nzmattis's Blog

CNY Concert Calendar (April and May): Ra Ra Riot returns

The SU alums come through the area three times before the semester ends to highlight the remaining spring concert calendar.

The local concert calendar has finally picked up for the stretch run. Thirty-eight days remain in the semester and at least 28 shows (OK, 26 pre- the official semester's end) exist that are worth seeing in CNY... and there are even more than that. To help navigate how to spend your last music viewing month, here are three recommendations:

Have the Ra Ra Riot experience. SU's most recent famous alumni group comes to CNY again this semester and every Orange music fan needs to see them once in an academic career. In case you forgot, they played Funk N' Waffles last fall right after debuting The Orchard.

Ra Ra Riot's return to Syracuse from NewsHouse on Vimeo.

The band returns to The Westcott tonight with the first of three CNY shows before summer rolls around (Hamilton College on 4/30, Cornell on 5/6). They've been busy connecting with local press (Wes with the Post-Standard, Milo with The Daily Orange and Mat with WERW) and also working to raise money. The band has a strong relationship with Japan through their previous tours and is currently working through whether or not they can keep upcoming dates there. In the meantime, they paired with Vampire Weekend and Tokyo Police Club to auction off items and then with to sell their records this week,  both for charity. All those sales benefit Japanese aid efforts.


Support the local scene, especially this weekend. The Northbound Traveling Minstrel Jugband performs on back-to-back nights (including opening for Ra Ra Riot), world famous potato rapper ToTs takes over Funk N' Waffles and then a plethora of local DJs (including Chemicals of Creation) compete to open for Pretty Lights at the WERW DJ Competition this Friday. Keep your eyes peeled to on-campus media (and Facebook) to see what else develops before the year ends.


Try something new. The full calendar below may not contain the major names some were hoping for (although Kid Cudi qualifies, right?) but there's no lack of quality. Catching some of these acts now certainly gives you the potential for "I saw them when..." stories in just a year or two. Maps & Atlases could've landed on your radar after opening for Ra Ra Riot in CNY a few short years ago, but now they've been appreciated as underrated by outlets like Amazon Music and held their own at SXSW. Telekinesis currently carries the Merge Records momentum in 2011 as their second album, 12 Desperate Straight Lines, finds lots of play and will certainly be on display at The Westcott in May. STRFKR's second album, Reptilians, was recently called the sequel to MGMT's Oracular Spectacular that band didn't want to make so don't miss the party this weekend. 


If all else fails, check out the lineup yourself and make sure you find a show to end the year right. The air guitar competition seems like it'd do the trick...




STRFKR - April 7 (Thur.) in Ithaca (also April 9, Sat., in Rochester)

Ra Ra Riot w/ w/ The Northbound Traveling Minstrel Jugband - April 7 (Thur.) at The Westcott

ToTs - April 8 (Fri.) at Funk N' Waffles

DJ Battle to open for Pretty Lights (featuring Chemicals of Creation, Cloud Club, etc.) - April 8 (Fri.) at The Westcott

Hoots & Hellmouth w/ The Northbound Traveling Minstrel Jugband - April 9 (Sat.) at Funk N' Waffles

The Beach Boys - April 9 (Sat.) at Turning Stone

Kaki King - April 9 (Sat.) in Binghamton

Franz Nicolay of the Hold Steady - April 12 (Tues.) in Rochester

Lupe Fiasco - April 13 (Wed.) in Albany

Iron & Wine - April 15 (Fri.) in Buffalo

Maps & Atlases – April 15 (Fri.) in Buffalo

Jukebox The Ghost - April 15 (Fri.) in Oswego

Pretty Lights - Apr 16 (Sat.) in Syracuse

US Air Guitar Competition - April 22 (Fri.) in Syracuse

Elton John - April 23 (Sat.) in Rochester

The Walkmen/New Pornographers - April 25 (Mon.) in Buffalo

Of Montreal - April 25 (Mon.) in Ithaca

Kid Cudi/Nas & Damian Marley – April 29 (Fri.) at Block Party 2011

Ted Leo - April 30 (Sat.) in Scranton

Rockapella - April 30 (Sat.) in Albany

Ra Ra Riot - April 30 (Sat.) at Hamilton College




Yellowcard/All Time Low - May 5 (Thur.) in Clifton Park

Nelly/Ra Ra Riot/The Cool Kids – May 6 (Fri.) at Cornell

The Walkmen – May 6 (Fri.) in Ithaca

Stone Temple Pilots - May 7 (Sat.) in Rochester

Manchester Orchestra/An Horse – May 7 (Sat.) in Rochester

Cake - May 20 (Fri.) in Buffalo

Portugal The Man/Telekinesis – May 28 (Sat.) at The Westcott

Concert Crowdsourced: Pete Yorn and Ben Kweller

Pete Yorn came back to his alma mater (along with Ben Kweller) to deliver an intimate performance at The Westcott. Here's a glimpse at what the experience was like through the notes of folks in the building.

