Great places to catch live music in the Hudson Valley: 2019 edition

The shapeshifting music venue landscape of the mid-Hudson Valley reminds me a little of the arcade game Whack-a-Mole. The hammer that pummels venues out of existence – or at the very least into extended periods of underground dormancy – is an easy enough metaphor to decode: Economics is what drives venues down. The hammer is the vanishingly thin profit margins that are endemic to the endeavor; the instability and unpredictability of it; and, even in the best scenarios, a positively grueling effort-to-profit ratio. Most venues, aside from theaters, are also restaurants or coffeehouses. Thus, consider venue owners as people who have thrown their lot into not one but two or more notoriously risky, labor-intensive and capricious enterprises. They fail, sure; but just as often, they burn out.

So that’s the hammer. But what is it that moves the moles to rise again, to lift their faces once more and see their own reflection in the pitiless steel of the descending hammer? When a venue goes underground, a vacuum is created, and in that vacuum gathers a certain cultural pressure that will eventually push a mole head up, somewhere else, into the light. We need places to hang out; we need stages on which to perform and on which to welcome touring nationals; we need music and something like pride in place. We need special nights, damn it, and until such time as it is all Applebees out there, someone is going to trade ten years of their life expectancy to give them to us. Those Type A masochists drawn to the venue game are a resilient and very pure form of dreamer, more than they probably wish they were. As a rule, they will try again.

I am pretty sure that I misunderstand the mechanics of Whack-a-Mole, which was invented in 1976 by Aaron Fechter of Creative Engineering, Inc. I don’t think the punching down of one mole creates the pressure that drives other moles upward. I don’t believe there is a cause/effect there. About the venue thing, however, I am pretty certain. 2018 has seen its share of venue losses, but more gain than in the years immediately before it – much of it, unsurprisingly, in Kingston, as vast swaths of old neighborhoods fall to the rising bloody tide of cool.

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Cheers to all who make it happen; that means the owners and managers and staff, the performers and sound techs and, most of all, the committed patrons. Join us for a little data hygiene and updating, and remember: A venue is an idea more than a physical space. This list is not and cannot be comprehensive. Apologies for all oversights.

Kingston

BSP
323 Wall Street, Kingston

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 better sound systems 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 Richard Buckner, the Felice Brothers, Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby. BSP taps the indie-rock buzzsphere as well as anyone, booking many giants of the scene: Lucius, Future Islands, Mac DeMarco, Perfume Genius, Parquet Courts and many more played shows here on the way up. 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. (845) 481-5158; http://bsplounge.com.

The Anchor
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. (845) 853-8124; www.facebook.com/theanchorkingston.

Keegan Ales
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. (845) 331-2739; www.keeganales.com.

Senate Garage
4 North Front Street, Kingston

The resurgence of trendy Uptown Kingston doesn’t seem to be subsiding, and Jazzstock, a highly active collective of jazz players and jazz advocates, has set up shop at this spacious urban location. “World-class” is a candidate for most overused and meaningless superlative, but I am going to use it to describe the kind of jazz that rings out of the Senate Garage. (845) 802-5900; www.senategarage.com.

Green Kill
229 Greenkill Avenue, Kingston

Named for the street on which it stands, Green Kill is an adventurous arts, performance and education space with an appetite for themed shows, multimedia and way-inclusive programing. They do a lot of music there. (347) 689-2323; https://greenkill.org.

(Photo by Tim Lee)

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. (845) 339-6088; www.bardavon.org.

The Beverly Lounge

224 Foxhall Avenue, Kingston

Speaking of Whack-a-Mole, when Rosendale’s beloved Market Market closed its doors, its ownership already had the Beverly up and running, and it was only a matter of time before the Bev inherited MKT2’s incomparably rich legacy of curatorship and special nights. The bar and restaurant area of the Beverly would seem barely big enough to host a diminutive, ukulele-wielding vegan songwriter from British Colombia and their bejeweled merch chest, but – dig this – there’s a back room, a capacious event space that splits the difference between a VFW hall and ayahuasca recovery room, and it has already hosted shows by the likes of Jonathan Richman and Eleanor Friedberger. The Beverly is happening. BSP has offloaded some of its choicest bookings there, and other people have a competitive interest in their calendar as well. (845) 514-2570; www.thebeverlylounge.com.

