Melissa Auf der Maur and her partner, filmmaker Tony Stone, are co-creative directors of Basilica Hudson, an artist-owned and -operated former 19th-century factory building overlooking the Hudson River in the City of Hudson. On Saturday, June 13, following the city’s annual Flag Day parade and a massive fireworks display in the Basilica’s parking lot, Basilica Hudson will host a benefit dance party with Shannon F of LIGHT ASYLUM and deejay Neon Music.
When the couple took over the building, the City of Hudson was already celebrating its annual Flag Day fireworks display in the factory’s parking lot. “We inherited the biggest show in Hudson,” she laughs, “and we decided to make it our party, with fireworks. We hold eclectic performances in the space, and the music improvisations include the fireworks in the background as lead instrument. We wrap the fireworks into our version of culture.”
The after-dark party kicks off at sundown, when a massive fireworks display in the Basilica’s parking lot illuminates the interior of the raw, 17,000-square-foot industrial space. Shannon Funchess, founder, frontwoman and producer of the LIGHT ASYLUM, makes music heavily influenced by darkwave, synthpop and post-punk 1980s music: The Guardian compared LIGHT ASYLUM to Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode, and it must be noted that Funchess bears a striking resemblance to Grace Jones. LIGHT ASYLUM has released a handful of EPs and albums, and Shannon F’s performance at the Basilica marks her first live performance in two years. Festivities will continue into the wee hours with a deejay-fueled New Wave/Industrial/Goth dance party.
“Shannon’s like our official (Freak) Flag totem,” says Auf der Maur. “This is her third year with us, and she’s been a very inspiring addition to our work here. She’s living a commitment to music, romance and struggle, and is committed to alternative everything. She gets us.”
Earlier in the day, the city’s annual parade down Warren Street culminates in a riverfront festival with an air show, kiddie rides and more amusements to entertain the 10,000 to 12,000 people who gather for fun.
“The Rock Solid Church here in Hudson makes a float for the parade that is easily their biggest expenditure for the year. It’s a massive creation with statues of the Founding Fathers. This year, we hosted our first-ever community flagmaking workshops, so people could create flags to represent their individual identity, which may – or may not – be reflected in the Stars and Stripes. A flag is a beautiful canvas, one that’s totally different than making a painting, and you can project your essence onto a flag.” Basilica’s final flagmaking workshop was held on June 9 for preschool children, and Auf der Maur says that it’s sure to become a tradition.
“I was floored when we moved here,” she admits. “After living in New York City and LA, Hudson’s patriotic parade – which is one of the biggest in New York State – was my introduction to Americana. It brings out a crazy cross-section of people, from firefighters to high school bands to politicians and local people of all kinds. And the dialogues among gays, freaks and tree-huggers are part of this interchange, too. All of these people – including the progressive/lefty types – have a presence here, are part of the dialogue. And they’re patriotic. They love where they live. Flag Day brings a flavor of [David] Lynchian Americana, if you look at it all with a slightly twisted eye. You can’t help but see the beauty of it. I’m not making fun of it, and there’s an ominous quality about it, too. It’s a beautiful spectacle of performance art.”
Basilica Hudson is open from April through October, and community events include fundraisers, art exhibits, food/film festivals, weekly independent film showings plus concerts, theater productions and the Basilica Farm & Flea on Thanksgiving weekend. With its blank palette of open industrial chic and soaring windows overlooking the Hudson River, Basilica has become a favorite destination for wedding and special-events planners. “Our first wedding was for a couple whose grandmother was the former secretary for the glue factory, and we’ve held private events for such groups as the Firemen’s League,” says Auf der Maur. “The response to what we’re doing here has been incredibly positive, and now, in our fifth year, I’m proud to say we have ‘no enemies, no conflicts,’” she adds.
Auf der Maur says that she and Stone took on the Basilica “as we would any art project. We had a passion for Hudson and for the building, for art, and we bled ourselves dry until we hit a wall about a year ago,” says the musician. “With a DIY film or album, a project is eventually done; but with an art venue, it’s different. When we began asking people for help, they told us we were functioning as a non-profit organization. We had blind passion but no business plan. So we went to a lot of non-profit workshops and we learned a lot. It’s been an exciting and vulnerable time,” she says. “We’ve put ourselves on the road to building a healthy, sustainable machine. This has been a big year for us. It’s been a transition and an intense growth period. By 2016, we will be our own 501(c) (3).”
“Tony is crazy enough to dream this dream with me,” says Auf der Maur. “He’s very hands-on and is not daunted by the building itself. He, his friends and his father have done all the work on the building, like digging the sewer, out of love for the structure. We’ve put our blood, sweat, tears, love and inspiration into this. Our home overlooks the Basilica and we used to stare down at it from our windows, saying, ‘What is that building? We have to do something with it.’ And the response to what we’re doing has been incredibly positive.”
In addition to the Basilica’s annual (Freak) Flag Party and other regularly occurring events, the couple would like to offer educational lectures about the hidden history of Hudson, and also align with some more traditional arts venues to open up a wider dialogue. “What is it about this location, this region and its longstanding focus on both art and agriculture, that makes this area so magical?” muses Auf der Maur. “There’s a magnetic pull here, and there has been a strong welcome for our explorations of the avant-garde.”
Fourth annual (Freak) Flag Day, Saturday, June 13, 8 p.m.-2 a.m., $15/$20, Basilica Hudson, 110 South Front Street, Hudson; (518) 822-1050, https://www.basilicahudson.org.