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: more original acts than ever and of greater variety; more local involvement 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 and towns: Kingston, Hudson, Marlboro and Beacon. 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. Since the original publication of this roundup in 2013, numerous venues have sprung up in the region and only a handful have fallen (this update adds 23 venues and subtracts only four). The majority of the growth seems to be happening at what might be called the ultra-hip bookends of the Mid-Hudson Valley – Beacon to the south and Hudson to the north – but the landscape has changed in between as well.
1391 Route 9W, Marlboro
The Falcon is Tony Falco’s labor of love, a thriving jazz-and-more club that grew entirely out of the owner’s love of serious jazz and his many connections in that world. Heavies on the order of Brad Mehldau and Dave Liebman play here regularly, and the roster is filled out by a handpicked assortment of local notables, established names and up-and-comers, mostly from the New York City jazz, blues, funk, world and roots music scenes. This by-donation-only listening space and restaurant is one of the Valley’s greatest musical treasures, and certainly its most unlikely. For more information, visit https://www.liveatthefalcon.com.
2402 Route 32, New Windsor
Brothers BBQ in New Windsor has entered the live music scene with purpose and a bit of an attitude, specializing in the edgy blues, soul, roots rock, jazz and fusion in which Orange County is surprisingly rich. Orange County’s veritable army of gifted blues and blues/rock guitarists is featured frequently here, in this nicely outfitted live room with a small-but-professional stage and a nice sound rig. And there’s barbecue, which most people like. There’s an open mic every Wednesday night, with local and national acts on the weekends. Call (845) 534-4227 or visit https://www.thebrothersbarbecue.com.
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 https://www.thewherehouserestaurant.com.
2 Alices Coffee Lounge
311 Hudson Street, Cornwall-on-Hudson
2 Alices Coffee lounge serves beer and wine, light fare and baked goods and a surprisingly diverse and adventurous variety of music. Most acts go it acoustic and stripped-down, but not all. Rock bands will squeeze in on occasion, as will electronic acts. The small and stylish venue in Cornwall-on-Hudson enjoys a stable, loyal music audience, making it a favorite among local players in a variety of genres. The tidy sound system is another plus. The space doubles as an art gallery as well. Visit https://www.2alicescoffee.com.
323 Wall Street, Kingston
If you want to know what kind of perseverance, commitment and competence are required to make a serious alternative music club happen, look no further than the Lounge at Backstage Studio Productions, a/k/a BSP. This Uptown Kingston club has weathered a lot of difficulty to become what it is now – which is to say a stylish, vibey mid-sized venue with one of the best sound systems (and sound guys) around, and one of the most diverse-but-purposeful talent rosters as well: heavy on both the local and the national in perfectly paired bills. It has had a great deal of success luring in the many professional acts who call the region home, from Rebecca Martin and Larry Grenadier to Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby, as well as tapping the New York City buzzsphere with such can’t-miss up-and-comers as Lucius and O’Death. Indie rock, alt/country, electronica, primitivist blues and rock, sleaze punk, avant-garde and just about anything but classic rock and mainstream singer/songwriter play here regularly. BSP has quickly established itself as the seat of the Alternative in the Hudson Valley. For more information, call (845) 481-5158 or visit https://bsplounge.com.
744/746 Broadway, Kingston
The Anchor has stabilized things on the site of Kingston’s former hard and wild rock institution the Basement. This burger restaurant, “gastropub” and event venue is fully committed to live music, featuring some of the punk, metal and devilbilly insanity that was the Basement’s specialty, but branching out widely from there to include all of the top local talents and touring acts as well. Call (845) 853-8124 or visit https://www.facebook.com/theanchorkingston.
The Anvil Gallery at Tech Smiths
45 North Front Street, Kingston
The very existence of the Anvil Gallery is a testament to the wildly eclectic interests and competencies of its proprietors, the husband-and-wife team of the writer Sari Botton and the computer technician Brian Macaluso. Now they fix computers, curate art shows and host intimate music performances in the stylish front of their computer shop on North Front Street. Botton and Macaluso are active local musicians as well. Call (845) 443-4866 or visit https://www.tech-smiths.com/anvil-gallery.
20 St. James Street, Kingston
Kingston’s own happening microbrewery is also a well-established music venue that offers mostly good tunes to drink by: original rock and blues, funk and roots and occasional visits from some Woodstock-scene luminaries like Pete Levin or his famous bass-playing brutha. It’s a raucous, generous, peanut-strewn scene with some good beer. Call (845) 331-2739 or visit https://www.keeganales.com.
Ulster Performing Arts Center
601 Broadway, Kingston
The 1,510-seat Ulster Performing Arts Center (UPAC) is a National Register property built in Kingston in 1927. It was acquired by the Bardavon in 2007, forming a powerful arts-and-performance alliance operating under the Bardavon name. UPAC presents topnotch music, dance, theater and classic films for diverse audiences, as well as extensive arts-based learning programs. For more information, call the box office at (845) 339-6088 or visit https://www.bardavon.org.
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 https://bearsvilletheater.com.
The Barn at Levon Helm Studios
160 Plochmann Lane, Woodstock
At Levon’s Barn studio, the Rambles roll on, as well as other programs, master classes and, of course, recording sessions. In an area with quite a few boutique small venues, this one might be the crown jewel. The Rambles are legendary both for their celebrity guests, the A-list house band and the intimacy and heightened vibe of the shows. The Ramble team is also to be commended for bringing the cream of the local talent in on the fun. Upcoming programs include more Rambles, a WDST-sponsored performance by Lake Street Dive and an evening with Amy Helm and her excellent band. Visit https://www.levonhelm.com.
22 Rock City Road, Woodstock
Woodstock’s Colony Café is one of those rare venues worth going to just to see and hang out in the physical space. Events take place in the intimate setting of a ballroom built in 1929, featuring the original bar and 360-degree chestnut balcony. National acts stop in frequently. The Woodstock scene does not want for its own major talents, of course, and these fill out the calendar. For more information, call (845) 679-8639 or visit https://www.colonycafewoodstock.com.
52 Mill Street, Woodstock
Harmony Café at Wok ’n’ Roll in Woodstock is all-in for live music, with music six nights a week, scheduled weekly events such as open-mic poetry (Mondays), music open mic (Wednesdays) and a dedicated Bluegrass Night on Thursday. All kinds of bands play on Fridays and Saturdays. It’s a small venue with a pass-the-hat flavor, but, being in Woodstock, the folks who come out to play tend to be folks who can really play. Check it out at 52 Mill Street in Woodstock. Call (845) 679-7760.
Byrdcliffe Kleinert/James Center for the Arts
36 Tinker Street Woodstock
Art galleries make natural performance spaces, and performance spaces make natural galleries. One of the more congenial for both purposes is the Byrdcliffe Kleinert/James Center for the Arts. The musical programming here is predictably adventurous: avant-garde jazz, new serious music and some Woodstock-flavored folk and roots sounds as well. The spacious performance area is only one of several galleries on-site, so a show at the Kleinert/James is always an edifying, multi-sensory experience. Call (845) 679-2079 or visit https://www.woodstockguild.org/performance.