Tubby’s
586 Broadway, Kingston

It used to have Elvis, Marilyn and the Blues Brothers on the roof. Yeah, that place. Now it is Tubby’s, a hip spot with a vegetarian-friendly menu, a curated alcohol selection and an interest in live music that the venue itself describes as “occasional.” Still, this is the new Kingston, where “occasional” no longer means jazz standard, pop covers and acoustic singer/songwriter and roots. Tubby’s favors noise rock, avant-garde and the hair-raising experimental fringe. “Our last number tonight is called ‘Piñata No.6: The Gored Bull.’ Tip your bartender!” (845) 943-4446; www.tubbyskingston.com.

Art Society of Kingston (ASK)
97 Broadway, Kingston

ASK is a member-based multi-arts center in the historic Rondout District of Kingston. ASK renovated its 1925 two-story building to include two galleries and an upstairs performance space with an audience capacity of 99. Music programming tends toward the intimate and cultured – a classical guitar series, for example – but also with some bandwidth for songwriters. ASK also features comedy and tech-light theatrical programming as well. (845) 338-0333; www.askforarts.org.

Woodstock, Mt. Tremper & Phoenicia

The Pines
5327 Route 212, Mount Tremper

New to our list this year is The Pines, just off Route 28 in Mount Tremper, and a quintessential “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” venue. The stage area is small, but the backline and sound system are topnotch and – most of all – the talent resources are deep. Under the curatorship of its resident rock notable, Jeremy Bernstein (who performs as Burnell Pines), this excellent restaurant has very quickly established itself as a must-play spot for resident professional players and songwriters. The tight space dictates the dynamics to an extent, but let’s just say that they have a backline drum set and you’re allowed to use it. An excellent addition to the local venuescape in an area that really needed something. (845) 688-7311; https://catskillpines.com.

Colony
22 Rock City Road, Woodstock

If you haven’t heard the news about Colony yet, they’re dragging the river for your former self. After two years of artful and total restoration, a series of secret house concerts to build awareness and the hiring of a full-time music biz staff to book, promote and mix, the former Colony Café has reopened under new ownership. The first weekend of shows sold out and the space is getting the highest raves. Get to Colony soon. (845) 679-7625; www.colonywoodstock.com.

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. Bread-and-butter: classic rock, reggae and world music, fusion and blowout tributes and celebrations featuring Woodstock’s incomparable stable of ace players. (845) 679-4406; http://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, occasional WDST-sponsored performances and life as a working recording studio. (845) 679-2744; www.levonhelm.com.

Harmony Café
52 Mill Street, Woodstock

The 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, music open mic 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. (845) 679-7760; https://bit.ly/2SquUBF.

The Station Bar & Curio
101 Tinker Street, Woodstock

This lovely repurposed train station has become a popular eatery and drinkery and a well-curated listening room that emphasizes acoustic music, but sees plenty of full band and dance actions as well, it being in Woodstock and all. (845) 810-0203; http://stationbarandcurio.com.

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 Byrdcliffe’s 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, multisensory experience. (845) 679-2079; www.woodstockguild.org/performance.

Woodstock Playhouse
103 Mill Hill Road, Woodstock

More and more, the venerable Woodstock Playhouse is pressed into service as a music venue, and what a venue it is. Recent shows have included the Woodstock Symphony Orchestra, programs curated by the amazing Catskill Jazz Factory and Happy Traum’s traditional star-studded Solstice show. (845) 679-9600; www.woodstockplayhouse.org.

