A few months ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing the banjo player of an Appalachian folk band, at one end of what the rich Ithaca music scene produces. On the other end of Ithaca’s music spectrum is Rowan Drake, a 19-year-old alternative pop artist who spoke to me about his upcoming debut EP. Rowan was born and raised here in Ithaca, NY. He released his first single “Closure” in 2020 and, since then, has garnered over 5 million likes on TikTok and 1.3 million views on YouTube. He also recently signed with Atlantic Records.
Some indie music is made in bedrooms, but Tall Travis’s new EP Chicken Music is made for a barn. On Jan. 5, the Vermont-based band released their third project, a quick 19-minute listen that is crunchy and energetic. The six-song project starts strong and finishes honestly, putting forth an effort that may not be groundbreaking but is astonishingly authentic. Tall Travis originated at the University of Vermont’s folk music club in January 2021.
The summer of their junior year of high school, David Cabuenas ’19 and his friend Matt Valdez established the band No-Comply in their hometown Queens. The band represented a crossover of interests in fashion, music and art. Once at Cornell, the band grew to include Charles Chatman ’19 and has evolved significantly. Looking back on those years, Cabuenas sees them as “an incubation period.”
In conversation with David Cabuenas, I learned more about the No-Comply’s overall vision and how the sound has grown since coming to Ithaca. Cabuenas stated: “I learned a lot here in Ithaca, in terms of expanding my taste palate and taking what I learned in the music scene and the community here.
Local and national artists came together Saturday at the first Cayuga Sound Festival, delivering quality music to the unique Ithaca community and creating a one-of-a-kind experience that can only be found here in Ithaca. There was something special about the laid-back attitude of the Ithaca community, the musicians, the familiar location at Stewart Park, and the local businesses selling food. The familiarity and friendliness added comfort to the experience, breaking the stereotype of chaotic music festivals. There were two stages set up next to each other and artists alternated between them. Businesses and radio stations had tents set up along the park, with food trucks serving most of the local food found at the Ithaca Farmer’s Market.
I have a friend named Evan whose rapper name is Dough Boi and he makes music and you should check it out on SoundCloud. I realize how unappealing that sounds. My reaction to people on social media or YouTube hawking their “fire mixtapes” and begging “please just give me a chance” always inspires a mix of disdain and embarrassment in me. The only music I ever listen to is either critically lauded or at least signed to a record label. Evan is the only exception.
Whether you’re a freshman, senior or Cornell employee, at some time or other it should become blatantly apparent that Ithaca has an incredible music scene. In my three years on the Hill I’ve tried my best to experience all parts of said scene.
Last year, one music event captivated my heart more than any other that I’ve come across. This event was Porchfest and, luckily, it’s an annual festival that will be taking place again this upcoming weekend, on Sunday.
Here’s the thing about falling in love with a city: it’s all about the complexity. The richness of a place lets the relationship linger and grow over time — people are myriad and varied, the food varieties are endless, the music is always bumpin’.
Sunday was the second of two days of co-sponsored events brought about by Dan Smalls Presents and funded by Ithaca Beer Co. While Brew Fest is widely lauded — if upstate New York constitutes “widely” — Positive Jam is an event that has yet to grow to full maturity. Although it’s less attended and less publicized, I felt on Sunday that I was at the beginning of something big whose potential had not yet been realized.
Some of you may remember my column last Friday when I waxed eloquent about the myriad of musical big-wigs who are en route to our humble town. You may also recall that included in that extra-ordinary line-up were two bands known respectively as The Hold Steady and Deer Tick, and that I gave a shout out to man-of-the-hour Dan Smalls, founder of Dan Smalls Presents, Inc. Well, this weekend, Dan Small Presents … the Positive Jam. Drawing a blank? Please, allow me to explain.
The Dangerous Maybes at
311 College Ave.
Tonight: The Dangerous Maybes, a band from Binghamton, whose feisty indie sound is shockingly good, will be playing at the Nines in Collegetown. Why haven’t you heard of these guys yet? Check out local talent at a local venue — The Dangerous Maybe’s vocalist frontman Sean Cummings has a swooning voice reminiscent of Ted Leo as well as more vintage talents like Nick Drake. Find their music online at http://www.myspace.com/thedangerousmaybes. Cover is $5 and the band goes on at 10 p.m.
J-San and the Analogue Sons at
413 Taughannock Blvd.