Places to hear great live music in the Hudson Valley

The Bearsville Theater in Woodstock (Photo by Tony Levin)

In the opinion of this writer, this moment is in some respects the best time ever in the history of the mid-Hudson Valley music scene, Dylan be damned: more original acts than ever and of greater variety; more local involvement than ever from the many music professionals who live in these hills, and perhaps most importantly, more committed venues of all shapes, sizes and aesthetics.

Venues come and go. In fact, they “go” so easily and often at such cost that one wonders what would make anyone want to get involved in the first place. Must be the love of live music and the temporary, for-tonight-only families that shows engender.

Our big theaters continue to challenge, serve and surprise; our restaurants and cafés privilege music as something more than a digestive aid. Mid-sized national-circuit clubs – which always rely on local talent as well – have staked their claim in several of our cities: Kingston, Hudson, Marlboro and Beacon soon. And as all manner of cramped-quarters, public and ad-hoc performance spaces prove, all it takes to make a space a venue is imagination – and an audience. That’s where you come in. Here is your by-no-means comprehensive map of the terrain.


Oasis Café

58 Main Street, New Paltz

Oasis is New Paltz’s hot spot for nightly music. The molten, cavelike club features the full spectrum of rock, dance, funk, reggae and various groove musics, generally, but with plenty of college bands and weird stuff as well. Music is a chronic thing here. It starts late and goes late.

Call (845) 255-2400 or visit


Unison Arts Center

68 Mountain Rest Road, New Paltz

In its bright and airy multi-purpose performance and gallery space just outside of New Paltz, Unison has hosted years and years’ worth of adventurous programming: classical music, dance, cabaret, jazz, family acts and world music virtuosi, to name a few. Recent features include the Sunday Salon series, a program that combines performances with chats. For more information, call (845) 255-1559 or visit


Orient Ultra Lounge

319 Main Street, Poughkeepsie

Located directly above Bull and Buddha, the Orient Ultra Lounge is a swanky, Asian-themed club with high-end lighting design, multiple bars and “chill rooms” and an urban velvet vibe that is, quite frankly, kind of odd in these parts, but welcome. While Orient features club music and theme nights, primarily, WDST has hosted notable shows here by national rock acts such as Rhett Miller of the Old ‘97s. For more information, call (845) 337-4848 or visit the venue’s flashy website,


Art Bar

6367 Mill Street, Rhinebeck

Modeled after the classic supper clubs of yore, Rhinebeck’s newest venue, Art Bar, hosts live music three nights a week in a sophisticated environment. Thursday is an open mic hosted by Jack DiPietro. Fridays bring in a video deejay playing videos on four screens, from disco classics to Russian pop. On Saturdays, the Art Bar presents live world music with an emphasis on rock, jazz, swing and Brazilian. Table reservations recommended at (845) 417-8990. For more information, visit


The Liberty Public House

6417 Montgomery Street, Rhinebeck

The charmingly cluttered Liberty Public House has made a splash in the local music scene lately, presenting everything from international folk band Caprice Rouge to experimental deejays. The Liberty features four distinct venues, an old-fashioned pub, the must-see Flag Room, the sultry Liberty Lounge with dance parties and live music and the Hudson River Boathouse. For more information, call (845) 876-1760 or visit


The High Falls Café

12 Stone Dock Road, High Falls

Not long ago, the High Falls Café moved from its location on Route 213 to a comfortable new space at the Stone Dock golf course off Berme Road in High Falls. Its commitment to live music remains unfaltering, however, and commitment is the operative word. The Café is dedicated not only to a steady course of high-end blues, jazz and singer/songwriter-oriented folk and rock, but also to a very select set of the region’s leading and longest-running acts in these genres – like folk/blues maestros Jeff Entin and Bob Blum, who host the Second Friday Jams; singer/songwriter Kurt Henry, who hosts Acoustic Thursday; and of course Big Joe Fitz, who presents his Blues Party on the first and third Tuesday. For more information, and for lucid directions to the new location at Stone Dock, call (845) 687-2699 or visit