Maverick Concerts
120 Maverick Road, Woodstock

Woodstock’s Maverick Concert Series just finished celebrating 103 years as one of the most challenging and imaginative serious chamber music programs anywhere. In recent years, it has relaxed the definition of “serious” to include serious jazz and children’s music; but range and outsider, maverick thinking are Maverick’s calling cards. Maverick Concerts continues the vision of Hervey White, founder of the Maverick Art Colony. Artists and other volunteers built the hand-hewn “music chapel” in 1916, and the Hall is on the National Register of Historic Places. (845) 679-8217; www.maverickconcerts.org.

Catskill Mountain Pizza Company
51 Mill Hill Road, Woodstock

Here’s one that has quietly crept into the venue game and made a big splash. Woodstock’s premier pizzeria is hosting music several nights a week: bluegrass, jazz and a rock mix, featuring the region’s incomparable reserve of great players. (845) 679-7969; https://bit.ly/2EVPZ3b.

Old Glenford Church Studio
210 Old Route 28, Glenford

With the conclusion of the wildly successful Hudson Valley Sudbury School monthly benefit concert on the grounds of the old Glenford Church (after seven years of packed and luminous shows), it is essential to mention that Mor Pipman – the artist, gourmet and proprietor – has no intention of retiring from the business. This restored church was her secondary venue and art space, and it now becomes the primary one. This last year, the space hosted packed shows by Burnell Pines, Chris Maxwell, Ambrosia Parsley and many more. Few places can rival this one for vibe, art and food. (845) 641-4407; https://bit.ly/2LFEz4C.

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Empire State Railway Museum
70 Lower High Street, Phoenicia

The Empire State Railway Museum in Phoenicia is the site of approximately 12 intimate musical performances annually, produced by Flying Cat Music. The series presents national and touring acts in the roots/Americana vein in the acoustically exquisite, dark-wood-paneled passenger waiting room of the Empire State Railway Museum. Built in 1899, the museum accommodates approximately 50 people for performances. (845) 688-7501; https://bit.ly/2EUTKGz.

Ashokan Center
477 Beaverkill Road, Olivebridge

The semiannual Hoots, curated by the ace progressive Americana duo Mike + Ruthy, are the flagship musical events at the Ashokan Center, but the tunes are called year-round. Music, and especially folk music globally defined, is deep in the DNA of this whole undertaking. Entertainment and place-specific environmental education meld organically in the Center’s programming and mission, but it is also just a damn fine place to catch a show. (845) 657-8333; https://ashokancenter.org.

Saugerties

Inquiring Minds Coffee House & Bookstore
68 Partition Street, Saugerties

Inquiring Minds rightly considers itself a “cultural and social center” more than just a bookstore. Its event schedule is bustling and includes a fair amount of music, and not just the stripped-down and acoustic shows you might imagine. Legendary Woodstock bandleader Professor Louie, for example, did a CD release show here. (845) 246-5775; www.inquiringbooks.com.

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

Opus 40
50 Fite Road, Saugerties

Harvey Fite’s stunning sculpture park has been getting back into the live music and theater game in the past few seasons: on both the rocks themselves and in the rustic house. This is good news. The booking is well-curated and well-connected, and the space is incomparable. (845) 681-9352; www.opus40.org.

Saugerties United Methodist Church
Washington Avenue/Post Street, Saugerties

The Saugerties United Methodist Church is a venue dedicated to Saugerties Pro Musica, a rich and daring chamber music series now in its 24th season. Pro Musica books leading talent from New York City, Albany and around the world, as well as a fair share of local talent. (845) 679-6733; www.saugertiespromusica.org.

Marlboro

(Photo by Rafael Quirindongo)

The Falcon/Falcon Underground
1391 Route 9W, Marlboro

The Falcon is Tony Falco’s labor of love: a thriving 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. In 2016, the Falcon added a second venue, the Falcon Underground, to accommodate more rock and more locals, and it is excellent and every bit worthy of the Falcon name. (845) 236-7970; https://www.liveatthefalcon.com.

