After more than five years of hosting alternative music events, Ithaca Underground, an independent music collective, is working to become a nonprofit organization — something that its members hope will save it from bankruptcy.
To support this bid, the collective will hold a benefit concert Saturday at The Haunt featuring independent bands including The Gunpoets, BRIAN!, Rye ‘N’
Clover, Cattle Drums from Oneonta and Rejouissance from Syracuse.
Formed in 2007 by Jayme Peck to foster the growth of the local punk scene, the group has been run by Bubba
Crumrine, booker for the collective since July 2008.
“It was really cool to go to a club where my friends’ bands were playing on the same stage as some of my favorite bands,” he said. “There were a handful of outlets where you could get involved and start networking with bands in the whole area and start making connections.”
Despite Ithaca Underground’s growing presence, Crumrine said it has reached the limit of what it can do with its current resources. Becoming a nonprofit would help offset the expenses that go into organizing shows, most of which come out of the pockets of Ithaca Underground’s personnel.
“We’ll be able to take tax
deductible donations throughout the year so I don’t have to cover things like equipment and rental space,” he said.
Entry to Saturday’s show is on a sliding scale of $5 to $25. Patrons can contribute as much as they can afford. Crumrine said since all of the group’s personnel work on a voluntary basis, all the proceeds go directly back to the organization.
Though Ithaca Underground associates itself with non-mainstream acts, Crumrine said the group’s vigilance and ideals have caused it to grow large enough that it has been recognized as an integral part of Ithaca’s and central New York’s music scene.
“We’ve definitely come up a lot more on the Ithaca radar,” Crumrine said. “We’ve made relationships with people in Binghamton, Rochester and Syracuse. We’ve built a network for the central New York area, getting us access to bigger touring bands.”
Crumrine said because of the organization’s large support network, the application process to become a nonprofit has been a lot smoother than he originally expected. Last year, with a lawyer and accountant overseeing proceedings, Crumrine, Eric Laine of McNeil Music, George Johann of Angry Mom Records and Ryan Clover of Silent City formed the Ithaca Underground Advisory Board. Once the finances are cleared and forms sent off, they expect to wait four months before learning if their application was successful.
Johann, who operated Midnight Records, a Manhattan-based mail-order business, said there is a different attitude in Ithaca compared to bigger cities like New York and Chicago.
“It’s a lot more real,” he said. “A thing like Ithaca Underground is so much more important here than in a big city. There’s a lot more art for art’s sake here.”
Jim Heffernan, a member of the indie band Rejouissance, has been playing shows in Ithaca since the late ’90s, and said there is an intimacy at the events Ithaca Underground puts on that doesn’t exist in bigger cities like New York and Los Angeles.
“Within scenes like Ithaca, it’s the ideal forum for sharing what we do,” he said. “When you take away the stage, the lights, the promoters and managers, it’s a lot more genuine and well-intentioned.”
Crumrine said Saturday’s show represents an important step for Ithaca Underground, an entity that wants to grow while still sticking to its roots. Should the event raise the funds necessary to finance the collective’s nonprofit ambitions, it will ensure the organization can continue to support a diverse music scene of off-the-grid musicians and create a welcoming environment where anyone of any age can discover something new, even if it is a little left-field.
“We try and make the vibe of an Ithaca Underground show very positive, open and engaging,” Crumrine said. “We make it a community. We try to be open to anyone who wants to come see what we love doing.”