X Ambassadors play host to Cayuga Sound Festival

The atmosphere of the Cayuga Sound Festival perfectly summed up the Ithaca experience. The day-long festival kicked off Saturday, the 23rd, beginning hopefully a new annual tradition. The festival was scheduled during one of the most musical weeks in Ithaca, as locals were gearing up for Porch Fest the following day. The festival kicked off around noon, with the Imperials taking the smaller of the two stages. Unlike most music festivals, the two stages were located side by side. This allowed both venues the classic Stewart Park Lake view beloved by all, and allowed for continuous music to a static audience. The Imperials set the mood of the festival. This local band is categorized as post-rock, and their eclectic musical quality lent itself to the ambient environment of the afternoon. The theme of the festival seemed to be hometown heroes, with the entire thing put together by the X Ambassadors, an indie-band that got its start in Ithaca. Each band that came on played into the atmosphere, calling out the beautiful scenery and talking to the crowd.

Photo by Graham Fielder

After Imperials, Stone Cold Miracle took the Main Stage. Another locally based band, their soul-infused style played perfectly off the energy created by Imperials. The crowd for the first few concerts was primarily locals, with lots of families running around the grounds. Stations were set up for face painting while the lake side of the stages were lined with local favorite food trucks like Silo’s. The day crowd stayed small enough that wait times were short. The longest line was for the ice cream, as the crowd tried to beat the heat. Still, a consistent group of enthusiastic fans stuck by the stage. The group was hemmed by couples and families in lawn chairs and on blankets. The rest of the concertgoers spent their downtime sprawled out by the lake, which was filled with boats as people flooded to get as close to the music as possible. Although Ithaca is frequently dominated by the two large colleges in town, the festival was marketed to all ages, which allowed the true relaxed and friendly spirit of Ithaca shine through.

Following on the Lake Stage was Izzy True, an indie-rock band. Their mood was less joyful than that put out by Stone Cold Miracle, however, their lead singer had instant charisma with the crowd, who were found nodding along. A few even broke into dance as the pace picked up. Jukebox the Ghost continued this energy. Although still within the aesthetic of the festival, they were the most pop-oriented group of the day. The younger audience was really engaged through their energetic performance style, and their songs were a mix of their older acoustic-based music and more recent indie-pop songs.

Photo by Shervin Lainez

Sammus completely changed the mood as the young rapper took the stage. The artist is known for her evocative lyrics paired with heavy beats, and although she gave an incredible and resonating performance, it was a sudden derailment from the relaxed family-friendly vibe set by the earlier groups. The crowd thinned out to mostly young adults and college students, with Sammus being a clear favorite for many concert goers. She fit the theme of powerful women set forth by Izzy True that would be repeated again in K.Flay and Tei Shi’s performances.

Crush Club’s funk mix brought back the earlier vibe, along with grabbing the attention of some surprised older concert goers who were drawn to the band’s sound. Their set was fun and light-hearted without losing the attention of the younger group that Sammus had drawn.

The largest issue that arose during the festival seemed to be around scheduling, as The Knocks ended up canceling the day of the concert. Although times were shifted to accommodate this, many later performers didn’t seem to get the memo. This was unfortunate as it created musical gaps in the well-planned schedule. It also gave concertgoers a chance to relax along Cayuga Lake, indulge in the delicious food, or just hang out with a beer. During these breaks, the atmosphere was relaxed instead of stressed. People hula-hooped, played Frisbee, and even napped.

The music got progressively heavier as the sun set. This was fitting, as the crowd shifted from families to college students and young adults. K. Flay’s music picked up the energy, with her making several shout-outs to being in Ithaca. Savior Adore’s pop-infused music kept the crowd dancing as more and more people began to trickle in for the night’s main event. By the time Tei Shi took the stage, the crowd had easily doubled from the daytime group. Gone were the lawn chairs, replaced by a crowd ready to dance, jump, and jam with the three headliners.

Photo by Graham Fielder

By the time X Ambassadors took the stage, the crowd was going wild. This marked a homecoming for the band, and their excitement to be back was palpable. Their set was one of the most memorable of the night, as they mixed popular and newer songs together to create a show that suit both avid fans and more passive listeners. Finally, The Roots made it to the main stage. Their performance included their beloved music, reaching back into the ‘90s for some crowd favorites. By now the crowd was huge, spilling over the area in front of the stage so people were dancing in the field and even down on the shore of the lake. The Roots were perfectly suited to this festival, as their sound appealed to all ages of audience. Many families had left by the time The Roots stepped out on the main stage, however the audience as still a great mix of local Ithacans and college students. The fireworks following the concert tied together a beautiful day, hopefully one that will be repeated in years to come!