First things first, the show seemed to go over well for all in attendance. Ben Kweller in particular moved his fans enough to take to Twitter.

Pete Yorn wasn't without his admirers either.  He inspired not only tweets but media sharing including fan videos and additional photos of the night from NewsHouse photographer Isa Alcantara.


Finally, both Kweller and Yorn engaged with the community in person enough to reach out online. Kweller got some personal time with folks at Alto Cinco for some post show food. Both he and Yorn couldn't help but comment on the inclimate weather that ulimately lead to an SU snowday.


Photos from Isabel Alcantara


Quick picks for the SXSW Orange Influencers Playlist

The iSchool is looking for a mixtape of SU artists to hype at SXSW, here are three quick suggestions from Otto-Tune.

Syracuse's social media presence has been making things happen for quite some time now and this week they came up with another great idea for the iSchool's upcoming SXSW Orange Influencers party: 

Let a 'Cuse alum DJ the event. Let the playlist be comprised of 'Cuse artists.

Today is the deadline for 'Cuse musicians past and present to submit their music (up to 3 songs, mp3 format, e-mailed to for consideration. Anyone submitting will be considered primarily on the merit of the music but any promotional campaigns running across various social medias will add to their cause. Full rules are here if you or any colleagues think your material is up to the task. Unfortunately neither of my undergraduate projects likely fits the bill.

At first it's easy to immediately throw out Ra Ra Riot or Pete Yorn (don't forget Lou Reed folks) or to suggest any of the current bands on campus. They did make a splash at CMJ in the fall so logic says they'd make an impression at this festival too. However, there are plenty of recent 'Cuse music alums who deserve a few moments in the spotlight so consider these three suggestions for any SU playlist:


Andrew Maury ('08) and The Remix Artist Collective

We wrote about Maury as one of the big SU-related music items of 2010 because of his production prowess, but the music he puts out as the only U.S.-based member of The RAC needs more play as well. Stereogum has been an avid supporter of the group's work and, by proxy, all the bands the group samples are supporters too. That list includes acts like Bloc Party, Phoenix and Tokyo Police Club among others. For the SU SXSW mixtape, might as well use their remix of "A Manner to Act" from fellow alumni darlings Ra Ra Riot.

Erikino ('07)

It's hard to break out as a musician on campus any time, but perhaps particularly when Ra Ra Riot is still around. Erikino's time at SU overlapped quite a bit with the band but his group Camp Camp used to receive their only healthy share of fandom, attention and buzz in the campus scene. That group's music was heavy dance electronica that got students moving, but Erikino's solo work was even better. His "Little Guy Demo" featured electronic-pop music with airy emotional vocals. It was minimalist electronica done as well as Spoon providing minimalist indie rock. Try "Electric Touch" for the mixtape and dare yourself to not be intrigued.

ToTs (current)

If you want to catch someone's attention with something different at SXSW, including current SU community member ToTs on the mixtape will certainly work. The local potato rapper has been slowly gaining more and more steam with his own genre and now world-record breaking music. He even had a brief stint on Wikipedia before editors cited a lack of credible media coverage. His work has been featured in the Village Voice, USA Today Pop Candy and the Universal Record Database however. It's worth mentioning the ascent of ToTs made its way into the NewsHouse's 2010 Year-End Music List as well. Try the track "Crispy" off his latest release as a conversation starter for the SU SXSW mixtape.

ToTs - Crispy from Reserve17 on Vimeo.


The Sister Lovers would've been a solid option for the third pick but it's hard to confirm if any of the members ever did attend SU (straightforward indie rock, played with Ra Ra Riot a few times and once had Vampire Weekend play before them at Funk N' Waffles). Any other acts that need to be on the SU SXSW mixtape that are likely being overlooked?

Kid Cudi coming was inevitable, that's not a bad thing.

Considering the other choices on UU's Survey and SU's near miss with the rapper last year, Kid Cudi was a predictable yet solid booking for UU.

No one is surprised, right?

