7pm: Free Summer Concerts on the Ithaca Commons

part of a circle of red bricks with old street car rails embedded in them on the ithaca commons

Photograph by Tyler Finck


The Ithaca Commons is, all by itself, evidence that the city is worth more of a mention among the traveling community than it currently enjoys.

Every Thursday as the summer sun begins to finally descend toward the western slopes, just around 7pm, the sounds of buskers are replaced by a full on, plugged in band setup in one of two locations along the Commons, a two block stretch of pedestrian only traffic. At least, that’s what the official pledge is, a band every Thursday. We stumbled upon two in the week we were in town, so whoever’s organizing these shindigs is above par. In addition to that, more nights of the week than not a free concert can be found somewhere in and around the city.

On random nights music echos from Ellis Hollow, a rural community southeast of the city proper. You can find free shows at Cornell University on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Six Mile Creek Vineyard and Myers Point have performances of their own. Some nights there is enough happening that you’ll be forced to choose a venue. And that doesn’t even include, of course, the myriad of bands playing in bars around the city.

This particular night we’re trying to enjoy a dinner at Simeon’s on the Commons, a pub style restaurant where despite being more packed than a Fed Ex store, we scored a window seat which gave us a perfect view of a band which was supposed to be the Common Railers, according to the flyer we’d been given, but didn’t sound or look like photos from the band’s website. Instead, a jean jacket wrapped around a black kid sporting a healthy mohawk thumped his bass while a lion haired singer belted out a version of the Cranberry’s Zombie, which sounded as good if not better than the original, even without that distinct Irish accent doubling out “…their bombs, and their bombs and their gons”.

Ithaca is definitely a music town. It’s a free spirited kind of place where you’re more likely to see stylish girls riding bicycles and street performing magicians than you are to find suit and tie types and raving lunatic Christian evangelists screaming Armageddon from the street corners. It’s a much welcomed layover between the endless small town backwards thinking that proliferates all too much of the rural Northeast. A little haven tucked away in the endless farmlands of Central New York. We’ve been here three times, never quite planned, but will be as satisfied as a kid with cupcake on his lips if Ithaca ends up crossing our paths again.

a magician in a black suit performs card tricks in ithaca commons
A street magician wows us with his card wielding trickery.