Fear not the Snug’s, though. It is one of the least pretentious, most openhearted places around – and oddly one of the most age-diverse scenes on the block. The communal spirit runs strong in here – stronger as it gets later. If you haven’t finished a night in Snug Harbor, it is safe to say that you haven’t finished many nights in New Paltz. Bartender Ed Daley also plays guitar and sings in one of the town’s bigger draws of the last few years: the roving Dionysian disco party called Snow Bear. (Can a band featuring Dave Ellison’s lead electric mandolin really be called disco? Perhaps that is New Paltz in a nutshell.)
My friend, the drummer Matt Senzatimore, tends bar and books bands at the Oasis Café, a vibey, molten cavelike room with a separate embedded sake bar. On the site of the Sanctuary, a New Wave dance club in the ‘80s, Oasis opened a number of years ago as an aspiring jazz club, but then discovered that jazz clubs really prefer Paris.
Matt has a complex relationship with reggae music: He hears a lot of it in his line of work, quotes it somewhat sardonically in his own playing. And yet when he speaks of the reggae band Acorn, which is at Oasis on Friday, February 17, his enthusiasm is real. Matt gushes over the playing of drummer Craig Santiago (the Apple Pickers’ Union, Sarah Perrotta) and organist Jamie Saft, who has worked with John Zorn, Greg Cohen and numerous luminaries of the New York City hipster set. Very little sets Matt to gushing, so take this endorsement seriously.
February 18 brings in the Connor Kennedy Band, a very fine guitar-driven group. Whatever you do, don’t try to buy them drinks.
Bacchus only entered the live music game a handful of years ago, but has quickly secured its spot on the earthier ends of the rock spectrum. The space itself sprawls, encompassing an attached pool hall and a variety of outdoor porch areas on which patrons can escape the line of musical fire (one of which is covered and heated, taxing the definition of “outdoor”). Bacchus maintains the deepest beer locker in town. Shows here start and end a bit earlier, but not much. The Miles Mancuso Band is at Bacchus on Friday, February 17, the aforementioned Breakfast in Fur on Friday, March 2.
Some of the most musically exciting things happening in town go down at alcohol-free establishments and various multipurpose performance spaces. Slash-Root, the name-your-own-price coffeehouse, computer repair shop and Web development company, has made a major commitment to live music and has recently hosted a surprising outbreak of Turkish folk music under the stewardship of multi-instrumentalist Rick Birmingham.