New Paltz

Snug Harbor
36 Main Street, New Paltz

New Paltz’s infamous rock dive bar is really no dive at all, but rather a warm, raucous, small music bar where the crowd is right up in the band’s face, but the band won’t turn down and the magic happens. Snug’s is not afraid of the harder end of rock; but, as with most college-town music bars, the roster is eclectic and surprising. (845) 256-0825; www.facebook.com/snugharbornewpaltz.

Bacchus
4 South Chestnut Street, New Paltz

Bacchus Restaurant and Bar is a New Paltz institution that never did live music – just didn’t do it. It was the one bar in town that you could visit to converse at a comfortable level. Then one night, the owners slid a pool table out of the way and found that they had a natural music club on their hands, and it has been a hopping music joint on the weekends ever since. Because of the length of the room and the height of the ceiling and the attached auxiliary spaces (a poolhall and a variety of decks and porches, including a heated patio), it remains the most conversation-friendly bar in town. Bacchus began as a rustic and roots-oriented venue, but that’s all out the window now. What plays here is, generally, the best that the town of New Paltz has to offer, from indie-rock to funk to psychedelic and bluegrass. (845) 255-8636; www.bacchusnewpaltz.com.

Unison Arts Center
68 Mountain Rest Road, New Paltz

In its bright and airy multipurpose 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. Unison really stepped up the music booking in 2018. (845) 255-1559; www.unisonarts.org.

Water Street Market
10 Main Street, New Paltz

The stylish, art-and-antique-lined downtown mini-mall was clearly designed to be a Mecca for tourists. Much to the surprise of everyone, it has also become a thriving cultural and congregational center for the community, using the lovely amphitheater on its south end for a summer Thursday concert series and a variety of other performances and events in all seasons. (845) 255-1403; http://waterstreetmarket.com.

Lagusta’s Luscious Commissary
11 Church Street, New Paltz

Sometimes a venue is just a person around whom music gathers. That’s how I think about Kate Larson, the musician (Guilt Mountain), writer and promoter who is pretty much singlehandedly responsible for a rich, decade-long subtradition of the New Paltz music scene. Her shows typically pair two traveling indie bands (among the best I have seen in my hometown) with a sympathetic local act. In Lagusta’s Luscious Commissary, on the site of the former Team Love Records/RavenHouse Gallery in New Paltz, Larson has found a highly congenial management and environment in which to flex her myriad connections in the world of indie-rock, zine writing and alt/culture generally. This is a gem of New Paltz and beyond, and the snacks and beverages are amazing and unique. (845) 288-3426; www.lagustasluscious.com/commissary.

Cafeteria Internet Café
56 Main Street, New Paltz

One of the real stunning spaces in town – the former Not Fade Away tie-dye factory, and long before that the Bomze & Van Vlack Pharmacy – Cafeteria sports a tidy window-box stage and a serviceable sound system. In the past, bands cranked it up in this spacious and high-character, couch-strewn room; but these days acoustic and solo are more in fashion, as well as absolutely packed open mics on Mondays at 7 p.m. Sundays are given to jazz. (845) 633-8287; http://cafeteriacoffeehouse.com.

Garvan’s
215 Huguenot Street, New Paltz

The beautifully situated, classy restaurant at the end of Huguenot Street in New Paltz features a steady supply of traditional Irish music. (845) 255-7888; www.garvans.com.

Underground Coffee & Ales
74 Vineyard Avenue, Highland

Underground has provided the village of Highland with a much-needed space for a little live music, trivia nights, movie screenings and such, to accompany a connoisseur-grade beer and coffee list. (845) 834-3899; www.undergroundcoffeeandales.com.

