To help catalog music events in the mid-Hudson Valley this spring, I turned to a hip, connected, and mostly reliable guide: you, in your many-faced collective form, you the MHV music scene as constellated on my Facebook page. This is how we do it now. We aggregate your genius. I ask, “What’s good?” And then I sit back as the hits roll in. I don’t write much. I coordinate the dynamic allocation of organic content streams. The pay, alas, is competitive.
A local musician friend and I looked over the responses trailing below my Facebook post like the lappets of a terrible local jellyfish. Surveying the spring schedule taking shape, he said, “My goodness, we’ve reverted to type.”
Before we worry about “reverted” and “type,” let us interrogate this friend’s use of the plural pronoun “we.” My friend isn’t from around here. He came up from the city, but of course he wasn’t from there, either. What is the locus of identity with these people anyway, and its terms? Are they born of pure, free moving capital? I’m almost sure of it.
When “you people” move up here from Brooklyn and the Lower East Side, you change us immediately, catalytically. It’s like, “Oh, look, a new thing, and it puts avocado on toast and sings authentic Southwestern folk songs beautifully. I feel different.” But it benefits no one to paint with a too-broad brush, lest we mistake the relatively harmless grant-fed scribbling barn swallow for the more invasive and pernicious prickly-nape equity-backed landgrabber. (Remember, stripes mean aggressive, plaid means conciliatory and respectful of regulatory. Be safe out there.)
It takes time, glacial time, but eventually we change them too. My friend is rolling up on two decades here, a sensible standard for being authentically “from here,” one requiring only a few asterisks and need-to-know clearance restrictions. When he said, “We’ve reverted to type,” his barely nuanced implication was that, as we crawl out of the hole of year Covid, pallid and tenuous, and unsure how to even play the clarinet and dance anymore. We may have lost some daring, some range, and especially some of the urban/global musical foment we worked so hard to tap into for so long. We may find we have leveled down, fallen back on our bedrock values and our timeless cultural verities: vegetables, roots music, multi-generational connection, affirmations of community and interdependence. You know, our type.
So have we? Was our edge a Covid casualty? Well, for the kids: community means people; people means bodies; venues are community factories that stuff people with music until their bodies poop money to make room for more music. As a result, we might observe a certain conservatism in booking in this transitional period. National tours are still grounded for the most part, though that is starting to change, and venues are looking for modest but blue-chip gate wherever they can find it, perhaps accentuating the tried and true, the remembered and the longed for, reverting to type.
The 33/100 rule currently in effect, which allows venues to fill indoors to 33 percent capacity or 100 patrons, whichever is lower, has been a thanks-no-thanks olive branch for many of the region’s leading music rooms. Mike Campbell, head of booking at Colony in Woodstock, said, “the risk/reward of opening at 30 percent capacity for a venue our size is not worth it. It’s not worth potentially putting people at risk for little to no profit.” We hear variations on that sentiment from all corners, and very little certitude about when the leash will lengthen and indoor music will return as we once knew it.
Music is a thing outdoors, but not always the thing. Outdoor music tends to keep company with other functions and other occasions. Consider the difference between an audience of passers-by at a farm market in broad daylight and an audience of decibel-hungry kids in a small, dark, unhealthy room at midnight, trying to find the pocket on the floor where the kick drum resonates at the same frequency as their sternum. There are certain kinds of outlandish music that only make sense inside, and only with complete, commanded attention. And they are not much in play right now, unfortunately
Finally, let it not pass without notice that we lost BSP for good. The trailblazing uptown Kingston music club was not the only daring and outré venue around by any means (hello, Tubby’s), but it was the flagship, the county seat of the alternative. The loss of BSP alone makes our region 20 to 30 percent more conservative musically than it was one global pandemic ago. Venues come and venues go. This, my people, was a very big go. Take a moment.
“The future,” as the great Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers recently said, “is a beautiful mystery.” Just add “when you’re rich” to any spiritual thing any celebrity ever says. Right now, it is us, not the blue flowers, trying to rise through the cracks in the pavement into the light.
What follows is a dozen handpicked flowers of springs. Some are shows; others are entirely new venues on the scene. Some are outside, some are inside, and some are, sigh, livestream, and that still doesn’t mean live and next to a stream.
The Bearsville Theater
291 Tinker Street, Woodstock
Good Lord, what a saga. No so long before Covid, Woodstock’s long-struggling, venerable barn theater was bought, renovated, armed for bear, and … introduced directly into the void. They are not the only venue with such a tale to tell; in fact you only need to walk a mile down the road to find another. But this is the Bearsville. Less steadfast ownership might have packed it in before the first frost. Not new owner Lizzie Vann. And now here it is, one of the freshest flowers of spring. It has, literally, been waiting here for you.
The Bearsville Theater is one of a number of local venues taking up the governor up on 33/100. “We will be requiring valid proof of Covid safety before anyone is admitted,” says Vann. The theater will produce music inside and in its spacious outdoor areas while continuing to stream content, for the time being.
About the months ahead, Vann beams with optimism and anticipation. “We have been hearing positive reports from artist representatives at labels, management and booking agencies, from across the nation, whose artists are beginning to work the road. And since our venue is a prime routing theater, many are eager to play the reborn theater they’ve been hearing so much about in the music trades and on satellite radio.”
The first few dates are names familiar to locals. The kids of Rock Academy present Seventies Gold on April 23 and 24, the first in a series of Rock Academy themed weekends. The guitar-free trio of local heavies the Restless Age perform their baroque groove pop on May 21. On May 22, internationally known soul/jazz singer/songwriter and area native Lindsey Webster brings her band in for a hometown show.
