Ithaca natives X Ambassadors perform at the inaugural Cayuga Sound Festival

Dylan Wright, Arts and Entertainment Editor

When a brand new festival starts up, there is always a chance that things can go terribly wrong. Music festivals like the Fyre Festival ended up a disaster, and there is no real guarantee that everything will go off without a hitch.

Thankfully, Ithaca, N.Y.’s Cayuga Sound Festival was not one of those events.

The Sept. 23 concert, curated by co-headliners and Ithaca natives, the X Ambassadors, was a day of local food, fun and a wide array of alternative bands. Stewart Park was packed with people ready to listen to the eclectic lineup. The two stages were set up right next to each other, and the transition from band to band was seamless with little overlap.

Though the ground was littered with seagull feathers, the attendees didn’t seem bothered by it in the slightest.

Photo credit/ Jessica Bonacci
A group of festival attendees look out over Cayuga Lake.

Local hip-hop artist Sammus gave a memorable performance, going into the crowd at the end of the set to finish her last song. Her excitement was palpable and got the crowd going.

Photo credit/ Jessica Bonacci
Sammus raps in the crowd.

Margaret Glaspy performed well, but had little to no crowd interaction. Minus a “thank you” and a “we’re happy to be here,” their set was all music and no nonsense. Their sound was soft, but effective. While their energy levels were low, they acted as a good foil to the next act.

Photo credit/ Jessica Bonacci
Margaret Glaspy performs at the festival.

Crush Club took the stage with a 70s style groove that got the crowd enticed. Their music styling benefited from the oddly appropriate 80s synth sound, and they managed to win over the crowd by the end of their energetic set. The two lead singers of the group played off each other well, with their clothing in contrasting black and white representing a yin-yang of sorts that matched the harmony of their music.

Photo credit/ Jessica Bonacci
Crush Club interacts on stage.
Photo credit/ Jessica Bonacci
Crush Club performs a set.

The Knocks were scheduled to play after Crush Club, but unfortunately had to drop out due to a family emergency. Savoir Adore played next, and gave a commendable, if uneven performance. The first two songs suffered from their guitar being too loud in the mix, drowning out the soundscape with a squealing that seemed out of place. The group managed to find their groove after a few songs and ended strongly.

Photo credit/ Jessica Bonacci
Savoir Adore performs at Cayuga Sound.
Photo credit/ Jessica Bonacci
Members of Savoir Adore sing to the festival crowd.

K. Flay gave a standout performance during her set, utilizing her minimal band setup of drums and bass effectively with samples and synths. The artist’s movements as she rapped and screamed her vocals projected a carefree image. The energy given off by Flay helped keep the attendees excited for the closing acts.

Photo credit/ Jessica Bonacci
K. Flay crosses the stage.
Photo credit/ Jessica Bonacci
K. Flay performs at Cayuga Sound.

That energy was unfortunately dropped by the poorly placed Tei Shi. While the group was talented, their songs had a slower pace, causing many to drift away from the stage to seek out food or shelter from the sun. The band was a victim of a mismatched lineup, as their low-key energy was a significant drop from the bands before them.

Photo credit/ Jessica Bonacci
Tei Shi performs at Cayuga Sound.
Photo credit/ Jessica Bonacci
Tei Shi and her band perform at Cayuga Sound.

As the sun set over Cayuga Lake, the X Ambassadors took the stage.

“We have the city that raised us here tonight. We owe you everything,” lead vocalist Sam Harris said to the crowd during their energetic and upbeat set.

Harris showed his musical prowess, playing guitar, bass and saxophone in between hitting the high notes in the band’s set. The crowd was the most enthusiastic for the group that created this festival, and the band returned their enthusiasm in kind with a brand new song as well as their hits.

The X Ambassadors perform at Cayuga Sound.

The group also used their stage time to promote the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU,) as well as take a stand on immigration.

“If you are an immigrant to this country, or a citizen of this country, you do not need to be afraid. Not here, not ever,” Harris said to the cheering crowd before going into their hit “Renegades.”

Photo credit/ Jessica Bonacci
Sam Harris of X Ambassadors pauses during a song.

The X Ambassadors left the stage triumphant, telling the crowd that the show was not over and to stick around for The Roots.

Unfortunately, a good number of people didn’t heed this advice, as a mass exodus occurred after the X Ambassadors finished their set. Had the lineup been switched around despite The Roots legendary status, the band may have seen a bigger audience.

Despite a smaller crowd, the legendary Philadelphia band took the stage, giving the audience a non-stop set of catchy hooks, exuberant horns and a steady beat. There was no bantering with the crowd for the band as they bridged every song with some musical interlude.

Photo credit/ Jessica Bonacci
Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter leads The Roots at Cayuga Sound.

Lead MC Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter kept the energy from the X Ambassadors set going with some call and response singing with the crowd. From the sousaphone player to the beat sampler, each member of The Roots played their songs while clearly having fun.

Photo credit/ Jessica Bonacci
Drummer Questlove performs with The Roots.

The first Cayuga Sound Festival was not perfect. The lineup could have been cleaner and more streamlined, and the order of the artists could have been better arranged. However, the festival managed to create a fun and safe atmosphere for fans of alternative music. Though the show didn’t go off without a hitch, the show went on, and created a festival that might become an annual event.

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