Many Ithacans are familiar with the vibrant and varied music scene here in this small, artsy, creative Upstate New York town, but there are a handful of rock bands you may not have heard as much about.
The range of rock isn’t one to be rivaled especially in such small area. You have your indie, psychedelic, punk, hardcore, folk, rock n’ roll, alternative, hard rock, southern, grunge, abstract, pop, glam, garage, experimental, noise, and more.
You have a variety of venues including Sacred Root Kava Lounge & Tea Bar, The Haunt, Chanticleer, Lot 10, The Range, The Dock, but also house shows where you might just find some of Ithaca’s hidden diamonds in a bit more rough scene.
“Most house shows will have a mix of local and touring artists often more impressive than actual venues here in terms of DIY rock bands,” active Ithaca Underground member Wayne Torrey said. “Most of the people I know who’ve hosted house shows on a consistent basis are people who really love music and providing a space for their favorite touring and local bands to bring their community through Ithaca.”
“House shows and other non-traditional spaces are incredibly important to any music community. Most bands need a launching point before hitting the club [...] That said, a scene cannot exist on house shows alone. Alone, things can get exclusive, hard to find, and unsustainable as people come and go. A balance of venues to start in and grow through is key anywhere,” said Ithaca Underground Board Director and local musician Bubba Crumrine who plays with experimental avant garde rock group BRIAN! -- another to keep an eye on.
You’ll also find many of the members in one or more other bands like Mike Amadeo who performs with both heavy psychedelic rock four piece Water Bears, punk crustcore four piece White Crime, and indie folk rock group Lady D & the Shadow Spirits. Many also have their own side projects like Claire McClusky of Rill Ghosties who also has her solo endeavor clam lust.
We all know and have read about the movers and shakers who have held quite a strong presence in the Ithaca rock world for quite some time like Ire Clad, Vee Da Bee, Izzy True, and Viva Mayhem. But lookout Ithacans, especially rock enthusiasts, there are some up and comers on the rise in the local rock world including Chimes of Bayonets, Fir -- a two piece rock group who just released their debut EP “Always” on August 18 -- Jerry Skyscraper, Lazy Bones, Rill Ghosties, Nancy Babich, White Crime, Zero Mean, Cave Teeth, Monolith, Delta Sierra, Spazzare, and Lazy Bones.
Punk rock three piece Chimes of Bayonets just released their debut 3 track EP “Abacus Hate” in April and launched a full website at the end of July. They have played in and around Ithaca and have an upcoming show in September in Rochester and will be playing at this year’s Porchfest.
Jerry Skyscraper was founded about a year ago by four Ithaca College students self described as “garage indie influenced by different genres like psychedelic, rock, some jazz, and weird.” They started out playing a bunch of house parties with Lazy Bones -- alt-indie group who released their first single in March and have a new EP coming out in early 2019 and a month long tour in January, and now we have a few concerts at venues coming up. Jerry Skyscraper recently got onto Spotify’s Fresh Finds: Six Strings in June. Jerry Skyscraper has and continues to collaborate with Lazy Bones. They also plan to record all of their upcoming songs in Stein’s bedroom this fall and they will be performing on the same bill on September 22 at Lot 10.
Airy, experimental rock group Rill Ghosties has postponed their release date on what was once a two song album, which has no morphed from a single into a 7-song album again and are shooting for an October 2018 release date. Rill Ghosties is still performing live but postponing upcoming shows as they rework the band lineup and focus on wrapping their debut album. The original line-up is still actively working on the album but many of the members are also in the process of pursuing solo projects.
Dynamic female punk rock group Nancy Babich just finished up a string of local summer shows, are currently working on scheduling more shows, and are excited to be playing for Ladyfest Binghamton on September 29th.
“We’ve actually never toured and have only played locally before this so I’m personally really excited to play our first show out of town,” guitarist and vocalist Jessica Eustace said.
On the harder side of rock, keep an eye on local sludge doom rock favorite Water Bears’ trio lead by frontman Mike Amadeo “who absolutely rips his effects-drenched basslines,” according to Crumrine. Watch out for Zero Mean -- a trio of CNY & Upstate members with a wall of sound blurring doom, noise rock, & shoegaze, thanks to frontwoman Fidget Illy’s massive bass tone -- and White Crime holding down the anti-fascist punk vein of Ithaca and they’re a bit of a super group of those who have been involved in the Ithaca DIY punk of this particular period. Monolith -- four piece including Jason Eldridge and Colin Wilson on guitar and vocals; drummer Ken Whitener, whose son Tobin plays with Cave Teeth; Parker Callister on bass and vocals, and Matthew Bader on synth and vocals -- released their debut album in April of this year and are now in the process of writing new material as a three piece and may be throwing in a name change in the near future.
“Monolith might just be the heaviest band to be a part of the local IU community,” Crumrine said. “Deafening sludge-doom with deft composition prowess and tracks that easily span 10 to 20 minutes in duration.”
Moody alt rock five piece outfit Delta Sierra has been touring all over Upstate New York over the summer and plan to release their debut album -- available via vinyl and digital download --, Grown-Up Situations, this Fall. Guitarist John North is also lead guitarist and vocalist for psychedelic grunge three piece Spazzare who are now also touring outside of Ithaca limits and released their self-titled debut album at the beginning of June.
“I’m glad to see Spazzare picking up steam,” Crumrine said. “They’re loud, sludgy with nice flourishes of psych melody and hooks along with everyone doing vocals. Their bassist Dusky has been involved w the underground music community since before I was working IU and opened one of the first half dozen IU shows I booked.”
A big up and comer many Ithacans might not yet heard of or heard from is Ghost(s) featuring Laura Elise on guitar and vocals sounding like a mashup between Australian rockstar Courtney Barnett and the hardrockness of Alison Mosshart of British-American indie rock group The Kills and American supergroup The Dead Weather. Ghost(s) recently launched their online presence and released a brief, unmastered track, “Finding Faults”, from their forthcoming album. Elise is accompanied by drummer and percussionist Steve Gollnick who apparently helped bring the music written in her teen years to life. Ghost(s) will also be playing with rock band Grand Turk and folk group Justin Roeland & Nightswimmers on September 15at The Range.