Get a gig: An aspiring musician’s guide to local venues

Thurston Moore From Sonic Youth on stage at Club Helsinki in Hudson (photo by Will Chilton)

Live music is as vital to the Hudson Valley today as it has ever been. But for local musicians, getting in on the bill can feel like a daunting experience. Alm@nac reached out to a wide range of music hotspots to get all the info that you’ll need to decide whether a venue is right for your band, how best to present yourself and whom to reach out to have your chance at hitting the stage.


Rosendale Café
434 Main Street
PO Box 436
Rosendale, NY 12472
(845) 658-9048

The Rosendale Café is in the thick of one of Ulster County’s most vivid musical scenes. It not only hosts music on weekends, but also runs a biweekly singer/songwriter series on Tuesday nights. When considering musical acts for the space, co-owner Mark Morganstern said that it comes down to three simple words: “quality, authenticity, variety.” That vibe also comes across in the space itself.

“Musically speaking – and sort of the way we do the food, too – it’s very hands-on, user-friendly.,” Morganstern said. “You’re sitting a few feet away from a national or international artist, hearing them do what they do.”

The popular singer/songwriter night is run by John Hughes, who performs with Dog on Fleas. “People who want to sign up to play will send an e-mail, and they’ll automatically be added to it. They’ll get 15 minutes to play; their sound will get mixed and they’ll get an appreciative audience.”

For booking inquiries, visit and fill out the form on the contact page.


Bull and Buddha/Orient
319 Main Street
Poughkeepsie, NY 12601
(845) 337-4848,

While Poughkeepsie’s Bull and Buddha has established itself as an Asian fusion dining destination, its club space, Orient, is also popular with enthusiasts of deejay culture and live music. Chris Sikora, general manager, said that the music is primarily heard on Friday and Saturday nights, and will often go as late in the evening as people want to hear it. The music is mostly Top 40, remixes and mash-ups. “We don’t really do the house music anymore,” Sikora said. “It got a little too big in the area, and we jumped ship on the trend.”

On Fridays, Orient hosts DJ Mr. Vince and DJ Kue, and on Saturdays Parag and Ryder. “We have our deejays on contract,” Sikora said. “We’re pretty set on talent for the near term.”

Still, that doesn’t mean the place isn’t open to new voices. “We have people drop off mix tapes, samples and demos of what they do,” Sikora said. “We keep our ears to the ground. People are always welcome to send in music.”

Sikora said that he believes that they’ll likely bring Thursday jazz back this fall, and Backyard at Bull and Buddha will also continue featuring occasional live music in a setting like “a Brooklyn-style backyard party.”


Harmony Music
52 Mill Hill Road
Woodstock, NY 12498
(845) 679-7760

As if serving delicious food at Wok ‘n’ Roll wasn’t enough, Harmony Music, a live music venue also owned and operated by Shawu, extends the good vibes even further.

According to its Facebook page, Harmony Music is “a place for real music and real people in the heart of Woodstock,” generally operating on the pass-the-hat principle.

The music is eclectic, and is ordinarily booked by Shawu. “If I like it, I book it,” Shawu said, adding that the atmosphere that he is trying to create with Harmony Music is one of inclusion. “Music is for the world. Music is a wonderful thing.”


BSP Lounge
323 Wall Street
Kingston, NY 12401
(845) 481-5158

The arts scene in Uptown Kingston is more vital than ever, and thanks to the BSP (Backstage Studio Productions) Lounge and the seemingly tireless energies of Michael Amari and Trevor Dunworth, it has an unofficial nerve center. With local art adorning the walls and live music generally featured on Wednesdays through Saturdays, it’s likely that there’s something for everyone at the BSP Lounge. And that’s exactly how Dunworth, BSP’s manager, wants it. “We’re trying to create multiple atmospheres,” Dunworth said. “I’m trying to appeal to all kinds of people.”

The BSP Lounge has a booking form on its website for interested artists, and the calendar is set with careful consideration. “We book communally,” Dunworth said. “We sit down twice a week and look at all the different bands who want to play here. We also look at other stuff that’s going on in the area and pick the best fit. It spans all genres.”


Colony Café
22 Rock City Road
Woodstock, NY 12498
(845) 679-8639

Woodstock’s Colony Café has become one of the most popular local live music venues over the past decade, largely because co-owner Mariann Harrigfeld has tried to treat the space as though it belongs to the area. “It’s really just another community center in my eyes,” Harrigfeld said. “That’s how we run it. We’re a venue, so we do weddings and birthday parties – all different types of community-based events. We’re not a bar or a restaurant per se. We’re a venue, and that’s how I operate it.”

Originally built in 1929, the building was closed for 40 years before Harrigfeld’s family bought it in 2000, taking a year to understand building codes “in order to have it reopen exactly as it closed.” “Musicians started calling, and for 12 years I’ve just let it create itself,” Harrigfeld said.

For booking inquiries, e-mail [email protected].


Bacchus Restaurant
4 South Chestnut Street
New Paltz, NY 12561
(845) 255-8636

Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, madness and wanton celebration, was renamed Bacchus by the Romans, and many centuries later that name was also used by one of New Paltz’s most popular restaurants, bars and live-music venues. It’s fitting in the spirit of celebration that the music most often heard at Bacchus is lively and upbeat.

“We generally book bands that are dance-type bands,” said Dave Ellison, manager of Bacchus. “Usually the music starts here at 10 at night and goes to 1 or 3 in the morning, so it can’t really be slower stuff. It’s always full bands; we don’t usually do acoustic.”

Bacchus tends to tap into the fertile local music scene when it books bands. “It’s probably 90 percent local,” Ellison said. “New Paltz has a decent-sized Music Department at the college. For a town this size, there’s probably 30 bands.”

Ellison said that Bacchus is looking to book a wide range of music: “reggae, electronic – whatever gets people dancing.” Interested artists should e-mail an electronic press kit to [email protected].


Unison Arts & Learning Center
68 Mountain Rest Road
New Paltz, NY 12561
(845) 255-1559

Combining live music, arts and education, the Unison Arts & Learning Center in New Paltz is a unique venue in all of the Hudson Valley. In the grand tradition of the ‘60s folk scene so deeply rooted in the region, Unison features music that evokes the warmth and intimacy of classic café performance.

“We do have certain genres that we present more than others,” said Slade Plantinga of Unison. “We probably do more along the line of folk, singer/songwriters. But we also do other things.” With local bluesman Connor Kennedy on its roster as well as an evening of klezmer music, it’s clear that Unison can’t entirely be pinned down. But still, there’s that warmth and intimacy in just about everything that it does.

“We are not a restaurant or a bar,” Plantinga said. “We do have coffee and tea and cookies, but it’s more of an acoustic crowd. We don’t really need a lot of amplification in the space. It’s less like a nightclub than it is sitting in someone’s living room.”

Artists interested in performing at Unison should send music and press materials to [email protected].


Bearsville Theater
291 Tinker Street
Woodstock, NY 12498
(845) 679-4406

Blending international artists with some of the area’s best local acts, the Bearsville Theater is one of the Hudson Valley’s best-known venues for live music. In fact, the building’s pedigree is a piece of rock ‘n’ roll history itself.

Legendary manager of Bob Dylan and others “Albert Grossman designed it and had it built,” said Jodie Sleed, the Bearsville Theater’s office manager and marketing director. “It was his vision, and I think it retains a lot of that. It’s unique that the building itself has a rock ‘n’ roll history.”

Sleed said that the venue primarily looks at artists who perform “original music,” which certainly includes local acts. Interested parties should reach out to venue manager Robert Frazza, or through the contact form on the Bearsville Theater website.




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