This Is Where to See Live Music in the Hudson Valley
From intimate cafés to historic opera houses, these are the top places to catch a show in the region.
Photo by Dani Brandwein
Right on Wall Street, this extensive complex featuring both a tiny front-room and expansive back theater has been pioneering hip live music (mainly indie and punk) in Kingston for quite some time. Serving as a stop-over between New York City and Canada, they have a habit of grabbing bands at pivotal career points: Big Thief, Grizzly Bear, and The Get Up Kids have all played here, in addition to local residents like the Felice Brothers and Yeasayer. They are also a reliable home for local arts and crafts events like the Hudson Valley Record Fair and Made in Kingston.
Smack-dab amid Uptown’s historical buildings is Senate Garage, a 1920s parking garage-turned-manufacturing facility-turned-industrial event space. Designed for weddings and other private events, Senate Garage is also a great place to hear some top-flight jazz offerings — including iconic vocalist-pianist Andy Bey and King Crimson’s Tony Levin. As if that isn’t enough, it has just been named Ulster County Tourism’s Business of the Year.
Most nights of the week, this hyper-cool relative newcomer is a top-notch ramen place, serving spot-on gyoza, an excellent spicy vegetarian miso, shrimp katsu, and even kimchi hot dogs from Barb’s Butchery to a crowd of locals and curious Metro-North weekenders. On Fridays and Saturdays, however, a local jazz, ska, or rockabilly band will crowd onto its tiny stage and bring the whole place (all 90 seats) to life, selling more than a few cans of Sapporo in the process.
A sprawling BBQ joint on the Newburgh waterfront, Billy Joe’s hosts weekly events like country line-dancing and a Latin DJ night, and sometimes puts on live music for the party-preferential crowd. Saucy in multiple senses, the vibe here is heavy on big drops, obvious beats, twangy guitars, and maybe more than a few songs about trucks. An outdoor patio means that crowds can swell up to 2,000 during the summer months, but more refined listeners beware: don’t expect chamber quartets in these halls.
Like more than a few Hudson Valley institutions, the Towne Crier, which opened in 1972, has adapted with the times, including a move to Beacon’s Main Street and a diverse array of acts playing everything from strict bluegrass to zydeco, dirty blues, and more. Their calendar of cult players is occasionally augmented by a big-name local like Rhett Miller or one of the Wainwrights, who bring sizable gravitas to the Crier’s intimate stage. And show up early for the food: its menu of salads, tacos, filets, and more — with plentiful vegetarian options like tofu “wings” — has been lauded by no less than the New York Times.
Contiguous with the TV-famous motorcycle shop, the OCC Café favors outrageous throwbacks in both its music and food. Grunge groups, biker-friendly rock-and-roll, and eighties revival groups like BedRock have all made their impact on the stage here since it opened in 2009.
Photo by Rick Pauline
The genesis of Daryl’s House is pretty uncommon: The Daryl in question is Daryl Hall, of Hall and Oates. Hall’s second career — as host of the internet-cable show Live From Daryl’s House and a passion for home renovation — led to his overhauling of Pawling’s defunct Towne Crier Café into this food/drink/live music venue, with a capacity of 300. Many of the performers are the expected veterans — Jimmy Webb, the Tubes, Vanilla Fudge — but there’s a surprising emphasis on acoustic and bluegrass. And it’s hard to know if “half-roasted chicken a la Joe Walsh” is an enticement or a cautionary.
This neighborhood dive fits both Bard students and townies, leading to fascinating sessions: Irish music, klezmer, and jazz music enliven the weekends, given a boost by the participation of top-notch conservatory players who know how to keep a session going into the wee hours. Music is typically free, intimate, and pairs well with craft brews from the beat-up bar, as well as the menu of creative burgers and sandwiches served up by a revamped kitchen. For a break, take yourself to the expansive, atmospherically lit back patio.
The Chance’s sheer heft can be explained via the building’s long and storied lineage. The structure, built in 1912, housed vaudeville acts and served as a movie theater in the silent film era. It eventually shut its doors for a good 25 years. Beginning in the 1970s, it began to reemerge under various guises, this time as a rock space with a capacity of 735. Since 1994, Frank Pallett has helmed the current incarnation. The Chance’s scope allows for a wide range of musical performances, from Bowie to former teen star Tiffany (“I Think We’re Alone Now”). This is an uncommon and interesting space to see and hear live innovative music.
Darkside first made a name hosting punk shows in its cramped old digs, but since its move to a massive location off Route 44 this local institution has opened itself up, with drop-ins from big names like Baroness. Couple this with a warehouse of vinyl records, hi-fi equipment, local products and more, and Darkside (which can seat up to 200) is more than worth a ride into Poughkeepsie. Shows are typically free and all-ages.