Rosendale, Tillson & High Falls

Rail Trail Café
Stone Mtn. Farm, River Rd. Ext., Tillson

Hard to give the exact address of this one because it is on the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, for Pete’s sake; but this delightful experimental eatery is co-owned by a killer musician (drummer Brian Farmer of Futu Futu fame), and it shows in the spring-to-fall music lineup that features everything from kids’ music to outré jazz, Friday through Sunday. (845) 399-4800; www.railtrailcaferosendale.com.

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. Easier said than done, but it has 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). (845) 658-9048; www.rosendalecafe.com.

High Falls Café
12 Stone Dock Road, High Falls

Not that long ago, the High Falls Café moved from its location on Route 213 to a comfortable 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, singer/songwriter Kurt Henry, roots/rock stalwarts the Trapps and of course Big Joe Fitz. (845) 687-2699; www.highfallscafe.com.

Widow Jane Mine
Snyder Estate, 668 Route 213, Rosendale

Have you been to the Widow Jane Mine yet? If not, you should seriously check out this mysterious Rosendale hideaway. It’s an easy stroll into the bowels of the Earth, with a flat floor, an underground lake that would serve as a nice retirement home for Gollum and acoustics that lure people to make recordings. A remnant of Rosendale’s once-world-renowned cement-mining industry, Widow Jane is a crux point between the natural world and human endeavor where magical things can and do happen. (845) 658-9900; www.centuryhouse.org

Accord & Stone Ridge

Arrowood Farms

236 Lower Whitfield Road, Accord 

This lovely farm and brewery is unafraid to throw up a big stage, seasonally. Last summer, it presented the Dirt Farmer Festival (which featured an appearance by Jackson Browne) as well as shows by national acts like the Lone Bellow. (845) 253-0389; www.arrowoodfarms.com.

Lydia’s Café
7 Old Route 209, Stone Ridge

Cute and classy, Lydia’s Café proves the adage that a venue is more a mindset than a physical space. Lydia’s offers a grade of live jazz wildly disproportionate to its physical dimension – maybe because jazz players and their small-but-ardent group of fans are always looking for intimate places to make their time-honored magic happen. Jazz isn’t all that plays at Lydia’s: There are some groove bands, some singer/songwriters, even some theater, and also great food, of course, and a full bar. (845) 687-6373; http://lydias-cafe.com/music-calendar.

Poughkeepsie & Hyde Park

The Chance
6 Crannell Street, Poughkeepsie

From its days as the Last Chance Saloon – a music club with a Dixieland house band! – to its current incarnation as a midsize club catering to hard rock, metal and modern alternative, the Chance has been one of the region’s premier venues for decades. For all of its sold-out shows by major artists in all genres and unannounced tour-kickoff dates by legitimate superstars, the Chance may be known most of all for the date the Police played there during a blizzard early in their first American tour. Approximately 13,000 people claim to be among the seven in attendance that night. The Chance also includes a smaller and more locally focused venue known as the Loft. (845) 471-1966; www.thechancetheater.com.

Bardavon 1869 Opera House
35 Market Street, Poughkeepsie

A jewel of an old theater, the 944-seat Bardavon Opera House in Poughkeepsie has been a regional treasure since 1869. The Bardavon sports exactly the kind of eclectic calendar that a large venue requires to get by: everything from rock stars to orchestras to comedians and animal psychics. But the Bardavon has also shown some real imagination in its programming, with classic film nights and Live at the Met HD telecasts. (845) 473-2072; www.bardavon.org.

My Place Pizza
322 Main Street, Poughkeepsie

“Since 1978 serving real New York pizza to the City of Poughkeepsie, Marist, Vassar and DCC and St. Francis/Vassar Hospitals,” says My Place Pizza on its Facebook page, adding, “and rock ‘n’ roll since 2012.” In the intervening years, My Place has developed a reputation as a band-friendly venue unafraid of the rock. My Place Pizza, like so many other repurposed venues, has discovered one of the secrets to packing the house: 18+. The kids are all right. (845) 406-9285; https://bit.ly/2s1iWCS.

