When I stooped into the basement of 660 Stewart on Saturday night to catch the debut performance of Cornell’s own West End China Shop, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Going to Fanclub Collective and Ithaca Undergound shows, one sees their fair share of lo-fi rock bands. While there are many standouts, far more common are the acts which are perfectly forgettable. Would West End China Shop be yet another half-serious, irony-soaked project by a group of 20-somethings who, at the end of the day, probably had something better to do? Another whiney, soul-bearing emo band?
Note: The reviewer arrived too late to see the opening act, What Nerve. The Chanticleer’s top floor is the perfect setting for shows that bridge the divide between performer and audience. The room has no stage and is too small for there to be much distance between the two, making it feel more like a space of shared experience than a performance with separate performers and viewers. Both Sammus and Show Me the Body made excellent use of the room’s potential; both, although in remarkably different ways, managed to make the audience feel like part of the act. Sammus, a rapper and Ithaca native who is also a graduate student at Cornell, is without a doubt one of the most exciting acts that can be seen in Ithaca.
I always thought that The Nines was just a place to get pizza and corn nuggets. At least, that’s what my friends do when they go there. Little did I know, this assumption was way off. On April 15, Cornell student radio station WVBR hosted bands PYSMON SPINE, Pilgrims and rapper Paulitics at The Nines. Going into it, I didn’t know what to expect.
On the surface, it might appear that Beau Mahadev ’18 spends their time wearing two pretty different hats: that of an engineering student on the one hand, and that of an active member of Ithaca’s sprawling DIY scene on the other. On the former front, Beau studies computer science here at Cornell; on the latter, they’ve immersed themself in the music of Ithaca on multiple levels. As an active volunteer for Ithaca Underground, as the Vice President of Fanclub Collective and as a burgeoning local musician and performer in their own right, Beau has carved out what might seem like a respectable side project apart from their engineering studies. But Beau doesn’t use guitars, drums, keyboards or anything else most people would associate with traditional instrumentation; Beau uses the tools of their trade. Crafting experimental noise music with synths, circuits and gadgets galore, Beau is part of a larger Ithaca community — itself a subset of an international experimental movement stretching back to at least Varese’s work of the 1920s — of noise-makers and barrier-breakers.
Titus Andronicus play their own music to warm up the crowd. This is fitting; Titus Andronicus don’t seem scared of over-indulgence. Their breakthrough album was 2010’s The Monitor, an hour-long kitchen-sink explosion of punk riffs, honky-tonk piano, a bagpipe solo and lyrics that used the American Civil War as a metaphor for personal strife and alienation. Their latest album manages to surpass The Monitor in grandiosity; 2015’s The Most Lamentable Tragedy runs an hour and a half long with several intermission tracks and two tracks titled “No Future Part IV: No Future Triumphant” and “No Future Part V: In Endless Dreaming.”
Luckily, Titus Andronicus balance the pretension of their album formats with unpretentiously great songs. At their best, they meld arena-rock riffs with a ferocious punk attack.
Five underscores and no letters seems like a questionable name for a band; everything has to be called something, right? Not according to Brad Nathanson ’17 and Carsten Thue-Bludworth ’17, the two members of _____. Their band name doesn’t have any pronunciation; you’re not meant to say it. And while on the surface this might seem like a gimmick, they have the music to back it up. Their recorded output is limited so far to one promising EP, The Linden Sessions, which jolts and tumbles with a compositional vivacity and surety of form indicative of a band much deeper into its career than _____.