- Jack Grace
Musicians Form Upstate Brooklyn
There was a time when Brooklyn was an artist’s bedroom community: many musicians only moved here to flee the oppressive Manhattan rents. In the ’80s and ’90s, you and your significant other would tell everyone you were moving out to Brooklyn to a great place with a huge backyard. Friends would come to your first party, agree how cool it was, ask three times where the subway back to Manhattan was, and then no one would ever come out to see you again.
Times have changed. Being a Brooklyn band is now a brand of sorts. But bands who claim to hail from Brooklyn may not contain any Brooklyn natives at all; and yet, the cycle has happened all over again. Many of the musicians who once basked in the affordable rents of Brooklyn have sought refuge north of the city.
Beacon, NY, has already jumped the shark for cheap living and has succeeded in being its own variation on a modern hipster gathering area much like Williamsburg. But Beacon still has soul. Dogwood Bar is a fine example with a blend of older pioneers mixed with new folk. The food is good, and the bartenders are smart, full of opinions and life. The live music features touring acts mixed with musician settlers from Brooklyn and beyond. Quinn’s has a legitimate jazz scene mixed with rock, something you won’t easily find at an Applebee’s happy hour. The legendary Towne Crier is the longest-running music venue by a single owner in the country.
Peekskill, NY, is the underrated gem just 30 miles outside of NYC by train and still has reasonable rent. There are a few places that offer live music. Birdsall House has good beer, food, and a mix of bands. Peekskill Coffee has a nice offering of singer/songwriters and the BeanRunner Cafe has solid jazz players on the calendar. Peekskill is on the rise, and I expect it to grow its live music options.
Further north lies Hudson, NY. Years ago, it was predicted to be the next musician enclave, but the Amtrak ticket is expensive, and it’s too far from the city for many folk. Club Helsinki relocated from the Berkshires to the town many years ago and is truly a first-class venue with a capacity of 225. But while a nice place for antiques and day trips, live music options don’t appear to be expanding much.
Woodstock is still dominated by a Baby Boomer culture all too excited to tell you about the time they smoked pot with Jimi Hendrix. But recently the live music options have resurged thanks primarily to the boom of affordable Airbnb’s. The Colony has a new sound system, stage, and is an amazing place to play or see music. Musician Jeremy Bernstein opened The Pines in nearby Mt. Tremper, and it is a cozy place to see music with a pleasant comfort food menu.
Once the capital of NY State, Kingston lies eight miles south of Woodstock. Now it may just be the capital of aging Brooklyn thrill-seekers rapidly buying up real estate. BSP Kingston is an indie music venue, Keegan Ales is great for their delicious beer and long-running music program, and The Anchor still provides a good ole rock show.
While some burrow deeper into Brooklyn towards Crown Heights, Bed-Stuy, and Bushwick, others find it easier to settle up north as the options grow and diversify. Whatever happened to everyone moving to Detroit?