This past Friday, Dan Smalls Presents treated us to a lovely and endearing performance at the State Theatre of Ithaca by inviting Regina Spektor to pay the city a visit. Waiting for the start of the concert, the theater was loud and everyone seemed in a slight daze, presumably from the recent turn of the weather, or maybe as a residual effect from the week’s earlier presidential debate. The cold outside had everyone shedding layers of coats, or drinking off the chill, or both. A half hour after the projected start time, as people could be heard asking their neighbors, “The opener hasn’t even started yet?” Spektor waltzed out onto the stage with drummer Mathias Kunzli, cellist Yoed Nir and keyboardist Brad Whiteley. “Oh my gosh she’s so cute!” I heard someone half-whisper off to my left.
Experimental psychedelic rock group Glass Animals played at the State Theatre on October 1. Two Daily Sun writers took in the concert and gave their thoughts on the night. “They Can Hold You — Glass Animals at the State” by Jessie Weber
The Glass Animals’ performance Saturday at the State Theatre was nothing short of glorious. I had the great pleasure of seeing a band that was even better live than I had hoped it would be, and they managed the crowd so effortlessly that I’m finding it difficult to write a piece that can match up to their performance. The night started barely a minute beyond the listed 8 p.m. with a small-piece opening band who whipped through a half-hour-and-some set and smacked the audience raw.
The stage at the State Theatre had a simple set-up — four microphones set up across the stage, a portion partitioned off by an arrangement table for music, a simple curtain as backdrop and speakers strategically placed to reverberate in the eardrums of the audience. Simple, neat and sensible for the live show “Ghost Stories” of the popular podcast Welcome to Night Vale. Welcome to Night Vale is a bi-monthly podcast — usually airing the 1st and 15th of every month — which follows the happenings of the fictional desert town of Night Vale through a community radio show hosted by a man named Cecil Gershwin Palmer (voiced by Cecil Baldwin). Started in 2012 by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, the podcast is extremely charming and has a dark, deadpan sort of humor. It constantly plays with the subjects of the surreal, as Night Vale is filled with the unreal and the very, very weird, from the Sheriff’s (not so) secret police to a recently discovered civilization underground, accessible via the town’s bowling alley.
We were welcomed at the door to the State Theater by a rep from Reverb, “a non profit organization dedicated to greening musicians’ tours and engaging their fans to take action to protect the planet.” The group was created by Guster’s Adam Gardner in 2004 to engage musicians and their fans in environmental work. This set the tone for the night: At this stage in their career, Guster seem dedicated not just to turning out albums, but also to changing the industry and mentoring new musicians. On this tour, they have committed to having young, local bands open in each city, a project they’ve described as a “home run” so far. It certainly was with Saturday’s opening act out of SUNY Purchase. Darryl Rahn and the Lost Souls brought to the State Trampled by Turtles-inflected folk, with lovely harmonies from their female vocalist and a skilled upright bassist adding a layer of depth.
Ryan Miller is the lead singer of Guster, an acoustic-pop/alternative rock band that formed at Tufts University in 1991 and has built a dedicated fan base over the years. Their seventh album, Evermotion, came out this January and marks a synth-inspired departure from their previous records, while maintaining their strong melodies, catchy hooks, and dense lyricism. Produced by Ryan Swift, who has also worked with the Shins and Foxygen, they are back on the road touring. Guster will perform this Friday at the State Theater, with local group, Darryl Rahn & the Lost Souls of SUNY Purchase opening for them. The Sun had the opportunity to chat with Ryan about the magic of live music and how they stay engaged in after two decades of making records.
If you’ve ever lamented that you can never listen to Ella Fitzgerald sing live or go back a century and listen to original New Orleans jazz, Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox (PMJ) has you covered. The band takes everything from current pop songs to rock classics and transforms them into vintage styles. As emcee LaVance Colley said at the Ithaca State Theatre on Sunday, Oct. 8, PMJ’s goal is to “take you back to a time when texts were sent by telegraph and autotune meant actually singing on key.”
Some members of the audience took this promise of time travel quite literally, showing up in 1920s clothing and swing dancing in the aisles during the show. Since PMJ has a somewhat niche appeal, almost everyone in attendance for their concerts is either a die-hard fan of the group or of jazz music in general.
Together we pushed through a gradually drunkening mass of anticipatory over-50s, all jocund and overpriced beer and premonitions of the soft-sung night to come. Under the gaze of a scrutinizing usher, he groped around in his clothes looking for our two tickets, which with a broad smile he produced, wrinkled and smudged from a short life spent at the bottom of a crammed pants’ pocket. Stubs deemed satisfactory, a brusque sweep of an arm pointed us up the stairs and into the boondocks of the State Theatre’s balcony. When his eyes fell on our seats, a coy look of apprehension washed over his face, which I quickly did my best to dispel by saying that, in my opinion, the best way to see Norah Jones perform is from far off and above, with the ability to melt back into your seat and, eyes closed, feel the night’s velvet slink around you without any expectation of or desire for one of those coveted, meaningless little glances from the performer that those in rows closer to the front are wont to crave. As the night proceeded, though, I came to realize that there’s one more criterion for having an enjoyable experience in seeing Ms. Jones perform: to be, while in the midst of her love-stained caresses, in a state of utter platonism.
Paula Poundstone is a frequent panelist on National Public Radio’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, a standup comedian, a published author and a television and voice actress. The Sun spoke with Poundstone ahead of Saturday’s performance at the State Theatre about her experiences with radio and comedy, her performance style, her views on gender in the comedy field and her relationship with the audience. The Sun: So, I first heard of you on Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! through National Public Radio. I’m curious — how did you get involved with the show?