219 Takeover Fizzles

Last Saturday, RojiMusic and Montage Tea Lounge tried to do something cool in Syracuse. They rented a stage, booked some bands, and threw a 6-hour music festival in the parking lot of The Red House on the outskirts of Armory Square. I showed up at 12:30 to see opening act Sophistafunk. There were 10 people there.

And people wonder why it’s so hard to find good music in Syracuse.

Organizers of the 219 Takeover, as it was misleadingly dubbed, must have been disappointed about the weak turnout. So what was it that prevented this from being a success? Certainly it wasn’t the weather. The Italian Fest down the street had hundreds of patrons on the cool, cloudy afternoon. It couldn’t have been the price: $25 for five bands. And it wasn’t the location (see Italian Fest).

So what was it?

To me, it’s simple: Syracuse hates new, original music. Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute bands and Led Zeppelin cover bands sell thousands of tickets at the Inner Harbor and Paper Mill Island. Country acts fill the grandstand at the fair every year. But local musicians Sophistafunk and regional bands Widowspeak and the Vivian Girls combined can’t even muster a crowd of 50.

Syracuse’s taste in music is really just a reflection of the dying city. Concertgoers clamor for cover bands and tribute acts that mimic bands popular in the 70s. In the same fashion, the city keeps trying to rejuvenate factories and industries (such as NPG) that made the city great 40 or 50 years ago.

My advice: get with the times, Syracuse. You can keep listening to an impostors trying to capture Page and Plant, but the rest of us recognize that these guys are old and outdated. It’s time for something new in this city.