This long-running, homey eatery went through a transformation in 2006, when owner Lydia Haynes sold the café to her daughter, Roni Haynes-Usvolk and son-in-law, Mark Usvolk. The new incarnation retains all the charm of the neighborly original — the perfect place to drop by for a snack and coffee — but with an expanded menu that incorporates lunch and dinner. The other large change is a real commitment to showcasing prime musicians such as the Bernstein Bard Trio, Charlie Kniceley, Bob Shaut, and Lori Wilner. Lydia’s musical offerings are decidedly varied — dance bands, rock, singer-songwriter, bluegrass, Indian music, salsa — but its special, aficionado’s attention to jazz yields some amazing performances.
Photo by Philip DeHavilland
When art and music promoter Tony Falco opened The Falcon in 2001 in a building behind his home, it quickly became known as the area’s hottest house venue, gaining a name for booking serious names in a homey space. Since a 2009 move to a 19th century button factory in the heart of Marlboro, it has become a much more professional, if no less intimate, stage on which to view locals like the Sweet Clementines as well as national names such as Cindy Cashdollar and Vic Juris. Their menu serves locally sourced pub grub, as well as a weekly brunch with live music and a Marlboro Falls view. When you’re there, make sure not to miss their extensive collection of vintage rock and roll art and merch.
Photo courtesy of the Menzingers
The Colony has operated, in one form or another, for close to a century, and in the early 2000s served as a hub of the area’s local folk and punk scenes. But since a substantial renovation and reopening in the spring of 2017, it has really come into its own, offering indie rock, punk, and rap — plus a refreshed pub menu and extensive (and well-stocked) bar. Really big names like Mitski and Joyce Manor pack fans to the rafters from the Colony’s low stage, drawing the Valley’s mix of college students, young punks, and aging hipsters. Show up early, and you might end up face-to-face with your favorite artist — onstage and off.
Photo by Mulography
The late Helm began holding his legendary Midnight Rambles in this converted Woodstock barn back in the mid-aughts, where an intimate set from acts like the Drive-By Truckers would be followed by an all-night jam session. Though Helm has since passed on, the Barn continues his legacy, snaring names like Richard Thompson, Hiss Golden Messenger, Mountain Man, and the New Pornographers. It results in an environment at once communal and raucous, people have been known to share drinks, snacks, and, presumably, much more once the show has gotten underway. It also played host to the 2019 Dirt Farmer Fest, a summer festival whose past headliners have included Mercury Rev, Steve Earle, and Jackson Browne.
Photo by Angela P. Schapiro
Maverick Concerts is a renowned regional fixture that has been in existence for over a century and lays claim as the nation’s longest-running summer chamber music festival. Rooted in Woodstock’s historic bohemia and a nonprofit since the 1960s, its bucolic locale also allows for multisensory outdoor listening. Its historic indoor facilities — hand-built and originally constructed in 1916— are visually stunning and something to see in its own right. The Young People’s Concerts can be enjoyed by young and old. Maverick is an interesting spotlight for local musical luminaries like Happy Traum and also draws from a national and international cast of musicians.
Photo by Alan Koppel
Liam and Laura Singer, owners of HiLo, the popular Main Street café/bar/art gallery/performance space, opened their new endeavor in August of 2019. Avalon Lounge’s menu is Korean and the space features a bar, upstairs lounge, and performance room. The live music selection runs the absolute gamut and can’t really be pinned down — ranging from jazz, pan-African jams, and ambient. Performances are culled from local and regional musicians, as well as out-of-towners, including 1970s new wave icon Wreckless Eric. The Avalon’s emphasis on live music guarantees continued, genre-spanning performances, with even the occasional film thrown in for good measure.
This substantial Louisiana-style restaurant (formerly Red Square) typically hosts one to two shows a week right in the center of Albany. Inhale some gumbo while taking in performances from a wide variety of acts, from deep-dub groups to folk-fusionists Bella’s Bartok to even stranger bands, such as the rootsy Grateful Dead cover band Deadgrass. This jammy environment is abetted by a substantial draft menu, with a special focus on deep South favorite Abita Beers, as well as a variety of Northeast craft beers from Ommegang, Swiftwater, Lost Nation, and more.
Part pub, part punk club, The Hollow gamely fills the hole left by dearly-departed DIY dump Valentine’s, but with far more flair: good beer, great sound, and functioning restrooms make this the most enjoyable spot to mosh your heart out to big names playing small like The Hold Steady, Titus Andronicus, and the Joy Formidable. The intimate digs and low stage are made even better by a menu that includes artisan cheese boards, pan-seared ahi tuna, burgers, and 3-bean chili nachos, all the better to refuel between your return to the pit.
