After more than a year and many, many hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on construction deconstruction, and reconstruction, the Bearsville Center will open to the public on a limited basis this weekend, according to owner Lizzie Vann. The vision, Vann has written, is “to reignite the Center amongst a thriving music community, supporting local and international music legends.”
Music manager and entrepreneur Albert Grossman, the central figure of the Woodstock music scene in the 1970s and 1980s, had a passion for building and the means to pursue his passion. He was a complex, enigmatic, powerful and often controversial character who fought tooth and nail both for and with his artists. People still don’t agree 35 years after Grossman’s death about who he was and what he was up to.
What he left behind is now the Bearsville Center. As Vann indicated, the careful renovation of the property has been a huge undertaking, “done with compassion and whilst retaining its history.” Little expense has been spared in this meticulous restoration of what had existed prior to decades of neglect.
If Vann and Grossman have anything in common, it is a devotion to the quality of sound. In his time, Grossman was passionately interested in new developments in the capture of authentic sound. The technology may have evolved to completely different standards now than 35 years ago, but the intention is the same. Vann is convinced that the public interest in the making of sound has not diminished. For her, that’s what Woodstock is all about.
A few days ago, Bearsville Center held a concert livestreamed at five dollars a head to an audience of subscribers.”It was a beautiful sound,” said a relieved Vann this Tuesday morning. She says a lot of acts both local and national are being engaged, and that an events listing will soon be in the works.
This is the time of Covid-19, of course, and the Bearsville Center has assembled a list of protocols that must be followed for everyone to remain safe: entrances and exits, payment policies, seating, public-health protection, staffing and communications (including data for contact tracing).
Audiences will be seated in the expansive green field next to the Sawkill Creek in back of the theater building. By agreement with the health authorities, the completely restored bar in the theater will be open to the socially distanced, with food and drinks available. According to Lizzie Vann, the facility will be open Saturdays (including Saturday evenings) and Sundays. The renovated theater itself, built expressly as a palace for the capture and enjoyment of sound, will remain unoccupied until such time as the health regulations change.
The Bearsvlle Center website describes the venue “as a multi-use retail park, seeped in musical history.” It seeks to bridge music events with other experiences: “Drink and dine. Browse and shop. And embrace and reminisce the home to the Spirit of Woodstock.”