52 Mill Hill Road, Woodstock
The Mitchells of Michigan moved to Woodstock to be near their grandchildren. They’re not the retiring type. Pearl Moon is the gorgeously remodeled Harmony/Wok and Roll, designed and intended as an adventurous music venue from go, as well as an American diner-themed restaurant.
As of now, Pearl Moon appears to be offering “incidental music,” a phrase we will never hear the same again, but a restaurant-to-music-club nightly conversion is ready to go as soon as a green flag is waved. Woodstock area singer/songwriter and cultural commentator Jules Taylor already has a hand in booking out their beautifully mysterious future. In terms of size and booking purview, Pearl Moon fills a necessary niche between Woodstock’s bookend larger venues. This place is going to soar. Daniel Marc performs originals and songs from the Hudson Valley songbook solo on April 17.
229 Greenkill Avenue, Kingston
Galleries have always made excellent listening spaces, often ones with cultured audiences built in. Add a curtained stage, a lighting rig, a sound system and an elegant green room and can you even call it a gallery anymore when there is music playing? Green Kill is nothing less than a micro-theater, adventurously booked. It is one of the places that I predict will, or will have to, pick up a portion of the BSP slack. Exhibits and streaming concerts are ongoing here. Follow on Facebook to keep up.
22 Rock City Road, Woodstock
Well, duh. When everything changed, the brain trust Woodstock’s historic club already knew they had an outdoor venue ready to realize. In fact, an outdoor beer garden stage had been part of their long-term plan for at least a year. Covid hustled the Colony Beer Garden (TCBG) in to being, and Colony enjoyed one of the liveliest stages and biggest crowds of the 2020 temperate seasons.
It’s up and running again, as Mike Campbell waits to get Neil and Alexa’s nationally-focused indoor stage up and humming again. Most nights feature three or four acts, but here’s a couple to bookmark: Surf legends Purple K’nif performs on Sunday, May 30 at 4 p.m. Lara Hope and the Ark-Tones celebrate their album release here on June 26 with Pitchfork Militia and Tonus Maximus.
1394 Route 9w, Marlboro
Temporarily losing its two full sized club stages hardly slowed the Falcon. Tony isn’t one to wait around. He pressed the club’s many terraces, patios, decks, and table boxes into service and fashioned one the very few HV venues that passed the first and second wave in style. There wasn’t much any of us could do about that third wave. The Falcon is outside by the waterfalls until further notice, but you really won’t regret that fact. The club still plays by the incidental rule. Go to the site and subscribe to the list.
Elysium Furnace Works @ the Howland Cultural Center
477 Main Street, Beacon
The indefatigable James Keepnews curates the avant-garde, the experimental, and the alien wherever he and EMW Co-founder Mike Faloon can find it. If there isn’t enough edge in Kingston for my friend anymore, perhaps he should revert to Beacon, where he will find edge enough and time. The venerable Howland Cultural Center, a preferred venue and ad hoc recording studio for chamber music ensembles, lends itself to a broad definition of modern classical and vanguard music, and EFW delivers.
On Saturday, May 15 EFW presents a solo performance by legendary bassist and composer William Parker, celebrating his new biography Universal Tonality: The Life and Music of William Parker by Cisco Bradley.
Towne Crier Café
377 Main Street, Beacon
While Phil Ciganer and co. wait for their life blood to return, they have been doing the civilized thing: supplying free, high-grade music to diners. The practice continues on April 17 with the Daisy Jopling Band, Dan Stevens at brunch on Sunday, April 18, upcoming sets by Bruce Carroll, the Dan Brother Trio, and many more. See website for details.
Stone Mt. Farm, 310 River Road Ext., New Paltz
An actual trailside venue and eatery outside of New Paltz (culturally, seems more Rosendale to me), the Rail-Trail Café books music with vigor and imagination, tapping deep in the local ace player pool of which co-owner drummer Brian Farmer has long been a respected member. If you are thinking folk songs, well, yes, some of that but a lot more, much of with global character. Their season opens on June 17. You can’t wait.
50 Fite Road, Saugerties
All talk about cool outdoor spaces kind of begins and ends with this one, doesn’t it? And Opus 40 is after live music in a big way. In fact, their seasonal schedule is the most loaded I have ever seen it — jazz, folk, chamber music, mixed arts, and more. Please consult the Website for the remarkable schedule. Here’s a taste: the American Symphony Orchestra Wind Sextet on June 24.
68 Mountain Rest Road, New Paltz
Unison commences its outdoor concert series in late April, situated in an idyllic forested setting with a stage and full power. The New Paltz Arts Center has two to three shows a month booked through August. Highlights include the respected jazz and the experimental musicians/composer Gwen Laster band on Juneteenth (June 19), inaugurating Unison’s Prejudice Project.
120 Maverick Road, Woodstock
Very good news. America’s longest-running seasonal chamber music series, Maverick Concerts, has announced its intention to produce a limited 2021 season of performances at its heightened Woodstock location: nine concerts spanning July 18 to September 12. Typically, the 19th and 20th century focused classical music series augments its season with jazz and children’s programming. Within this reduced scope, it is uncertain yet what music will be presented. Keep tabs on the Maverick Web site.
A bouquet of additional live music spots
Kingston Farmers Market
Woodstock Farmers Market
Elly Wininger on Saugerties Beach, April 24
Stone House Tavern
Phillies Bridge Farm
West Kill Brewing
Front Street Tavern