Kingston After Dark: Comeback

Sean Griffin and The Ruffians. (Photo by C3 Photography/Catharina Christiana)

Sean Griffin and The Ruffians. (Photo by C3 Photography/Catharina Christiana)

This month marks 20 years for me as a musician and writer in these parts. Growing up in the rock scene of the HudsonValley and eventually moving into music journalism as well as performance, I have gotten to talk to and meet so many amazing people and hear countless cool songs and share great memories either in an audience or up on stage. The last few years have really seen a renaissance in Kingston’s enthusiasm for local music. It seems like everyone participates or knows something going on. One of the best local barbers, Mike Cashen of Pugsley’s Barbershop plays in a band called Fort Street. I even was talking to Mayor Shayne Gallo in Stone Soup about Blondie concerts a few weeks ago.

Kingston has always been more or less a cool town, but the last few years things have really bloomed. Local dining and nightlife spots with a good grasp of what makes this town tick (and what raises the bar) have changed the landscape for the better. If you want a fancy dinner or to see some good electronic music or a rowdy punk band, it’s all at your fingertips. There’s a ton of cross-pollination between patrons, staff and owners of various businesses and mini-scenes and even between towns. The O-Positive festival has restored a sense of participation to the community (or maybe there are just higher quality drinks available at the Stockade Tavern nowadays). Good times.


This is mainly a nightlife column focused on various genres, cool people and events. Let’s start off with a good cross section of some local color.

The first color is green. On Sunday, March 10 I heard a great set by Irish rock band The Ruffians at BSP Lounge. This great band has been playing since 1998 and delivers grit and charm live, beholden to tradition but having fun.  The “First Annual ShamROCK Fest” also featured MacCana and T-McCann band (plus guests) and was a benefit for the planned IrishCulturalCenter on Abeel Street. Our town has some of the most Irish pride anywhere, and this event was packed, fun all night and self-regulated. A girl I know joked with me that there should be moms, babies and parade bands at bars all the time.

“Today we played ‘Wild Rover’ for 30 minutes straight on a float,” said Ruffians bassist Sean Sheridan. “If that’s not punk rock I don’t fucking know what is.”

Bri’s new ink

Brianne Olsson is well known for promoting events like the Dusty Spokes Toy Drive and as a bartender at Keegan Ales. I asked the beloved brew-slinging amazon what she thinks is great about town these days.

“People in the Uptown area have started making conglomerate efforts together. I like that,” says Olsson. “On New Year’s Eve they all worked together and promoted one another, for example. In the last five years, Kingston has been almost a Mecca for live music. Even small places like The Rondout Music Lounge or Snapper Magee’s, people are actually trying. I have bounced many times from one place to another trying to catch all my friends playing. We’re so close to Woodstock, the city, Albany … It’s a central location. People are starting to go to Kingston just to find out where the live music is, and places get packed.”

ktx sq K200 bri's tattoo

Brianne’s new tattoo.

Olsson shows off a new tattoo from local rocker Cookie of the band White Knuckle Rodeo (and Pop’s Tattoo Emporium artist). She mentions how he is one of many creative people from here. There’s a sense of appreciation for community potential evident in her tone of voice.

“Working at Keegan’s, I get 80 percent out-of-towners on Saturdays and Sundays,” Olsson says. “They always ask me what goes on around here. It takes a half hour just to start telling them! Some places have food specialties, like Boitson’s has oysters and martinis, 20 burgers on the Rondout Music Lounge menu or a place like Tony’s. They have beer and wine but the food is well-priced and great. The area caters to every wallet and there is a standard around here that now has to be kept up.”

A return to awesome

Seriously. This place has become pretty awesome again. You can’t leave your house elsewhere without running into verified talent. It is easy to regularly spot someone from Mercury Rev, Richard Buckner, prog-rockers Three or other artists, actors and musicians from all ranges of the spectrum. Most of Bad Brains, the first hardcore band ever, live nearby. I saw freakin’ Peter Dinklage at the grocery store in front of me recently the day I finished the most recent book of the series that “Game of Thrones” is based on. Surreal.

There is a lot of good stuff going on in neighboring towns as well — New Paltz has a bunch of venues which give Kingston acts places to play.

Leaving Keegan’s the other night I ran into ghoul slayer Kevin Sharp of the band Red Nekromancer walking a cute dog. This belies the fact that Sharp’s band sound as if Slayer had been started by Mojo Nixon and David Allen Coe. I asked him about his show March 17 at Cabaloosa’s on Main Street in New Paltz, a seven band St. Patty’s Day blowout.

“It’s still new for us,” said Sharp. “It is our third show. We get to play between [local apocabilly heroes] Pitchfork Militia and White Knuckle Rodeo. Thirty-five years of experience to our three shows. We will hold our own.”

Local Tigeriss chanteuse Lara Hope is playing in multiple bands on the Cabaloosa bill. Hope’s velvety croon and sassy stage banter has made her a popular attraction in the region.

“This is the second annual St. Patty’s Rock ’n’ Roll Party at Cabaloosa!” exclaims Hope.

“Since I used to live in New Paltz, and now in Kingston, it’s nice to get both worlds together to celebrate most of my friends’ two favorite things: drinking and rock ’n’ roll!”

The full list for the St. Patty’s Cabaloosa show: Pitchfork Militia, Jonny Monster Band, Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones, Red Nekromancer, Yard Sale, White Knuckle Rodeo and DJ E-Bomb. The show’s from 1-10 p.m.; admission is $8; 18 and over only.

There is one comment

  1. Tim Dwyer

    Great and well deserved coverage of Sean and the Ruffians. We had a great night at Shamrockfest. You share the last name with a great Irish cultural scholar. We will keep you abreast of other Celtic American cultural events coming up.

    all the best,

    Tim Dwyer

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