The Elevated Underground offers big sound in a small space on the Westside

The trio behind this up-and-coming Syracuse venue hope to promote and showcase lesser-represented genres in the local music scene.

To get inside The Elevated Underground, you must first climb up over 20 steps toward a bright blue door, then duck down once you’re in. Next door to a park on the corner of West Onondaga Street and South Geddes Street in a quiet residential area on the Westside lies Syracuse’s best-kept music secret.

Photo: Annie Flanagan
Musician Emile Hawthorne released his first album, "The Art of Simplicity," on Feb. 15, a day before his show at The Elevated Underground.

“You wouldn’t know it now, but it used to be a horror scene down here,” Dusten Blake, 25, owner of The Elevated Underground, said.

Christmas lights hang from the ceiling and patches of mismatched carpet squares line the part of the basement floor where dozens of musicians have performed since The Elevated Underground first opened its doors in October 2012. When Blake, fresh out of prison, decided to buy the four-story house, he never thought it would become one of Syracuse’s up-and-coming music venues.

“I knew the space needed a lot of work. There used to be trash up to your ankles down here and the floor was bare,” he said.

But Blake's housemate Pat Collins, 21, and friend Steve Zahn, mid-20s, also saw potential.

After some construction, soundproofing and a paint job, the three friends transformed the house's basement into a live music performance space. On Oct. 12, the basement hosted its first show featuring local hip-hop acts Timothy J, Virgman and J Blizid. Good crowd turnout and sound sparked curiosity in the venue throughout Syracuse.

Since then, The Elevated Underground has hosted over 10 shows with four to five artists per show. The new venue also boasts affordable ticket prices, averaging about $2-$5 per show.

Blake, Collins and Zahn said that catering to Syracuse’s under-represented music scene is their top priority. “There’s a lot of hardcore and indie artists out here and I was just tired of it,” Blake said. “So, Pat and Steve try to book pop rock, pop punk and ska artists. Before this, I don’t think there was any place around here to watch ska.”

Promoting The Elevated Underground has been a grassroots effort for the trio. Highly active on social media, the venue advertises all upcoming shows on Facebook, and you can also follow them on Twitter. Blake, who is also the venue’s unofficial sound guy, also broadcasts shows live on Ustream.

So far, the space has seen artists from Syracuse, New Jersey, Long Island and as far as Montreal. There are currently four shows booked for March and Blake is in talks to bring mc chris and bring back Love, Robot for the future. They’re also looking to expand by renting out larger local venues that can fit more than 30 fans.

“You know, the idea behind our name and logo is that our house is so high up, yet the basement is still underground,” Blake said. “You have to go up to get down.”

Not for much longer.

The Elevated Underground is located at 1229 W. Onondaga St. The next show the venue will host is Sunday March 3 and will feature Grand Rapids, Mich. ska/punk band Three Cents Short and Watertown, NY anti-folk group The Bottle Kids.

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