“Do you know Crazy Dan?” two long-haired young kids asked me last Thursday evening as I sat out in front on my stoop on Church Street in New Paltz. They were part of a band out of Newburgh.
“Yeah,” I told them, as the music began next door and a hip young crowd gathered outside. “He’s right in there,” and I pointed toward the open door at Number Seven, the once-and-famous Crazy Dan’s Second-Hand Hardcore and More store that sold T-shirts, CD’s, records…all kinds of music stuff.
“Wow!” they beamed, “He’s right in there?”
And so it happened…Crazy Dan, one Dan Chisena, drummer and fledgling impressario, has become to young local musicians on the prowl for venues to play their music — unexpurgated and mostly unadorned — the kind-of second coming of Bill Graham (or at least the Bill Graham of pre-1960’s fame before he opened the Fillmore in New York’s East Village). Crazy Dan, being the local legend, has turned his hit-and-miss second-hand shop into New Paltz’s newest (and hottest) music venue. It all happens on a guerrilla-basis, with no set schedule of bands, just advertised on Facebook. Once it’s posted, the gig is on.
“I’m interested in the dark-side of New Paltz, the underbelly,” says Dan, “the counter-culture of now. The revolution of upcoming artists that are a reflection of the mask put on our culture, hiding the angst, the anger and trying to make it somewhat positive in musical forms.”
His bonafides are long, drumming with the heavy-metal band “Minotaur’s Redemption” for a decade and for the last five, with an off-shoot of that called “Dead Witch Walks,” a duo with rambunctious punk/metal guitarist Marcus Fredericks.
The venue, still called Crazy Dan’s Hardcore and More, started as an 8-foot-by-20-foot rehearsal space for his bands — it is the front room of the apartment he shares with his fiancee after all — when he put on a Halloween show in 2013 that drew a big crowd and turned into an annual event. College kids started asking him about the space. “I always wanted a place for myself and my friends to play. It’s hard to find places to practice in town. So it started like that, morphing into a practice space and then the kids said they wanted to do shows…So it’s become a community venue…an all-ages club to just play…non-profit (donations to the band)…no charge…no alcohol…a safe-space, like the old Cafeteria…an informal music scene on Church Street from 7-10 p.m. on selected nights — the neighbors are cool — so, I guess you could say: Crazy Dan’s has been resurrected and re-zombified,” laughs Dan.
He began in music as a guitar player, switching to bass when he started with “Minotaur’s Redemption,” but the band felt it needed a drummer. “My friend had a drum kit, so I jumped in”…and the rest, as they say…
Easy-going and laid-back, Dan, though, does have his big ambitions.
“I’d like to build a rep to open a legit venue. A schooling thing: how to run shows, how the sound works, etc., and be a good host. I’ve always liked being on stage. It’s an invincible feeling. And I always like to showcase others, especially younger kids.” And Dan mentions a Saugerties teen band called: “Sledge Wolf”…”an up-and-coming metal band that played this past Halloween, giving them exposure…they’re really good.”
As of now, most of the bands at Crazy Dan’s run in three categories out of the Indie-Hipster world: Melodic Metal — “structured, not so chaotic, a melody, story-telling”; Death Metal — “really heavy, music down to the bone”; and Dark-Hippie — “psychedelic metal, a jam feeling”…
“But I really like it all,” adds Dan, smiling. “I want to keep it as simple as possible. Have fun. Be a small venue with a big attitude.”
So…out on a Thursday evening? Strolling in town? And you hear some raucous music coming from down on Church Street? And you see a crowd of young people spilling out of a doorway and onto the sidewalk?…don’t walk away…it’s just some new music at a brand-new venue on New Paltz’s last street of dreams. It’s Crazy Dan’s.