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Mt. Joy at the State Theater

by Isabella LaHaye

On Saturday, December 4th, it was a quick bus ride on the Tcat 30 and a wade through a silent disco and ice bar to get to the Ithaca State Theatre. A line of college students and Ithaca locals had already formed by the time I arrived (an hour early). Dress code was an eclectic mix of black cocktail dresses, sweater crop tops, paint-stained overalls, and the occasional faded band t-shirt.

My personal musical coming-of-age had coincided with two years of a global pandemic, and I was excited to finally have the opportunity to take part in Ithaca’s lively scene. I sat down. It was my first concert since coming to Cornell, and my first one ever with seats.

Inside, an excited audience was settling in, getting refreshments, visiting friends, and waiting in an ever growing queue of those who hoped to get their hands on some Mt. Joy merch while the crew members set up for the show. A familiar pre-concert smell drifted through the air. Fellow strangers became old friends. A particularly joyful neighbor handed me a free poster she finessed from the box office and gushed about the psychedelic and poisonous mushrooms that mysteriously appeared in her yard. Her name was Kathy, or maybe Cathy - I will likely never know, because she disappeared for the rest of the concert after proclaiming that she can’t sit still in one place for too long. I have no doubt that she somehow found herself backstage, laughing with the band and the crew. To my left sat a girl named Jordan who I exchanged laughs with as we stood up and sat back down at least fifteen times in the span of five minutes, as sorority girls in matching crop tops spotted other sorority girls in matching crop tops and climbed over us to reunite.

The crowd was larger and more diverse than I thought it would be, ranging from elegant dresses and khakis to t-shirts and overalls. The venue was what you’d expect of a theatre: velvet seats, thin aisles, ground and balcony sections.

The lights dimmed and Amy Allen entered the stage, opening with a few songs from her new album including Queen of Silver Linings (a nod to Mt. Joy) and Heaven, a song about familial love through hard times. Moving to the beat, the shine of her guitar flashed the crowd with each sway in an almost hypnotic way. The crowd was still settling into the velvet seats and narrow aisles of the theater, conversations and bustling could be heard during her performance, I’m not sure that they knew who she was. Though if they didn't know Amy Allen they likely knew her work as a songwriter, having collaborated with artists such as Harry Styles, Halsey, Shawn Mendes, and Selena Gomez. With one of her last songs, the crowd fell to a low hush and cheered as she sang Without Me, a popular Halsey song she produced that reached No.1 on Billboard's Hot 100 in 2019.

As soon as Amy Allen left the stage, the space began to transform with the promise that Mt. Joy would soon appear. Fog slowly trickled in, spilling off the stage and stretching out to the audience. A second curtain raised to reveal an impressive light system, and the crowd rose in unison as Mt. Joy appeared; I guess we won’t be sitting after all. With the lights and the fog and the cheers and jumping, it was easy to forget we were in the State Theatre, and not at an outdoor summer concert. And for creating that atmosphere, I applaud them. I was both surprised and impressed.

The shyer fans gently swayed in their rows as the braver ones danced freely in the aisles. I had to shout to be heard by the girl 10 inches in front of me, and genuine excitement was palpable for each song. I never thought someone could headbang to Astrovan, but I was happy to be proven wrong by the fans in front of me, I couldn’t help but laugh and sing along as I dodged their whipping hair.

With finals coming for most of the Cornell community, I’m Your Wreck seemed like an almost perfect wrap-up for a semester that was less-than perfect for many of us. It was a perfect night of catharsis to empty our lungs out, shoulder to shoulder with a hundred strangers. You could feel it. The bass, the fog, the lights, and the human voice melted into one body. It was one of my favorite moments of the performance.

Through Astrovan, Jenny Jenkins, Strangers, I’m Your Wreck and more, it was hard to determine which was most popular amongst the crowd, though I had a feeling it would be Silver Lining. Throughout the duration of the concert, I was excitedly waiting for Silver Lining, arguably one of their most popular songs, having been released in their Debut album Mt. Joy and reached #1 on the Billboard Triple A charts in 2018. However, it never came, and I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed. The crowd seemed to agree with me. After the band left the stage, an encore chant and various cheers erupted amongst the crowd and lasted for what must have been nothing short of five minutes. I had already wrapped my coat around me and begun to exit the building when I heard the band reappear - I immediately returned to my seat. Finally, Silver Lining. The audience was livelier than ever, and even the shyer members threw their hands up and jumped to the beat.

This perfect closing left all of us buzzed with post-concert high as the crowd trickled out of the theatre. A closing I would gladly miss my bus back to campus for.


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