March 15, 2016

ITHACA A-LIVE | Irish Trad Tuesdays + 116 Cook

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Ailis is writing solo this week!

Today, I’m writing about two small musical events in Ithaca last week: Traditional Irish Music + $1 PBR Tuesdays at Ruloff’s and a Friday night gig at 116 Cook Street featuring Ithaca’s Modern Hut and Shore Acres Drive alongside New York’s Fraternal Twin and New Jersey’s Long Beard.

Ruloff’s Traditional Irish Tuesday was a nice way to start off the week. Excellent musicians of all ages got together for a traditional chéile session where anyone can come and go as they please. The session took place in the basement section of Ruloff’s, away from the noisy youth upstairs. They had a small audience of long-past-college adults politely clapping after each jam. There was plenty of black beer around the musicians’ table, but I was drinking good ol’ PBR because that sweet, sweet $1 deal just can’t be beat. I was a bit disappointed that they played no traditional songs with words, but I will be going back this week to hopefully coerce them into a classic singalong. The evening was relaxed, and (dare I admit it?) actually made for a great spot to do some homework, write a few tipsy e-mails, and conduct business. Yes, I brought my cow-print backpack to Ruloff’s.

Although the music is scheduled to play until 11p.m., by 10:30, things got a bit too raucous upstairs to hear the music. A few drunken ruffians began to spill into the downstairs area by 10:45, but a few musicians stuck around until after 11 regardless, clearly playing for their own enjoyment. If you play an instrument, you can hop right in. I’ve heard that they’re even willing to teach a serious musician some of the traditional ornamentation and flourishes in the Irish musical style. The evening featured versatile players of fiddle, acoustic guitar, flute, banjo, bodhrán (the Irish trad drum), accordion, and the hammered dulcimer- a rare treat. I hope to see a tin whistle and some pipes this week! Maybe I’ll hop in on the spoons… after a few cans.

Next up was a Friday night gig at 116 Cook! There was a change in the original lineup due to travel issues: Shore Acres Drive went on last after the two out-of-town headliners. I missed Modern Hut, but had some great conversations with Steinhardt about the bands who followed.

Fraternal Twin and Long Beard were on next, in that order. Both shared a similar sound and even a musician! The guitarist and vocalist of Fraternal Twin picked up the bass for Long Beard. It’s a shame that Fraternal Twin didn’t have anything for sale because, although the two bands shared the same sad, ethereal vibe (think Rodion), his voice, reminiscent of Julian Casablancas of The Strokes fame, brought something magical to the table. That’s not to say that the voice of Long Beard’s lead singer, Leslie Bear was unenjoyable! Her breathy, high-pitched vocals floated above the distorted guitars, brisk drums, and looped layers. Their set began simply and ended with heavy distortion and dizzying looping of both vocals and guitar. I bought their record instead and was not disappointed!

Unfortunately, I can’t say too many good things about the venue. The low-ceilinged basement was, well, obviously a basement. There was no attempt to hide laundry machines, and the space wasn’t well designed for a band to play a show or an average-sized man to stand up. Even Leslie Bear expressed her dissatisfaction over the sound quality with a whisper that was picked up by the mic: “This amp sounds like shit!” You can’t get very close to the band due to the longer-than-wide shape of the venue which leads to distracted attendees carrying loud conversations over shitty acoustics. This makes for a relaxed venue with a punk atmosphere that gets some talented bands in, but not for a good place to hear them. No disrespect to the apartment owners who put the shows together, allowing these wonderful, lesser-known musicians the opportunity to gig in Ithaca.

Although I missed his set, I made sure to purchase Modern Hut’s album Generic Treasure (2013). It was interesting to hear MH’s recordings after already having heard him perform live quite a few times. The production is minimal, but it definitely adds an interesting element to his work. I almost always prefer live music, but the emotion remains on the vinyl version of the songs,  which includes some syrupy-sweet, slightly distorted guitars. The album is simple and tidy, with the average song clocking in at just 2:30. On the track “Life,” (see Bandcamp below) a woman, Marissa Paternoster of Screaming Females, sings with Steinhardt. Her voice is strong and unique, livening up the slow track.

I was hoping to see a better performance from Shore Acres Drive this time around and was not disappointed. Charlie Fraioli seemed to be in better health this week. His grin was ear-to-ear as he jammed out for a pumped crowd. He has a nice stage personality as front-man, but I still stand by my past review of the band overall. The fanbase of 00s pop-punk and alt-rock lovers might be impressed by the simple guitar riffs and drumbeats, but I am hoping for a little more. The music has its place, however; who doesn’t like to rock out to some familiar-sounding live music? They even did a rock rendition of Happy Birthday. Shore Acres Drive plays crowd-pleasing party music for an alternative audience, and I certainly had fun listening and watching, but I don’t think I’ll be purchasing their records anytime soon.

Check out the bands below:

Next up this coming Sunday, March 20, is something a little different. Flysch (Portland, OR), Sunken Cheek (Ithaca), V. Sinclair (Providence, RI), Fä (Ithaca), and Kjostad (Ithaca) will be playing at Sacred Root Kava Lounge at 7p.m. Not to be missed! Check out the Ithaca Underground Facebook page for the event deets, and have a Happy St. Patrick’s Day this Thursday March 17! (“If you don’t know, now you know.” -Biggie Smalls)

Olivia is a junior studying film in the college of Arts and Sciences. She was born and raised in the teeny tiny fishing town of Soldotna, Alaska. When she’s not frolicking around outside, she can be found watching cartoons or drinking tea in her catbug onesie.
Ailis is a junior from New Jersey studying environmental science and sustainability.  If you can’t find her at a pub she’s probably playing guitar in her PJs or writing anything and everything down in tiny notebooks.