Darkside Records & Gallery
611 Dutchess Turnpike, Poughkeepsie

This large and vinyl-filled record store has a stage, sound system and lighting rig that many small-to-midsized venues would envy, and they don’t leave it empty. There’s often a rock show happening while you are flipping through the racks. The place is also way congenial to events, showcases and activism. Great spot in a weird location. (845) 452-8010; www.darksiderecordsandgallery.com.

Hyde Park Brewing Company
4076 Albany Post Road, Hyde Park

The space they provide for performers is narrow, but their commitment to live music is deep and longstanding. Performers make it work here in this comfortable and accommodating brewery and restaurant. (845) 229-8277; http://hydeparkbrewing.com.

Rhinebeck

The Shelter: Underground Bar
47 East Market Street, Rhinebeck

Rhinebeck needs venues, and up steps the Shelter: Underground Bar to fill that chronic void. In addition to food and drink, it offers a popular open mic on Tuesdays and frequent shows by local notables, such as the regional blues legend Murali Coryell. (845) 876-1500; https://bit.ly/2TiNICO.

Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck
661 Route 308, Rhinebeck

The area’s premier dedicated community performance facility specializes, of course, in a high and adventurous grade of theater and musical theater, but it has been known to open the stage for music as well, including a number of performances by the classical guitarist David Temple. (845) 876-3080; www.centerforperformingarts.org.

Church of the Messiah
6436 Montgomery Street, Rhinebeck

Most old churches make great music venues for obvious reasons having to do with acoustics, history and vibe. But the Church of the Messiah claims among its treasures a fabulous restored E. M. Skinner pipe organ. The Rhinebeck Chamber Music Society books its shows here, and for good reason. (845) 876-3533; www.rhinebeck-episcopal.org.

Tivoli & Annandale

Traghaven Whiskey Pub & Co.
66 Broadway, Tivoli

Northern Dutchess lost a vital and eclectic (and Bardcentric) music outlet when the venerable Black Swan in Tivoli closed and efforts to revive it via crowdsourcing foundered; but good things return to those who wait. The Traghaven Whiskey Pub & Co. now features Irish music, jazz and an eclectic mix of “other,” though maybe not so much of the rock of the Black Swan years. Traghaven also claims a new and improved kitchen. And, in the great tradition of the Black Swan, Traghaven is the place to go to watch soccer among knowledgeable fans. (845) 757-3777; www.traghaven.com.

Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts
Bard College, Manor Avenue, Annandale-on-Hudson

Not one venue but several, producing an incomparable level of programming in the classical and jazz genres, the Fisher Center is a curve-busting presence on the local scene. The summer is especially rich, with Bard SummerScape and the Spiegeltent, but the amazing programming is year-round, and the Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center building itself looks like Queen Amidala’s Nabooian diplomatic spaceship crash-landed right on campus. No one was hurt. (845) 758-7900; https://fishercenter.bard.edu.

Hudson

Basilica Hudson
110 South Front Street, Hudson

Basilica has been making news with its concerts, art exhibits and general multimedia happenings since 2010. The facility itself is a stunning reclaimed 19th-century factory located mere steps from the Hudson Amtrak station. Basilica’s bona fides can be traced to its artistic directors, filmmaker Tony Stone and musician Melissa Auf der Maur. The programming here is continuous and often downright crazy. (518) 822-1050; http://basilicahudson.com. 

Club Helsinki Hudson
405 Columbia Street, Hudson

Club Helsinki moved from Massachusetts to Hudson not very long ago, upgrading its performance space significantly in the process, but also sealing Hudson’s incipient reputation as a music town to be reckoned with. It is a major midsized national-circuit club, built for sound from the ground up. It enjoys an already-established reputation, especially in the realm of Americana. Amidst the A-list folkies and singer/songwriters who play here practically nightly – Todd Snider, Tift Merritt and Aimee Mann – Helsinki Hudson has thrown a few curveballs in the last few years: Magnetic Fields, Frank Black (of the Pixies), Thurston Moore (of Sonic Youth) and more. This is a club worth a visit just to see the exceptionally cool space. (518) 828-4800; http://helsinkihudson.com.