The Wherehouse

119 Liberty Street, Newburgh

Wherehouse owner Dan Brown displayed some serious pioneer spirit when he founded a rock and blues club on the corner of Broadway and Liberty Street in Newburgh. The former professional bodyguard (whose charges included Jimmy Page and on at least one occasion Michael Jackson, if the legend is true) is as eclectic in his booking as in his beer list. All of the region’s leading blues acts play here, as do all manner of high-energy rock acts. For more information, call (845) 561-7240 or visit


The Bearsville Theater

291 Tinker Street, Woodstock

The Bearsville Theater needs no introduction beyond the iconic Elliot Landy photographs that grace its walls: portraits not just of Bob Dylan and the Band but of Dylan and the Band in Woodstock, in ’69, at the height of their creative powers (and their good looks). Welcome to Woodstock. But the Bearsville is not tyrannized by its own legacy. It is actually two venues in one: the theater proper, in which everyone from Bob Weir to Aimee Mann to Melanie to Matisyahu has played in the last year; and the lounge, a comfortably appointed, spacious and vibey club that hosts lots of the best local acts, as well as up-and-coming national performers. Courtesy of Robert Frazza and his excellent team of engineers, the sound is always topnotch in both spaces. Visit the Bearsville Theater at 291 Tinker Street in Woodstock. For more information, call (845) 679-4406 or visit


The Rosendale Café

434 Main Street, Rosendale

The Rosendale Café set out with a clear musical and cultural agenda: to become a “listening space” venue for “national talent” with some limited provision for the local, such as Singer/Songwriter Tuesdays. Easier said than done, but they’ve done it. The space is thoughtfully treated for sound, and the booking philosophy plays to the strengths of the room: intimate solo and small-ensemble performances, with an emphasis on singer/songwriter and roots styles (alt/country artist Mary Gauthier is a frequent guest) and some surprisingly big-name swing, bluegrass and jazz (Ron Carter has played here, among others). Stop by the Café at 434 Main Street in Rosendale. For more information, call (845) 658-9048 or visit


Market Market

1 Madeleine Lane, Rosendale

Not many aspiring restaurateurs would have looked at the former Rosendale greengrocer and seen in it the spectral outline of a happening Brooklyn-style music venue, but Jenifer Constantine and Trippy Thompson did. And as a result we have Market Market, the venue so misnamed they had to misname it twice. It started with dinner music, but that didn’t last long. Next thing you knew, shoegaze, power pop, political punk, experimental sound collage and Brooklyn hootenanny were the order of the day. These days, the Hudson Valley has a number of stable venues that defy the region’s roots-rock default and cater to indie, hipster eccentricity and cabaret theatricality, but mark it well: Market Market was there first. Of special note is the Tributon series. Every sixth Saturday, or thereabouts, local luminaries gather to pay tribute to (and make fun of) a single famous artist or performer. On April 20, it is Fleetwood Mac on the examination table. For more information, call (845) 658-3164 or visit


Two Boots Hudson Valley

4604 Route 9G, Red Hook

A New York City institution, the Two Boots pizza franchise has opened up a stylish branch right across from the main entrance to Bard College and has jumped into the music game full-stride. The Two Boots are Italy and Louisiana, but that’s a food thing. In terms of music, the aesthetic is still a work-in-progress: indie rock, world music, even a dose of avant-garde noise have all come into play early in this venue’s run, and the commitment to make it happen is evident. For more information, call (845) 758-0010 or visit


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  1. This article is worth bookmarking — thank you! I love this observation: “These days, the Hudson Valley has a number of stable venues that defy the region’s roots-rock default and cater to indie, hipster eccentricity and cabaret theatricality”

  2. Really looking forward to seeing the Towne Crier’s new Beacon location join this list later in the summer!

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