The coolest places for live music in the Hudson Valley

Posted: Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Hudson Valley is abuzz with music, from jazz to classical to folk and rock. Concerts proliferate in parks, outdoor bandstands and cool beats spill out in the streets on hot summer nights. But there are some spots where you can catch live music year-round. Follow me and I will take you to some exciting places that I recently visited.

The Rosendale Café on Main Street in Rosendale has been showcasing musical performances by both local and international talent for 14 years. While there is a cover charge for some shows, other performances, including Community Music Night when newly established artists to perform their original tunes, are free. I stopped by Community Music Night, held every other Tuesday.

The evening brought an eclectic mix of performers, from Orion Rigel Dormisse and her enchanting rendition of “Fake Yer Death” played on the electric cello to guitarist Alexia Evans's unconventional “Bumper Sticker Blues.” Musicians and guitarists Norman Wennet and Sky Smeed came across with a distinctive country twang. And a duo that calls themselves the “Virginia Wolves” played several pieces on the violin and French horn.

The Rosendale Café is a relaxed venue offering a delightful menu of organic vegetarian and vegan dishes thoughtfully prepared and reasonably priced. The walls are lined with works by local artists which change monthly.

Bodles Opera House is located on Chester's quaint Main Street. Built in 1855 as a carriage factory it has evolved into one of Orange County’s hot spots for live music. I stopped in one Saturday evening to hear guitarist Camille West, whose witty songs were performed with a touch of fun.

This summer's lineup includes some big names as well as some great bands flying just under the radar, including the Beatles tribute band Twist & Shout, the McKrells, John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Vince Martell of Vanilla Fudge.

Stop by on a Thursday night for open mic; for just three bucks you can hear untapped local talent. Hungry? Food is served with a $10 per person minimum.

The River Bank Restaurant & Bar is Cornwall-on-Hudson’s newest place for live tunes, with performances the second Friday of every month. Recently, “The Tim K. Jazz Trio” performed a string of oldies and goodies by such composers as Miles Davis, Cole Porter and Herbie Hancock, as well as songs by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Tony Bennett.

Co-owner Lucie Costas has turned this former bank into a charming café with mahogany paneling, brass chandeliers and a magnificent copper-topped bar. The dining room décor is set with black lacquered tables, crisp white table linens and sparkling dinnerware.

The menu is seasonal and a spectacular brick oven pizza can be had for $10-$13. The service is courteous and efficient.

The Towne Crier Café in Pawling has since 1972 been a magnet for music lovers and diners alike. The atmosphere is warm, with a mix of Central and South American wall tapestries and a photographic retrospective on the lounge wall with musical greats who have performed at the Crier such as Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Taj Mahal and Roseanne Cash.

Recently, critically acclaimed singer/songwriter Chip Taylor, whose best-known songs include “Wild Thing” and “Angel of the Morning,” performed at The Crier. Along with Chip was fiddle player and vocalist Kendel Carson whose many numbers included “In the Middle of a Think about You” was cool.

The menu at the Crier is considered New American cuisine moderately priced and the desserts by renowned pastry chef Mary Ciganer formally of LeCirque.

New World Home Cooking Cafe on Route 212 in Saugerties is a musical and culinary adventure. Owner Ric Orlando, a rock musician turned chef, has a hot music calendar this summer, no matter what kind of music you're into. On the first Wednesday of every month Jay Unger and Molly Mason host an old time fiddle jam, with no cover charge. The audience is invited to bring along an instrument and join in the music jam.

On Friday nights New World features everything from non-stop dancing to funk, rock and Latin beats.

The menu features vegetarian, barbecue and jerk chicken dishes. The décor is lively and fun with rich, vibrant colors. The works of local artists can be seen throughout this funky cafe.

So the next time you drive through the Hudson Valley, stop, listen! For the hills are alive with the coolest places to hear live music.

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