Photo by Custom by Nicole
Helsinki operated out of a legendary Great Barrington location before moving to a gorgeous wood-and-brick building off Hudson’s Warren Street in 2010. Its excellent restaurant runs week-round, but make sure to check the calendar for its refreshingly varied performance lineup, which can run from celebrated indie groups like Wye Oak and the Mountain Goats to drag performances, bluegrass, burlesque, and more. One of the few places in the Hudson Valley, and maybe in the world, where you can watch a ripping night-long set from The Felice Brothers while downing low-country shrimp and grits.
Photo by Robert Umenhofer
Hudson Hall, at the recently renovated 1855 opera house, is a nonprofit and very cognizant of its role in the cultural composition of the city of Hudson. The music is far-ranging, certain to please the more traditionally minded as well as the musically adventurous: from pop acts like local Natalie Merchant to jazz, opera, and international. The classical runs the gamut from Mozart to the more untraditional operas and performances (composer Alan Rudolph’s spontaneously conducted Ragmala, for example, and Hai-Ting Chinn’s opera Science Fair, its libretto inspired by words of scientists themselves). The 350-seat Hudson Hall also offers an imaginative, broad range of kids’ entertainment, and is home to the Hudson Jazz Festival.
Hudson’s transformation into an arts powerhouse is owed, in no small measure, to Basilica Hudson. Housed in what was a 19th-century steel forge and foundry and subsequently a glue factory, Basilica Hudson has the space and the drive to showcase innovative music, film, and visual art. Basilica SoundScape is a genre-busting music and sound festival; 24-Hour Drone is 24 hours of immersive, varied sonic experimentation. Rest assured, though: Basilica Hudson is far from solely an experimental canvas; many of the musical acts can rock out with the best of them. The music, the setting, the food — all are a lot of fun.
Situated in a idyllic setting amid an apple orchard in Columbia County, you’ll find this not-for-profit organization dedicated to the performing arts. Music is a large portion of what goes on here (past acts include Grammy-winning violinist Jeremy Kittel, jazz trumpeter and vocalist Bria Skonberg, and blueswoman Rory Block) but the array of arts is outstanding: theater, film, dance, residencies, and free performances for kids. PS21 includes a black-box theater, an open-air pavilion, and the Dance Barn (a converted 19th-century structure). The word “eclectic” can’t be overused here. It’s all the more amazing considering that PS21’s original space was a covered tent.
Photo by Bob Plotkin
Other venues in the Valley might book the occasional jazz act, but The Jazz Forum, which opened in 2017, is the only place you can plan on watching master jazz musicians play all weekend long. Along with a classy menu, focusing on small plates and wines, you can expect a diversity of sound at this 85-seat venue: recent acts have brought influences from Broadway, free improvisation, Brazilian jazz, and more to the stage, playing multiple sets per night. They also hold an extensive slate of outdoor summer concerts throughout various Westchester towns.
Photo by Ian Adam Bull
The shows held in this bar space tend toward the indie and up-and-coming, including a weekly Wednesday jam hosted by Frankie D. that runs from 10 p.m. til late. Recent events inlcuded Sonic Voyage Fest, which featured some of the hottest artists on the progressive rock scene (Joe Deninzon & Stratospheerius was there in November). Audience sizes vary by the season (with seating up to 175 in summer), with plentiful outdoor seating meaning you can take some fresh air while the bands play on. A big bar and pool table give you plenty to do if the band doesn’t catch your fancy.
Photo courtesy of Emelin Theatre
This southern Westchester venue is as likely to be graced by Broadway stars as alt-rock, bluegrass, and even classical quartets. Its proximity to New York City means regular visits from name songwriters like Don McLean and Steven Page, and the theater’s size (275 seats) can easily support big bands and dance troupes. Its support for Hudson Valley talent is especially notable, frequently hosting local musicians, directors, special theatrical productions, and more. Emelin Theatre, which opened in 1972, also has a reputation for premieres: the now-annual production of Carole Alexis’s Nutcracker Dream had its first-ever staging on the Emelin’s boards.
Siblings Diane and John McAvoy opened this classic spot in 1976, and over the years they’ve hosted well over two dozen Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees like Rick Danko and Arlo Guthrie, and Kris Krisotfferson. Nowadays big-name local bands like the Kennedys and Slambovian Circus of Dreams share the same space with Marshall Crenshaw, Nobody’s Girl, and other touring acts. Befitting a casual café, the musical menu tends toward acoustic guitars and trumpet solos, so expect to get rocked, but never too hard.
9 Places to Catch a Concert