The outdoors is the new indoors at The Falcon in Marlboro

The outside area at The Falcon in Marlboro. (Photos by Dion Ogust)

From its beginnings in the loft of Tony Falco’s barn in Marlboro, the Falcon has paid as much fastidious attention to its physical environment as to its roster of jazz, blues, world, rock, and experimental talent. That loft was more sacred than rustic. Paneled in dark wood reclaimed from a church and treated with beautiful and acoustically useful area rugs, the original Falcon, as a space, was every bit the equal of the outsize bookings — Brad Mehldau, Dave Liebman, John Scofield — that stunned and delighted the Hudson Valley music scene at the start of this millennium. And that pairing of serious music and heightened environment has typified everything that Tony has done since.

Which is quite a lot.  As its regular patrons know full well, something is always afoot structurally at the second Falcon, a large music and art, dining and drinking multiplex overlooking the dramatic Marlboro Falls on Route 9W. Because the venue has never charged a cover and is driven by donations only, patrons enjoy all-access clearance at all times to two full-size music clubs booked nightly, each with its own kitchen and menu. There are two bars with differentiated offerings. The Avalon Archives museum is embedded in the Falcon Underground. There’s an actively curated art gallery in the main room. Finally, especially relevant right now is a multi-level network of decks, patios, stairs, pathways, and something like luxury boxes that line the lantern-lit path down the side of the falls.

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Tony Falco’s constant, visionary fiddling with his structure has come up roses now, providing him with options unique among local venues here in the Covid age, where outdoors is the new indoors. While establishments region-wide kludge what makeshift seasonal performance spaces they can with varying amounts of flexibility, the Falcon is simply realizing its destiny as an indoor/outdoor facility. 

So far, the Falcon has tested the waters of its beer garden format with a trio of July shows by some consensus stars of the local scene: the Gold Hope duo, featuring Lara and Matt from Lara Hope and the Ark-Tones; the guitar-free indie pop trio the Restless Age; and the ageless dean of local blues interpreters Big Joe Fitz and the A-list company of players known as the Lo-Fi’s.

On July 19, the Falcon enters stage two of its re-launch with a performance by the kind of internationally recognized jazz visionary that has always made the difference between the Falcon and everywhere else: Don Byron, the reed player, composer and bandleader who has helmed deep, intellectual and groovy explorations of funk, gospel, klezmer, swing, Latin, and all manner of experimental modernism.

How have the shows been so far, Tony?

Other than weather, it has been great. Looks great, sounds great, feels safe. After some adjustments with the stage, we have great sight lines now. You can see the stage all throughout my decks. Every seat is a good one. The upper deck has become a balcony. It’s all outside now. I don’t think I am ready to go inside yet.

You’ve done so much exterior work on the Falcon over the years, even rebuilding the outdoor elements completely after the devastation of Hurricane Irene. It seems like you are really reaping the benefits of that now.

Yeah, I am feeling that it is coming to fruition. It has always been there, but we’re really using it now. I am psyched for people to see what a beautiful beer garden facility we have, by the waterfall. 

The kitchens are open?

Yes, I have kind of a stripped-down menu of sandwiches and pizza — easy to handle and enjoy, burgers, knockwurst, veggies burgers.

I assume you are following all the safety guidelines rigorously.

Yes, masks are required when you are not eating at your table. We provide them if you don’t have one. The tables are separated. People have their own compartments. We’re following all the protocols. It feels safe. Hopefully, we can get back to the indoor venues — two floors and the outside too, and have three stages going — but not right now. 

We’ve had three shows and a rainout so far. We can handle a little weather. The stage is covered, and I have tents and umbrellas for every table. It really came down last night during the Restless Age show. I can’t believe how cool people were. They stayed under umbrellas or went inside and separated, and then we handed out towels and everyone toweled off their area, and we got back to it and had a great night.

Top-line jazz talent, visionary talent, is what the Falcon has always been built on, and it made me smile to see that the great, uncategorizable Don Byron is one of your very first headliners of this new era. It re-establishes contact with that founding spirit of the Falcon — your great and profound relationship with the jazz world.

I feel the same way. I really wanted to make sure we did some jazz. It is hard to set jazz outside, of course. We don’t have the acoustic piano. We have the waterfall with its background sound, but it is a very natural sound and it is kind of beautiful. I think the true artists will play with it. But it is just not the same. I am not booking as much jazz, but I am going to continue with jazz programming.

Do you know what Don is bringing on the 19th? He is so unpredictable. 

I know what you mean. I don’t, but I love him. Whatever he does is cool with me. He could be doing gospel, funk, but it will always have Don Byron’s feel. He is such a cool guy and such a great player. And he told me he is looking forward to playing with the waterfall.

Your regulars acts at the Falcon is quite a large and diverse cast of accomplished artists. Are they coming to you and feeling out the calendar?

Some of both. The artists are so into it. They all want to play and get back to it.  I have been inspired to reach out to a lot of my favorites to see if their interested in “Music by the Falcon Waterfall:” John Medeski, Sexmob, Cyro Baptista, Marco Benevento, Billy Martin, Jesse Harris, Larry Campbell, Richard Barone and Glenn Mercer, David Torn, and many many more. I was on a roll. We’ll see how we do with this batch. You have any ideas for me?

Upcoming shows at the Falcon include: Dylan Doyle Band (July 17), Fred Zepplin (July 18), Don Byron Project (July 19), Chris Bergson Band (July 24), Sun Dub (July 31), Hollis Brown (August 1), Deadgrass (August 8), KJ Denhert and the NY Unit (August 14) and The Big Takeover (September 11).

The Falcon outdoor beer gardens and decks are open Friday 4:00 to 9:00 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 1:00 to 9:00 p.m. Table reservations are recommended. Call (845) 236-7970 or visit www.liveatthefalcon.com. The Falcon is located at 1348 Route 9W in Marlboro, NY.