Spotty Dog Books & Ale
440 Warren Street, Hudson

As the word “Ale” in its name ought to suggest, the Spotty Dog is not your typical bookstore. Situated in an old firehouse, the Spotty Dog caters to Hudson’s urban refugee population and (apologies to all) hipster tastes in its readings, its organic ales on tap, its art supplies and in the music that it slides some racks around to make room for. Many of the acts that appear here are experimentalist art-song writers imported from Brooklyn, including a number of big names over the years. It is the kind of bookstore where people will travel to play. (518) 671-6006; www.thespottydog.com.

Half Moon
48 South Front Street, Hudson

The Half Moon brings a bona fide, adventurous rock club to Hudson to fill the gaps between Club Helsinki and the many music-friendly restaurants and cafés in town. It attracts national talent as well as locals. (518) 828-1562, http://thehalfmoonhudson.com.

Hudson Hall
327 Warren Street, Hudson

For a number of years, the historic Hudson Opera House would open its doors for bands and artists looking for a first-rate setting for haunted or post-apocalyptic PR photos. Alas, those days are done, and the storied venue is now a busy place of programming: adventurous music, serious music, low-cost educational programs, art and theater. Hudson Hall at the Hudson Opera House is serious about being a mainstay in the ongoing revitalization of this colorful riverside city. (518) 822-1438; www.hudsonhall.org.

Catskill & Vicinity

HiLo
365 Main Street, Catskill

With its cool traincar layout, its backline grand piano and a run of booking hits that bely its size, HiLo kind of seals the deal: Ready or not, Catskill is cool now, too. Food is excellent as well, and it’s the kind of café that has wine and beer. www.hilocatskill.com.

23Arts

Not a venue but an initiative, 23Arts in Tannersville produces high-level musical programming year-round in various venues including but not limited to the Doctorow Center for the Arts in Hunter and the Mountain Top Library. The initiative favors jazz, modern classical and experimental, but is pretty genre-agnostic overall, especially in its exceptional, overstuffed summer festival programming. www.23arts.org.

 

Beacon

Towne Crier Café
379 Main Street, Beacon

When venerable venues close their doors, one often hears hopeful promises of new digs and new golden eras, but they seldom materialize. Not so with the Towne Crier – formerly in the old Beekman General Store and Pawling, currently in a custom-built facility right in the heart of Beacon. Phil Ciganer’s previousfolk, roots and jazz club was legendary: an oasis of world-renowned talent in an out-of-the-way place. The new site does not disappoint. It is more spacious, at least as good in terms of sound quality and more convenient to most of us. The restaurant is outstanding as well. The Towne Crier continues to feature A-list Americana talent, and the hundreds of signed portraits on its walls keep its storied legacy front-of-mind. (845) 855-1300; www.townecrier.com.

Howland Cultural Center
477 Main Street, Beacon

The Howland Library has stood at 477 Main Street in Beacon for more than 145 years. The airy, high-ceilinged main room now hosts a great variety of music, from folk/rock to classical, and is so renowned for its fine acoustical properties that a number of rock, folk and classical records have been recorded in its vaunted space. The Howland Chamber Music Circle, art exhibits, programs for children, films, poetry readings and open-mic nights fill out the schedule in one of the Hudson Valley’s most pristine listening environments. (845) 831-4988; www.howlandculturalcenter.org.

Chill Wine Bar
173 Main Street, Beacon

We are not sure when Beacon became Jazz City, but it is on; and it is not exactly polite dinner jazz, anywhere on the block. As the name implies, Chill keeps it a little on the mellow side, leaving the skitter and skronk for Quinn’s; but Chill gets to choose from some pretty choice players, and the jazz here is for real. (845) 765-0885; www.chillwinebarbeacon.com.

