Put Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Prince, Stevie Wonder, The Beatles and Pink Floyd all into a tiny room, strip away all their charisma, take away the good equipment, bring down their level of talent a bunch of notches and kidnap the good sound director, and you’ll have last Saturday night at Castaways.
The three performing bands — Dirac, Solstice and Revision — all name these greats as their influences on their respective MySpace pages, but I’m sure, somewhere, John Lennon’s cremated pieces have reassembled to roll in his metaphorical grave.
The night began with a band that started in the halls of Ithaca High School in 2004, Dirac, who played an hour set that included “Juniper Jane,” a funky groove that had the crowd cheering and dancing awkwardly as Ithacans do. I could have heard wrong or somehow all the alcohol around seeped into me through some form of osmosis, but I swore I heard the lead singer introduce two of his band members as a father and son duo. I guess that’s pretty cool. Otherwise, they were a bit generic.
Next up was my favorite group in the line-up: Solstice. For those that don’t know (basically, all of you), Solstice is also a band formed in Ithaca, but unlike Dirac or Revision, their catchy, soulful and smooth music primarily consists of R&B and reggae, not funk and rock. With songs like “A Hundred Ways” and one whose chorus repeats “We’re on top,” they had the whole crowd dancing and snapping their fingers to the groove. Check out the lead singer and songwriter Elisa Sciscioli’s MySpace; they’re pretty damn good. If you’re still interested, they’ll be returning to Castaways on Nov. 6 to celebrate the release of their debut album Red Sky.
Maybe I’m being so nice about the band because Sciscioli called me, and everybody else in the crowd, “a brother” or “a sister.” That’s right. While you were comfy and cozy in your family homes during fall break with your real siblings, I was in a dimly lit room with my new “brothers,” snaps fingers, “and sisters,” snaps fingers — a hundred drunk strangers. Jealous?
They ended their hour-long set with a tune called “Turn It Around,” which had a drum solo at the end that made me wish the drummer would follow his own song lyrics to “Stop, and turn it around.”
While the keyboardist of Solstice, Jonathon Petronzio, remained on stage as the vocalist in the last band Revision, the rest of the sisters and brothers of Solstice joined the audience. The three Ithaca College music graduates that make up Revision set up equipment quickly and began to play. They were clearly the celebrity of the line-up. Both Dirac and Solstice mentioned Revision’s greatness throughout their own performances, and Dirac even mentions Revision as one of their greatest influences.
A great amount of Revision’s act consisted of instrumentals, which would have made any listener of funk jump with glee or in the case of the crowd that night, rock out by dancing around crazily. Still, the singer Nicholas Bullock sang songs about topics like the frustration of a lover not being able to understand how he feels and, if I heard correctly, a 64-year-old Mr. Thomas who is now six feet under. Though I could see the potential of Revision’s songs, it was buried beneath layers and layers of superfluous keyboard playing and way too high volume. For such a small bar, the two sets of speakers were turned up way too loud. Sure, Revision’s 2008 record was named Amplification, but sound director — you didn’t have to take them so literally.
All of these bands have good music: When played in the comfort of your home with your earphones on, they sound fresh and downloadable. On CDs (or USBs since Revision likes to release their album, live performances and videos on USB drives), the influences they list are obvious and the product of those influences are commendable. But when amplified with too much sound and not enough space, that quality gets distorted and disfigured.
A propos their polished work, I take back all the bad things I said about these bands. John Lennon’s ashes can remain cremated. Each one of them — Dirac, Solstice and Revision — have immense amounts of talent. The father and son duo played an exciting set of songs, Elisa Sciscioli sang her heart out and Revision provided a glimpse of what could potentially untie the knot of special effects and talentless hacks that’s clogging up mainstream music.
Musicians all around, take note. The music scene needs to discard the showmanship that hides real talent. Though the coming of winter Ithaca is dim and cold, Dirac, Solstice and Revision’s careers in music seem bright and ready to heat the airwaves up.