When UU released their Block Party 2011 survey last fall, the writing was on the wall. The list of potential headliners was diverse, but there was no way acts like The Arcade Fire or Katy Perry were coming (simply too big). If folks were questioning who Kid Cudi was, acts like Deadmau5 or the Zac Brown Band didn't stand a chance.

That left Cudi, Maroon 5, Ke$ha, Weezer, Vampire Weekend and Akon. If you question Cudi's relevance, no way Weezer or Maroon 5 would've sufficed (one of those two acts is doing insurance jingles now). Based on Block Party's traditional genres (last four headliners: Drake/N.E.R.D, Ben Folds/Guster?, Fergie/Sean Kingston, Ciara/Lupe Fiasco), hip-hop or pop seemed the most likely fits.  Cudi was practically booked last year and considering this list: Kid Cudi > Akon, case closed.

The response on campus has been large and mostly positive. The common themes for detractors on the Cudi announcement seem to be: 1) he's not currently relevant  2) it's the same old Block Party genre and 3) students had access to him in the area previously. Some of that may be true (particularly the small number of folks recognizing Nas is a legend and Cudi just a newcomer. Remember though, Nas will likely just be performing his most recent release with Marley and Cudi's albums have surpassed that).

Cudi played a sold-out show at Cornell last fall and is supposedly scheduled for SUNY Cortland just a week before the Block Party date. However, the same would be true if we booked Vampire Weekend (Rochester in the fall) or Ke$ha (SUNY-Geneseo in April) and Drake faced the same predictament last year without much complaint. Cudi's relevance right now may not be at its peak (hard to argue "Man On The Moon II" eclipsed the original), but he still released an acclaimed album last year and his first release was one of the more highly regarded rap debuts in the last five years. More importantly, he's  relevant to our campus according to the limited numbers released about the UU survey (36 percent of respondents had him ranked first, 30 percent had him second). If UU ever releases the full results (Note to UU: Please do. I'll run them here immediately if you're willing) we can argue about acts who were close, but the organization is catering to their audience and you can't expect them to do more.

If you're not familiar with Kid Cudi and simply dismiss this booking as another rap or hip-hop show, take a minute to listen for yourself. Cudi is more Kanye West than he is true emcee.  He's an artist who is very aware of the current musical and pop cultural landscape and finds ways to reference it in his work (for instance his debut album featured help from MGMT and Ratatat and an infectious sample of Lady Gaga's "Poker Face"). While it may not be the pure pop or rock act some were hoping for, calling Kid Cudi a traditional rapper doesn't do him enough justice. His music has the ability to appeal across genres and you've likely heard it without knowing it before. 

We still don't know who the secret opener is (UU president was quoted as saying the act is, "a very interesting pick that has been garnering some attention lately and will add a nice element to Block Party," though) but on the merit's of yesterday's announcement alone it's worth planning for the 11 a.m. presale today. Those who are complaining about the Cudi announcement, I'm not sure what a better alternative was (see the headliners list below). Kid Cudi is a major act who'll undoubtedly winover folks willing to go and see for themselves. Expect another Block Party with sales figures close to last year and it'll be hard to say UU did anything but succeed if that happens.

This week in SU music: More shows by campus acts, new Diplo tickets and another UU survey

A new batch of available Diplo tickets highlights the music happenings on campus this week.



Diplo is the act everyone's been waiting for

The big name DJ can appeal to everyone and has a chance to be the can't-miss event of the year.

I've been critical of some University Union bookings in the recent past. Campus shows so far this year have recycled some of the artists we've seen neighboring CNY schools bring first or they included acts that failed to excite the masses (either groups were still on the brink or too niche for most).

Today, however, no one is questioning their most recent announcement. Folks not lucky enough to be at SU anymore are dejected. In fact some on-campus groups are campaigning just to be involved in the evening.

Diplo is coming to Goldstein Auditorium on March 26 as part of Hillel's 60th anniversary festivities. The DJ's performance is technically part of the Bandersnatch series but was relocated to Goldstein because a sellout is expected. "Inevitable" may be a better word since tickets are just $5 with an SUID. Hit up the box office today.

You know Diplo even if you somehow fail to recognize the name. You've seen the Blackberry commercial and likely heard his work regardless of your preferred genre. He's produced music for major dance acts like M.I.A, LaRoux and Robyn. He's also worked with acts as diverse as Sleigh Bells, Britney Spears and Linkin Park (try to link those three in other way). He possesses the same production genius of someone like Steve Aoki but is able to do it in a way that connects with the masses. Regardless of who you supported in those UU surveys, Diplo was one name that could show up high on anyone's ballot.

I was lucky enough to see both Diplo and his new project Major Lazer perform in the same day at Camp Bisco last summer. Major Lazer was the name floating around the UU survey but even then Diplo felt like the right choice. His production and remix skill was much more evident without Skerrit Bwoy prancing around the stage and if Diplo could make a tent in rural Albany feel like a happening NYC club, what would he be capable of in an intimate space on campus?

Diplo has a chance to be the show to see on campus this year no matter who is named as the Block Party 2011 headliner in the coming weeks. With that in play, it's time to congratulate UU (and also co-sponsor Hillel) on job well done. That said... the box office opens at 11 a.m.




This week in SU music: Campus bands, mtvU voting, Phantogram and Ra Ra Riot

Ra Ra Riot's recent Wescott show announcement headlines the music happenings impacting SU within the last two weeks.
  • The Northbound Traveling Minstrel Jug Band (you could call them a CMJ darling) is currently streaming a new seven song EP on their Facebook page. They're also opening for Tea Leaf Green tomorrow night at the Wescott Theater.






Ra Ra Riot's return to Syracuse from NewsHouse on Vimeo.

Little known Big Sean and Donnis promise to start semester off on the right foot

At first you may not recognize the acts for the first UU show of the semester, but those in the know will tell you it's a ticket worth getting.

It's less than a week after we managed to get a January/February concert calendar posted and University Union (specifically Bandersnatch) managed to already announce an addition with its first show of the semester.

Big Sean with opener Donnis will kick off SU Winter Carnival 2011 by performing at the Schine Underground on Wednesday, February 23. Tickets are already available through the Schine Box Office: $5 with an SU/ESF and $10 for the general public.

UU representatives told The Daily Orange that both acts are direct bookings from the Block Party 2011 survey sent out last fall. No word on where the two rank among the overall responses or who else is/was being considered for Bandersnatch this semester (that aspect of the survey is a fill-in-your-own-answer initiative... Phantogram will be riding a buzz wave toward Coachella, just saying).The show seems to be a logical booking in light of the success Wiz Khalifa and J. Cole found last semester though.

Since we're nationally known as an influential university on Twitter, it seemed like a natural place to find a campus pulse on the announcement. Buzz for "Big Sean" or "Donnis" around Syracuse seemed limited but was overwhelmingly positive. Many might not know the names, but those who do are adamant that this show will deliver.

For quick bios, Big Sean first hit it big by signing with Kanye West's G.O.O.D label in 2007. He's released several EPs/mixtapes since but his anticipated full-length debut in 2011 will feature many of the names you'd expect accordingly (Kid Cudi, Pharrel, Mike Posner).

Donnis will open and you may best recognize him as the soundtrack supplier for this Adidas viral ad.

Your best bet, as always, is to simply find out more about the acts by catching them in person. Under 30 days and counting...

CNY Concert Calendar: January and February

Shows are slow to be booked at the start of the semester, but let the New Year inspire you to find new music in the meantime.

Happy New Year and New Semester from Otto-Tune. Unfortunately a fresh start for the spring usually means a slow start for concert bookings in CNY (look back to 2010, many of the must-see shows were on college campuses and they won't announce any official shows until after class is in session).That, along with Ted Leo having to reschedule his nearby Scranton date, all leads to a meager CNY Concert Calendar for January and February at the moment (see below).

This early lull is a perfect time to plan ahead while waiting for things to heat up. Whether or not standard New Years resolutions are your style, make a New Music resolution in 2011. What is it? Simply a self-pledge to find new music in a variety of different ways. Here are a few suggestions to get you started: 

Mixtape Exchange Clubs

Think book club in terms of feeling hip and being exposed to new ideas, just a lot less reading. Gather a group of friends, exchange addresses (e-mail or otherwise), set up a schedule and prepare to share. The basic premise is that everyone receives one mixtape according to schedule (once a month? bi-monthly? etc.) while the group rotates a mixtape creator each time. Depending on the time of year and the tastes of your participants, the experiment can yield any number of results. You're sure to get a variety of unique themed playlists, new finds and welcomed classics to keep your listening fresh throughout.  Even if one mix falls short of your expectations, who doesn't love getting mail? 

Supporting Local Musicians

It's easy to keep up with the latest bands getting hyped through free mp3s on your favorite blog, but keeping up with music in your neighborhood is (oddly enough) a lot harder. Many local acts are relatively new, lacking in promotional recordings / general exposure, and limited with their show dates.  It may take a little bit of legwork to seek them out (or luck in knowing the right folks), but pledge to support your local scene whether it brings you to coffee shops, VFWs or off-campus basements. Start with the local music that showcased itself at CMJ last fall, then push even further by looking for some of the newer acts suggested by Mouth's Cradle's Kevin Hegedus this year. 

Plan a road-trip to a hallowed venue

Places like Bowery Ballroom, Terminal 5, Madison Square Garden or even Bethel Woods are just a short day trip away. If you want to continue your pursuit of new music however, try to take in a show at a unique CNY venue. Castaways in Ithaca is a bar where you'll sit closer to major acts than you do your professors. Northern Lights in Clifton Park is a massive space hidden in what appears to be a strip mall. Even the Spark Art Gallery here in 'Cuse is a closet-sized gem just off campus. Their occassional shows are always must see no matter who plays simply so you can feel what it's like to be shoulder-to-shoulder at a show where the walls literally shake.


No matter the method, take the new music challenge in 2011. It could even start with one of the shows below:



Snoop Dogg - 1/27 (Thursday) in Niagra Falls

Lewis Black - 1/28 (Friday) in Scranton, Pa.

Neil Diamond - 1/29 (Saturday) in Buffalo

My Brightest Diamond - 1/30 (Sunday) in Ithaca...and the next night in Rochester

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings


30 Seconds to Mars - 2/3 (Thursday) in Rochester... and the next night in Clifton Park

Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings (right) - 2/3 (Thursday) in Ithaca

Aziz Anzari - 2/4 (Friday) at RIT...and the next night at Cornell
Best Coast - 2/6 (Sunday) in Toronto

GZA - 2/12 (Saturday) in Ithaca

Dr. Dog - 2/16 (Wednesday) in Rochester
Buckcherry - 2/18 (Friday) in Clifton Park

Gwar - 2/21 (Monday) at The Wescott Theater

Dropkick Murphys - 2/23 (Wednesday) in Niagra Falls

Review: Broken Social Scene brings Ithaca to its feet

Canadian indie rock collective put on a singularly emotional, two-hour show.

Kevin Drew started the night off by letting the audience know the exact atmosphere he wanted to create.

“It’s a Friday night, let’s pretend we’re all at a basement party somewhere in Ohio.” He paused and took in the scene at the Ithaca State Theater, “At least it is a Friday night.”

Drew might’ve said the crowd was in for a basement party, but the formal theater setting was perfect. The sounds of “Pacific Theme,” off their landmark album You Forgot It in People, came immediately after. It was a fitting start to the night as the band led with one of its most well known instrumentals, exchanging the main theme between bass, guitar and later a trumpet and tenor saxophone unison.  No matter how much they said differently, Broken Social Scene showcased why they are the epitome of a modern ensemble and not merely some basement rock band on Friday night.

(Photo: Caitlin Dewey)

The band played nearly every track you would request during their marathon two and a half hour set (including all but three tracks from You Forgot It in People). They weaved in new tracks from this year’s Forgiveness Rock Record alongside instrumentals from their 2001 debut with each song appearing just as polished as the last.  Each song sounded as if they’d been rehearsing for days on end like a symphony or orchestra. Every memorable solo came to the forefront, each exchanged riff or tempo change was precise and together. Considering the fact that ten band members interchanged instruments (banjos, auxiliary percussion, a flute) and came on and off stage pending a song’s arrangement, the level of musicianship on display was far beyond any normal Friday night rock concert.

This isn’t to say that Broken Social Scene left the audience without the experiences any concertgoer desires.  A large majority of the crowd was on their feet throughout and Drew embraced the rock concert clichés to an extent. He came out alone on keyboard to start the ballad “Lovers’ Spit” and the audience was moved to attempt clapping along in unison.  Drew accepted it for a verse before proceeding to stop and playfully encourage a sing-a-long rather than a clap-a-long (“I know everyone felt a bit awkward with the clapping, me too. It got emotional there.”).  Instances like the audience nailing the clap in “Stars and Sons” were seminal concert feelings, but largely the intricate soundscapes and high musicianship were the focus rather than stage antics and crowd dancing.

Drew ended the night by introducing all the band members and crew saying, “It takes a show to put on a show.”  The sentiment couldn’t be truer. Broken Social Scene aren’t a band known for endless touring, so nights like this are special and clearly given to a lot of preparation.  You Forgot It in People gained countless accolades throughout the decade for being an album with so much subtle layering, technique and emotion in it. The band’s stage performance was a loyal replicate, and a show that well done deserves the notoriety of being a potentially once-in-a-decade experience.