The Decemberists kicked off their tour with a performance at Ithaca’s State Theatre this Friday. Despite having a couple of kinks to work out, the band produced a beautiful sound that involved a variety of instruments. The Decemberists delighted the audience with songs old and new, and great energy that filled the entirety of the theatre. The Decemberists were introduced by Julien Baker, a young songwriter out of Memphis. Her soft but slightly haunting vocals were perfect for the night’s setting and tone: captivating and emotive.
It was the perfect way to start off Spring Break — I was going to see Wet perform at the Haunt. The band filled the Haunt with a passionate and engaging performance, playing with a soft energy that gripped the audience and created a relaxed, yet compelling environment. It was a loving, intimate night. The band opened with “It’s All in Vain” from their album Don’t You. The phrases “I don’t believe you” and “I can’t feel you” were vocalized softly, but hit the crowd with a strong effect.
After DJ sets that included multiple play-throughs of “Fake Love” and “Bad and Boujee,” one arguably misplaced playing of The Chainsmokers’ “Closer,” and several cries of “Y’all ready for Guwop?” and “Let me hear you say brr,” the lights finally went black. Instantly, dozens of phone flashlights and Bic lighters lit the center of Barton Hall. “Eeeeeeyyyyyyyy!” came a voice from backstage, to thunderous applause. “Let me hear you say ‘It’s Gucci!’” Sporting a backpack, aviators, and a hoodie bearing his namesake, Gucci Mane delivered a quick, but high-energy set on Sunday night, featuring earlier songs like “Go Head (Shawty Got A Ass on Her)” and “Making Love to the Money,” as well as hits from his time since his release from prison, such as “St. Brick Intro” from “The Return of East Atlanta Santa.” In between each song, he gave ample time to flash his trademark smile and rattle off his trademark lines.
This fall, after school is in full swing and the August heat subsides, Ithacan band X Ambassadors are bringing a music festival to Stewart Park in Ithaca. Focused on drawing diverse national acts to the town and showcasing music, food and drink in Ithaca, the first Cayuga Sound Festival is set for September 22-23. The Roots will be co-headlining with X Ambassadors, and K.Flay, The Knocks, Margaret Glaspy and Jukebox the Ghost are also on the bill. The festival is a collaboration between the X Ambassadors, This Fiction artist management and DSP Shows, an Ithaca-based concert promotion and production company formerly known as Dan Smalls Presents. They’re already thinking about the festival in the long-term — “We want to start this small, but eventually grow it into something really special that will draw people from all over the world to see all the incredible things Ithaca has to offer,” said X Ambassadors’ lead vocalist Sam Harris.
When I started listening to The Districts a few summers ago, I quickly fell for the band’s fresh and personable sound. It was the lead singer’s powerful voice and the band’s unique sound that kept me a fan for years. Stepping into the venue Saturday night, I was filled with suspense and excitement. The band filled the smaller venue with their vibrancy and rich sound. By the end of the night, the band had transcended my expectations.
Consider the Source introduced themselves as a “sci-fi middle eastern” band, returning after two years to Ithaca at The Dock. Gabriel Marin plays a double neck guitar, one side fret-less and the other standard, which together with a “sci-fi” range of effects offered almost every sound but what one could expect from a guitar-bass-drums trio. The set started with soaring melodic progressions which returned to the same Balkan and Turkish harmonic cores, only to be interrupted by riffs of double-pedal (Jeff Mann on drums) and strummed chords on the bass (John Ferrara). Later on, we got to hear many more nuances of each musician’s arsenal, of which I will mention a Wooten-inspired bass solo that was as lyrical as it was percussive. I left thinking that for a fusion band, Consider the Source is probably a brilliant name, if you can stop bouncing around to their music and think about what is being mixed with what.
Since the mid-1990s, the Jerusalem Quartet has been slinging its unmistakable tone and adroit programming to audiences worldwide, and at last to Barnes Hall on Saturday night. What distinguishes Jerusalem Quartet from its umpteen contemporaries is its interlocking tonal spread, meticulous attention to rhythm and balance of repertoires. For this performance, these spirited musicians presented a trifecta of drama, whimsy and lyricism. Ludwig van Beethoven’s Quartet No. 11 in F minor set the stage not only musically, but also technically, as idiosyncrasies came immediately to the forefront.
Even before Jamila Woods stepped on stage, you could tell it was going to be an incredible night. At first, the Risley dining hall seemed too stiff of a venue for a show that celebrated black artists as healers and protesters (after all, the room is modeled after the Christ Church Refractory at Oxford), but openers Paulitics and SadoSan brought energetic and fun tracks that made the somber portrait of A.D. White peering over their shoulders appear ridiculously irrelevant. Paulitics — Cornell’s own Paul Russell ’19 — blended hip hop and indie rhythms for the perfect intersection of jumping and chill. Dancing without restrain across the stage, Paulitics basked in the fun absurdity of his songs and got the crowd moving. From “college is exploration with ecstasy in between” on his opening song “Hotels” to “I’m falling sideways / I guess that’s all I ever do” on the aptly-titled “Youth,” his lyrics embrace and surrender to the emotional precarity of young-adult lives.
It was St. Patrick’s day and the Haunt is a bar, so there was a crowd. I suspect the two acts performing helped attendance. The Ithaca Bottom Boys were already on stage when I got in, and people were clearly digging their music. The dance floor was packed, but since the Haunt has like three chairs in the entire building, this was not surprising.
Barnes Hall was packed for “Song of the Land: Poems of Ishion Hutchinson,” a performance presented by the Music Department that put Hutchinson’s poetry to compositions by graduate student composers. The performance presented a fusion of the old and the new, incorporating multiple forms of art to deliver a powerful concert. Guest artist Rachel Calloway, a mezzo soprano, sang a dramatic reading that conveyed the emotion communicated in the performance, and did so in a way that drew the audience in to share in the experience with her. This innovative project brought the respective virtues of literature and music into a symbiotic relationship that managed to showcase both the artistry of the music and the postmodern themes of Hutchinson’s poetry. The English department’s Ishion Hutchinson writes narrative poetry that investigates colonialism through his depictions of landscape and the emotional weight of colonial history.