In the second episode of Suncast, Senior Editor Emma Plowe ‘23 comes on to talk about the music scene in Ithaca. We discuss the different music events that go on outside Cornell’s campus, how students can get involved and how the pandemic has impacted local musicians. The episode also features Elizabeth Steuelke, the lead singer of a local band, and her thoughts on why she loves Ithaca and how she got into music.
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Emma: Welcome to another episode of Suncast, a podcast produced by the Cornell Daily Sun that takes an in-depth look at the ongoings within the Cornell campus and the Ithaca area. I’m Emma Rosenbaum, a senior editor at the sun,
ED: And I’m Emma Plowe, but you can call me ED, and I’m a senior editor at the Sun and the previous arts editor. On today’s episode, we’ll talk about Cornell’s relationship with the city of Ithaca using the lens of music and highlighting one local musician’s experiences.
Emma: So can you explain a bit more about your role as a senior editor? You came up with your own title, which is arts/city editor. So why do you think the sun needed that?
ED: Ya, so I was thinking about the arts section and how it is filled with so many beautiful reviews. So many hot takes and so much on politics, but we were lacking a little bit in city coverage and there is a lot happening in the Ithaca area. So many venues, so many small groups trying to make it. So I just figured that one position should be made to really start connecting with the community and ensuring that we, you know, just learn about what’s happening.
You know, 20 feet outside of the son’s office, you know, that’s where the State Theater is. We got a kava bar with a stage downstairs at the office. And so a really rich community that I felt needed more coverage. Sometimes Cornell can feel like you’re in such a bubble and you forget that there’s a whole community outside of it that is just rich with music and art and everything like that.
Emma: The song played at the beginning of the episode is called Lucinda and it’s by the Ithaca-based band SOLID. And you actually had the chance to speak to the lead singer of that band. Can you tell me a bit about that?
ED: I spoke to Elizabeth or “E” Stuelke. She’s the lead singer of this group called solid. They are an alt rock group.
The group came together in March, 2020 after E went to an open mic night at Mix restaurant and she met one of her future band members there. Lucinda was the first song they released together and the band has grown from there.
So E and I talked about why she chose Ithaca, and what it’s like for her and her band to be producing music during a pandemic, and what her hopes are for music and Ithaca in the future and how she plans to organize and get people excited.
Elizabeth: I was like, okay, look, I’ve got to put some energy into music and I’ll go put some energy into my writing and just focus on these two and see which one kind of gets traction and then go with that.
You know, the music and the voice, my voice feels like confident, but then also vulnerable and maybe what those songs are about, you know, there’s that vulnerability in there, but the combination, right, is solid.
Emma: So what do you think attracts people to Ithaca, to the rich music scene that’s here?
ED: I think what attracts people to Ithaca is that it’s a wonderful place to grow as an artist or even, you know, start a new business because the city is really small, but it’s also filled with ambitious people.
People come to Ithaca also for music because of the Grassroots festival that happens in Trumansburg every year or every year that there’s not a pandemic. And grassroots is really famous for attracting the country’s best roots blues and some alt rock musicians.
Emma: And they also have some music oriented traditions in Ithaca, such as Porchfest, which has been a tradition since 2007. It’s an annual September event that lasts around six hours featuring over 150 performers that play at many locations throughout Ithaca. I think that’s pretty cool. As well as Ithaca College, I think as Cornell students, we sometimes forget that the college is just right next door, but they have one of the top ranked undergraduate music programs in New York.
ED: Hopefully this year we get to have PorchFest and it sounds like it could be a distanced couple of shows. So fingers crossed.
Elizabeth: The Ithaca that we fell in love with when we moved here, so not a pandemic Ithaca, obviously nowhere is like it. We all moved to Ithaca because, you know, we looked around at Cornell which is beautiful, and it’s a cute little town. I love Manhattan, so I’m like, [Ithaca] seems like a city-ish, and we found a great apartment that looks over the Commons.
I see buildings when I look out my window and I feel like I’m in a city.
Open mics – there’s open mics everywhere. Like every night of the week, there’s an open mic, pre-pandemic in Ithaca, and different genres.
Emma: What has your experience been with the Ithaca music scene?
ED: I will thank Cornell’s O-week for sweeping me up into a series of concerts and just really getting excited about music. And I think that was the first thing I really connected with when I came to Cornell. After, you know, some big shows in the fall on campus, I started noticing that there were other really big shows happening in town. Rainbow Kitten Surprise played at the State Theater.
And I also noticed. That some of my favorite indie rock musicians were set to play at different venues around Ithaca, such as the Haunt, and also Japanese Breakfast was going to head at the State, I think, which is hopefully still going to happen and got rescheduled.
Yeah, once I started noticing all these posters and once I got on the Facebook groups for all these shows, I just was really amazed with how much was happening.
I also started attending these underground shows in the basement of Cornell’s co-ops, which were a lot of fun organized by the group Fan Club Collective.
And they were just, you know, really crowded, sweaty shows. A lot of punk rock music, math, rock, whatever that means. It was a lot of fun.
Emma: Would they get people to come play that were Cornell bands, like students? Or was it local Ithaca bands?
ED: Of course, it was both. So they got a lot of really, really fun punk groups from around the country. And also they would bring in Cornell students to open for them and give them shows to highlight student work as well.
Emma: It’s a shame because of the pandemic, a lot of that has definitely diminished a lot. And Elizabeth talked a bit about how that affected her.
ED: So Elizabeth did something really cool, uh, to sort of capture the pandemic, but in a really creative and lighthearted way. So she and her band Solid put on a performance and filmed it inside of a dining bubble at Bar Argos.
And it’s just a really joyful show which encapsulates our need to connect. And it’s an awesome music video too. Check it out.
Elizabeth: We did the isolation video in the see-through Igloo tent at Argos. They’ve been so great to keep us going through the whole pandemic by making spaces for us to be in safely.
Isolation – this song is about feeling like you’re not connecting with people, and maybe because of the things you do. So I was like, how brilliant. I’ll just put it in a see-through tent.
ED: [Elizabeth] had the idea to bring a program to Ithaca, which she’s calling Open Music Ithaca, which was inspired by I think a state sponsored or city sponsored program in New York City called New York pop-ups or something like that.
And they would organize outdoor shows, spontaneously, with all these like plastic sheets up and everything, just to bring music outside and back to the public.
Emma: So as students, how do you think we can value it?
ED: I think in the future. As you start going downtown to, you know, go to nice dinners or check out the bars down there. I think if you just pay attention to the posters, that will be up, you know, posters can be just really helpful. So yeah, just look around when you start going downtown and shopping and, and, you know, go into the bookstores, go into the local businesses and ask like, what’s up, what they’re doing, how they’re doing, what’s making them happy and, and, you know, I think a lot of them will say that they’re excited about this next performance happening. Or they’re going to go have a drink or have some kava and watch, you know, their friends show at the Docks, which is another venue.
Elizabeth: I think the kids need to come off the Hill. Right now going on at the Dock, everybody’s wearing masks and social distancing, and the bar is great. They’re under new management.you know, so it’s starting, it’s opening up.
Emma: You actually planned a concert with The Sun last year, but that got canceled because obviously we all went home. Are you planning on re-introducing that this semester?
ED: Last year, I planned to bring Ithaca College bands and Cornell bands down to The Sun which was really exciting because I got to know sort of how big the underground music scene was here and also at Ithaca College.
I attended this venue called the Womb and it was a lot like the Fan Club Collective underground shows I was going to. I was like, wait, this is really similar so I really just was hoping to bridge those communities and I attended some rehearsals and it was just really fun to listen to. I got to be on the IC campus too. I had never been there and they have a fantastic view of the ;ake in the valley. So that was really exciting. And I was really bummed when that wasn’t able to happen.
But also, you know, over the next year I started paying more attention, reading the Ithaca journal that listed the good times, whatever, um, and noticing that, you know, These other groups, these other venues really deserve as much attention as the students who are also really excited.
I am now organizing a concert for the welcome week, or O week, which is kind of like where it all began for me, to happen outside at The Sun’s office downtown. Cause we have a really cool porch space. This summer I have to build a stage, which will be fun.
We’re hoping to get local businesses involved now. Hopefully get a food truck,and yeah, it’s just, I’m hoping for it to be a big outdoor show, to get people to connect and be excited about coming downtown.
There are 31,000 residents of Ithaca, Cornell graduate and undergraduate populations exceed, you know, 24,000 people. That’s almost as much as the city. So when the students come back to the city, you know, everything changes for the businesses downtown. It’s really cool, important that the money that students are pouring into the city doesn’t just go to, I don’t know, like your favorite restaurant or all these bars, like that’s wonderful. That’s important. But there are also a lot of people trying to make it as musicians that have other jobs.
And there are a lot of people who just want to share their passion and you can support them by just going to their shows and, you know, checking out their social media.
Emma: Is your concert going to be open to Ithacans well as Cornell students? Who are you trying to get there?
ED: Yeah, it’s open to everyone. We’re going to have a set of maybe four or five groups and have it start midday and go into the evening. And at the end there’s going to be an open mic. So anyone who wants to play can just use that stage space and just, you know, come with a guitar, come with your voice, anything.
Emma: That sounds really awesome. And Cornell, The Cornell Sun has an amazing space. I think not enough people know about it because it’s such a beautiful building. So it’d be really cool to see a lot of people there when everything’s safe and okay.
ED: Ithacamusic.net is a really awesome resource for just getting to know the music groups around town, and you can click on any of their links and they’ll just show you when their next live show is and who they are. It’s a really cool place to check out.
Emma. All right. Thanks ED for coming on the podcast and sharing your experiences, and I’m really excited for the concert that will be happening next semester.
ED: Thank you so much for having me. We’ll link every organization and event mentioned in the show notes along with some more resources. So feel free to check that out.