Dogwood Bar & Grill
47 East Main Street, Beacon

A nice casual restaurant with a separate music room, Dogwood is literally on the other side of the tracks – in the lightly developed area of East Beacon – but only a jog from the galleries and shops of the main strip. Dogwood’s tastes in music are in keeping with Beacon’s growing reputation for quirky urban sophistication: Everything from experimental jazz to Americana plays here. (845) 202-7500; www.dogwoodbar.com 

Quinn’s

330 Main Street, Beacon

Main Street Beacon was already a happening stretch with the Howland, the relocated Towne Crier, Dogwood and a variety of gallery and dinner performance spaces along its length. Now Quinn’s, an ultra-hip repurposed luncheonette, brings all manner of indie and outré music to one of the Hudson Valley’s liveliest strips. Quinn’s excellent sound system pipes everything from avant-garde jazz to indie slacker-rock, punk and even some standard-fare upstate blues and rock. But Quinn’s specializes in the kind of acts that you are liable to find at BSP in Kingston: smart, subversive, different, new. (845) 202-7447; http://quinnsbeacon.com.

Beacon Music Factory
333 Fishkill Avenue, Beacon

A combined music school and show producer, the Beacon Music Factory is a hub for players, students and audiences. Start here if you are looking into playing music, but also keep an eye on its performance schedule. (845) 765-0472; http://beaconmusicfactory.com.

Orange County

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. (845) 561-7240; www.thewherehouserestaurant.com.

Brothers BBQ
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. (845) 534-4227; www.thebrothersbarbecue.com.

2 Alices Coffee Lounge
311 Hudson Street, Cornwall-on-Hudson
117 Broadway, Newburgh

The 2 Alices Coffee Lounges serve 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. There’s one in Newburgh now, too. (845) 534-4717; www.2alicescoffee.com.

Sullivan County

Bethel Woods Center for the Arts
200 Hurd Road, Bethel

A museum, a next-gen amphitheater and a very, very important (and preserved) field: The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts is every bit the Sullivan County anomaly that Yasgur’s Farm was in ’69. While the indoor/lawn Pavilion Stage draws the big acts and festivals in season, the Event Gallery hosts more intimate shows and programs year-round. Bethel Woods takes its mission as museum and community learning center seriously. And even those among us who do not sentimentalize the ’60s or deify its celebrities can’t help but be wowed by the beautiful landscape and layout. It is a spectacular spread with some stunning structures. (866) 781-2922; www.bethelwoodscenter.org.

There are 6 comments

  1. Alicia Lenhart

    Hi John – this is a great list and we support
    Any of these places by going to shows there when we can. Somehow you missed Grand Cru Beer & Cheese Market in Rhinebeck. We have been having live music twice a month for the past 5 years. Please check our out FB events and you can see the quality acts, many of whom play at other places on your list. Thanks, Alicia Lenhart, Co-Owner.

  2. gerald berke

    Great article! I love that kind of reporting from the Ulster Publishing!

    please, please, please, note The Station on Tinker in Woodstock where there is fabulous jazz provided by Peter Einhorn, guitar, Lou Pappas on base, sometimes Ray Collins on sax, flute and vocals and some times Veronica Nunn, a favorite vocalist, but all of the vocalists are superb.
    They run a fine two sets in a very comfortable setting.
    Yeah.. wow.

    Excellents soups and sandwiches at a very friendly bar: the Stations

  3. Jason

    Very cool list. As a musician myself passing at a few of these venues thank you for this list. You should add Putnam county. Daryls House which we just sold out, asks The Bull & Barrel. Both great venues with great stages. The sound at Daryl’s House is the best I have heard yet. We would love to play aloft of these venues in the future.

  4. George

    Whoever wrote this has obviously never been to Quinn’s. Not only has quinn’s been there longer than Towne Crier, they do not specialize in “slacker-rock.” They’re most popular night is a Monday night jazz series that’s going on it’s sixth year of existence.

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