day of the show. ” Further, he stressed to us that “the decision to evacuate (Friday night) was always about everyone’s safety and the impending weather looked rough . . . we moved the entire crowd in less than fifteen minutes and in one trip which is surely commendable. Bravo to TCAT there.”
An earlier version of this article stated that low attendance on Friday night may have stemmed from a communication issue on the part of DSP. This article has been updated with new information regarding the steps DSP took to notify ticket holders. It has also been updated to include Dan Smalls’ comment on Sam Harris’ vision for next year.
Peter Buonanno is sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected]