Back To Its Roots

By | May 3rd, 2017 | Avenues, News & Views, web-featured

X Ambassadors Bring a Music Festival to Ithaca

by Annie Estes, Contributing Writer

The City of Ithaca is gearing up for a music-filled fall as it prepares for the first ever Cayuga Sound Festival, which will take place Sept. 22 and 23 in several spots throughout the city such as Stewart Park, The Haunt and The Dock.

The festival is curated by X Ambassadors with Dan Smalls Presents. X Ambassadors are a rock musical group who have roots in Ithaca, NY and are best known for their hit songs “Renegades” and “Unsteady.” The group often plays in Ithaca, as two of the band’s members grew up here.

The band will return to its roots in September to bring the brand-new music festival to their hometown and showcase the beauty of Ithaca, says official promoter Dan Smalls. The festival will include performers such as The Roots, Jukebox the Ghost, Sammus and Margaret Glaspy, combining the local music scene with more well-known musical groups.

Smalls, who worked closely with the members of X Ambassadors to organize and plan the event, said that the band is involved with the marketing and planning of the festival. Dan Smalls Presents’ role is in the logistics such as reserving the space for the festival and making sure the city is on board with the planning process.

The response from the City of Ithaca has been extremely positive, including from Mayor Myrick himself.

“When I called Svante, the mayor, to let him know we were planning to do this … he pretty much lost his mind, he was so excited about it,” Smalls said. “Having everybody on board has really helped.”

Ithaca local Ian Schachner, a 2002 graduate of Ithaca College’s business school and now an employee at Cornell University, says he doesn’t see many downsides to hosting a festival in Ithaca, as long as the logistics of the festival are handled well.

“Overall, events like this can be a great addition to the community,” Schachner said. “They add to our already rich culture of music, food and other performances and can help boost important industries like tourism.”

Member of the Ithaca music scene also expressed excitement. Tylor Colby, drummer/vocals for Imperials and former Buzzsaw ed, spoke of his enthusiasm for the festival. “We’re all super excited to be playing in this festival alongside so many great artists, local and national,” Colby said. “The fact that we’ll be sharing a stage with the roots, a group I grew up listening to, still kinda blows my mind; makes us really want to bring our best when we take the stage in September.”

The proceeds of the festival are going to local charities selected by the members of X Ambassadors themselves, including nonprofits such as Planned Parenthood Ithaca, Ithaca Underground and the Youth Farm Project, according to the festival’s website.

“They are all things that meant something to the band as kids,” Smalls said. “Sam was a camp counselor at the Ithaca Youth Bureau Summer Camp at Stewart park, which is one of the reasons why we’re doing this in Stewart Park … The Ithaca Youth Bureau; they used to hang out at GIAC after school; the South Side Community Center; they were big fans of Ithaca Underground.”

As for negative backlash to the festival, Smalls says they’ve been very fortunate so far.

“Inevitably, when you make noise in a park, there will be somebody that hears it who doesn’t want to, but that’s par for the course” he said. “We’re really lucky that everyone is on board. This is a wonderful thing for our city and our region and we are really excited for it.”

Tickets for the festival are currently on sale on the festival’s website, starting at $59.50 for General Admission and $209.50 for VIP Admission.

Smalls said if the festival finds success, there are plans in the works for the event to return to Ithaca as a yearly festival.

“We have never been motivated by money, as a company. I just wanted to connect the artists and the fans and then that would take care of itself, but this is about long-term,” Smalls said. “Year one is just about showcasing our city and building something that could grow over the next however-many years.”

Annie Estes is a second year journalism major who already has her ticket to the Cayuga Sound festival. You can reach them at

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