Fall 2014 Concert Preview: What to see in CNY

We scoured Central New York to find the don't-miss indie, alternative and hip-hop shows of fall 2014 so you don't have to.

There's no denying the scores of Instagrammed pumpkin spice lattes and apple cinnamon baked goods that autumn brings. There's also no denying how delicious those confectionary treats are. But fall is also harvest season, and this year, plenty of concerts are ripe for the picking here in Central New York.

Syracuse's position in the state allows it to be a pinwheel of sorts, with awesome shows within an hour's drive in each direction. From dreamy indie pop to classic folk to trippy reggae, CNY has it all. Here's the proof: seven anticipated shows you won't want to miss this season.

1. Tweedy at the State Theatre of Ithaca (Ithaca) - Sept. 24

Jeff Tweedy is best known as the singer, songwriter and sonic visionary of beloved Chicago folk outfit Wilco. But to his 18-year-old son Spencer, he's known as "Dad." Their relationship clearly transcends typical father-son dynamics, as Spencer now sits behind the drums for his dad's solo project, called simply Tweedy. Jeff, Spencer and a handful of other musicians stop by Ithaca's State Theatre Wednesday, Sept. 24, for an evening of music new and old which, like Jeff's standard output in Wilco, treads the line between endearing softness and rollicking noise.

2. Real Estate at The Haunt (Ithaca) - Sept. 30

Brooklyn buzz bands tend to get a bulk of the press in the alternative realm. Real Estate actually deserves it. Blending ethereal guitar tones with wispy chord changes, Real Estate has racked up a respectable amount of cred in the five years since Woodsist released their debut LP. A new record, Atlas, dropped in March to high praise. The band's live set is serious but not solemn, airy but not feather-thin and emotionally resonant -- just ask anyone who caught them at Schine Underground in 2012.

3. Nas at the Marina Jeep Arena @ the Main Street Armory (Rochester) - Oct. 2

This isn't just any Nas show; this is a stop on the 20th anniversary tour for his seminal debut, Illmatic, widely considered to be one of the greatest hip-hop records of all time. Without Illmatic's gritty street portraits of East Coast poverty, hip-hop may have swerved in a different direction in the 1990s. No matter your thoughts on the genre's current state, Nas is a true rap practitioner, making his live show an absolute must. Tickets are comparatively steep (between $40 and $45), but this is Illmatic we're talking about, people.

4. Giant Panda Guerrilla Dub Squad at the Westcott Theater (Syracuse) - Oct. 3

For reasons that may never be entirely clear, reggae is something of a phenomenon here in CNY. Rochester's Giant Panda Guerrilla Dub Squad are a living embodiment of it, though they've thankfully managed to sneak in some country and psychedelic influences into their hazy blend of roots jams as well. The end result is an explosive live show that's bound to get your feet moving, whether you want them to or not. But, let's face it -- you'll probably want them to.

5. Cloud Nothings at Lost Horizon (Syracuse) - Oct. 9

If you'll indulge another buzz band, you'll discover Cloud Nothings are a versatile young group of guys who make quite a racket but still manage to pack their tunes with plenty of melody. Originally the basement project of singer Dylan Baldi, Cloud Nothings have blossomed into a forceful stage presence, even appearing on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon just two years go. Earplugs might be a good idea for this one.

6. Ray LaMontagne at the Landmark Theatre (Syracuse) - Nov. 8

In just 10 years, Ray LaMontagne has grown from coffee shop crooner to theater and festival headliner. That's a big leap for anyone, but LaMontagne's understated charm and catchy, adult pop radio-ready songs make it look easy. With a mop of thick black hair and a bushy beard, LaMontagne's presence has the remarkable ability to leave audiences stunned, whether playing an acoustic set or getting backwater raucous with a full band.

7. Jenny Lewis at the State Theatre of Ithaca (Ithaca) - Nov. 8

Jenny Lewis rocked the indie rock world in the 2000s with her band, Rilo Kiley. After that band officially disbanded in 2011, Jenny spent three years crafting a perfect statement of self with this year's stellar LP, The Voyager. Co-produced by Ryan Adams and Beck, The Voyager is a compellingly beautiful and honest look at life past 35 rendered memorable by Lewis' breathy vocals and tight pop sensibilities. Plus, how can you say no to an onstage outfit like this?

Of course, not everyone has a car (or friends willing to trek a few miles downtown for a silly little rock show). But fear not: we're still awaiting University Union's official word on who's playing here on campus this semester. If Juice Jam wasn't exactly your thing, here's hoping an electric guitar or two will make a Bandersnatch appearance in the coming months.

Real Estate photo by Devin Lawrence Woolf/Flickr

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