The Student News Site of Ithaca College

Ithaca Week

Ithaca Week

Ithaca Week

New Ithaca Music Festival Debuts and Delivers


Key Points

• The first ever Finger Lakes Thaw Festival debuted last weekend (March 23 & 24) in Ithaca

• Over 30 bands from all across the world along with artists right from here in Ithaca played 5 different venues

• The festival was a huge success for musicians and music lovers in Ithaca

The vibes were strong and the drinks were flowing last weekend (March 23 & 24) as the inaugural Finger Lakes Thaw Festival kicked off.

Hosted across 5 different venues around Ithaca (The Space at Greenstar, Lot 10, The Range, Argos Warehouse and Casita del Polaris), over 30 bands from all across the country and world played the two-day festival. Headliners for the event included Giant Panda Guerrilla Dub Squad, Big Mean Sound Machine and even Maroon 5 keyboardist PJ Morton.

The festival supported the motto “The City Is the Venue” for the weekend, emphasizing the greatness of Ithaca and the people that make up the music community here.

Photo of Sabouyouma
West African band Sabouyouma performs at Lot 10 on March 24.

Behind the Scenes

The idea for the festival was inspired by Brooklyn’s Winter Jazzfest, event organizer Nick Frazier said.

“We have a whole lot of music venues and all of them are really distinct and cool and we’ve got a great concert-going atmosphere for fostering local talent,” he said. “I felt like with the mix of the enthusiasm from Ithacans for music and the proliferation of music venues all over town, it made a lot of sense to try to do a venue-festival like this year.”

Frazier, alongside his partner TJ Schaper, began the planning by first booking The Space at Greenstar, which was the venue that served as the “main stage.” From there, they booked the headliners first in order to draw attention and bring credibility to the festival.

The next step was getting the venues on board, which to Frazier’s delight was easy. “Essentially what we were asking people to do is shut their doors for business and allow us to throw a thing in their place,” he said.

“It was as simple as talking to the owners. It was telling them my vision, that I’m in this for the long haul and it’s going to benefit the community as a whole. Everybody was really enthusiastic, I didn’t really meet much resistance from any of our venue owners.”Photo of Thaw Festival t-shirt

The final step was booking the bands, and it was done in an interesting way. Instead of accepting applications like most music festivals, Frazier particularly curated the lineup to bands he knew and bands he knew Ithacans would enjoy.

“I have worked in and around the live music field for six years or so, and I spend a lot of time on the road and I’ve seen lots of talent all over the country,” he said.

“We knew what good sounded like and we knew what Ithaca was lacking as far as genre representation, and that was our goal in moving forward in booking. It was to branch out from what Ithaca typically offers music fans.

A Smashing Success

Being its first year, the results were a huge success. While Frazier admits at first he was worried, he realized once Ithacans figured out the multi-venue structure, the crowds rolled in.

“The turnout exceeded our expectation and I think the expectations of the people that attended,” he said.

“After Friday when people sort of got their legs under them and started to understand what was going on, it took off on Saturday and our door sales were really good and all of our venues were packed, which was a shock.”

Photo of DJ ha-MEEN
Ithaca’s DJ ha-MEEN warms up the crowd at The Range on March 24.

Kendall Blizzard, a student at Ithaca College attended the festival and said her favorite aspect was the uniqueness of each venue. “Each venue had a different vibe and aesthetic that paired with the music really well,” she said.

“For example, the Space at Greenstar had the biggest stage and had more of a typical concert look, while the Warehouse at Argos looked like a hipster book store meets modern-rustic bar and had more jazz, folk and calmer music that you could enjoy while sipping a glass of wine.”

Lasting Impact on Ithaca Music Scene

Although bands from all over flocked to Ithaca for the two-day festival, many of the bands were from Ithaca themselves.

According to Frazier, when he was organizing the festival, he had in mind that he wanted to help local artists. By bringing in talents from outside of Ithaca, he said he hoped to nurture our homegrown talent.

“It’s a good move for everybody, the desire was providing an opportunity for people in Ithaca to meet other talent and sort of network on a business level,” he said. “I wanted this to be more than just for the people attending the festival, but also a productive work thing for people playing the festival.”

Photo of Bead & Bone
Band, ‘Bead & Bones’ including Erik Johnson (saxophone) play The Space at Greenstar on March 24.

Erik Johnson, a local musician in Ithaca who plays for many bands including Bead & Bones, felt that intention himself, connecting with many musicians he normally wouldn’t.

“Earlier I was playing with some of the brass musicians and there’s brass musicians from Europe, there’s people from all over, it’s just a connecting environment, so it’s a good place to be,” he said.

He also talked about how important it is for Ithaca artists to promote themselves during these kinds of festivals. “I’m excited to see if we get some internet drive from this on top of just a good crowd,” he said.

Frazier said he hopes to expand next year by incorporating more restaurants and bars and getting the city even more involved.

“This festival is about seeing people all over town for the weekend who you know you will see somewhere else,” he said. “It’s the idea of having, a familiar face in a strange place. Many times over the course of a couple of days, and with music being the platform for that, we want to continue to evolve.”

Leave a Comment
Donate to Ithaca Week

Your donation will support the student journalists of Ithaca College. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to Ithaca Week

Comments (0)

All Ithaca Week Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *