Editor’s Note: This story was written by and republished with the permission of Ithaca Week, a weekly magazine produced by the students of the Advanced Multimedia Journalism class at the Roy H. Park School of Communications, Ithaca College.
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Why I Shop Downtown
It’s 4 a.m. in Port Jefferson and the only streetlight in view flickers in against the night sky. The white 1991 Dodge Dynasty is loaded to the ceiling with merchandise and equipment.
The trunk slams closed, locking in a thousand dollar synthesizer keyboard and a customized backlight guitar and fender bass. Anton Silv, founder of New York City gothic/industrial band Candy Brain, climbs into the passenger seat, ready for his four-hour journey to his new home in Ithaca, New York.
Silv founded Candy Brain in 2013 along with vocalist Bunny Abbot, and has since built a cult following in New York City and surrounding areas. His band played in front of about 500 people in their latest shows. Though they have seen growth in the city, Silv said he has always wanted to move away from the hustle and bustle of New York, and away from his dangerous apartment in Brownsville where he could barely afford rent. After finding a new bassist who lives in Ithaca, and a big apartment with affordable rent, moving seemed like the next step.
“Connecting with your fans is key to fan expansion,” Silv says. “I feel that the fan and band relationship is symbiotic. Without us, there is no performance, but without them, there is no reason to play. The fan and band relationship to us is more about being part of a community than having some sort of celebrity status.”
Reaching out to the gothic community in Ithaca might prove to be a challenge, Silv said. Finding fans in New York City wasn’t hard because there were always other gothic shows in the area at which he could promote his band, he said. Here in Ithaca, finding a concert with the same fan base may not be as easy.
“Goth music isn’t something that’s popular in Ithaca, but I’m sure it would gain popularity if there’s a trailblazer,” Jason Rhodes-Janto, a barback at Ruloff’s and regular at the Chapter House, said. “There’s a pretty open music scene here.”
Just because the scene is not as prominent as it used to be, doesn’t mean finding an audience will be impossible. There is still a community of subcultures in the area open to new and exciting music, different from what mainstream society is used to.
“A lot of areas don’t have the music scene that [Ithaca] has,” Aaron Thurston, a volunteer at the M&T Bank Downtown Ithaca Summer Concert Series, said. “It’s great to be able to come a town over and [hear] Afro-funk, rock, hip-hop, or jazz on any given night.”
A decline in goth subculture?
Some Ithaca residents have noticed a decline in gothic subculture.
Desiree Keane, a self-proclaimed “psychobilly,” or fan of gothic, punk and rockabilly music, notes how the local scene has changed over the years.
“Those sorts of bands don’t play here anymore,” she says. “When I was 15, there was still a goth scene here. I used to sneak into The Haunt Sunday nights for GI [Gothic/Industrial nights]. Now most of the shows are hipster shows. There’s not much here to quench my musical thirst,” he said.
Though the underground subcultural scene is dwindling, Candy Brain will attempt to revive it, booking shows all over the East Coast to help expand their audience and further build their name. In addition to upcoming shows in Boston, Philadelphia and New York City, Candy Brain is looking to book at venues in Syracuse as well as local sites in Ithaca. Getting out and personally meeting the fans is their number one priority.
“Most people today think that to build a fan base, social media is the one way to do it,” front woman Bunny Abbot says. “I believe that it’s all about having interaction and connecting on personal levels. We like to meet and get to know all of our fans and hopefully have those fans spread the word rather than mindlessly share or like a link.”