Cool Music

Cool Listening



Cool Listening

 

 

Westchester’s music scene is about more than clubs and venues—it’s about the indelible, inimatably cool vibe that fills the air here and resonates through the county’s hills and valleys.

 

 

  

 

Preservation Hall Jazz Band (Above)

There’s no nice way to say this, so I’m just going to be blunt: when I first moved to Westchester from Philadelphia 12 years ago, I was embarrassed to tell my old friends from the ‘hood the name of my town. It was Hartsdale. And it was culture shock. City girls—especially city girls who worked in the music business, like I did—didn’t live in places with “dale” in their names. They didn’t live in places with “village greens” or “main drags.” 

 

Odetta (Above)

By the time I came to terms with living in a “dale,” I found myself moving to a “ville.”  To make matters worse, the “ville” was “Pleasantville,” the most innocuous-sounding name I’d ever heard. Everyone who knew me knew that I’d rather have just about anything other than innocuous. Give me polluted! Give me congested! But please, don’t give me innocuous.

I justified my move by telling friends that I was a wife and a mother now, not just a music publicist. I also threw in the fact that I was only 90 minutes from Woodstock—the music mecca to which I traveled regularly to work with Rick Danko of The Band and Eric Andersen and John Hall of Orleans (before he was Congressman Hall) and to hang out with my artist friends and all the other bohemian vagabonds I got to know along the way.

 

Buckwheat Zydeco (Above)

My sister? My sister is living in a place called Pleasantville?” my brother asked with real—not mock—disbelief. My best friend, Dana, pulled no punches: “Oh my God!” she yelled. “What are you gonna do?  There’s no music! You’re gonna die!”

I must admit, I was a little nervous—okay, scared. But I quickly discovered that there is music here.  Real music. Real good music.

 

Gill Paris (Above)

However you define “cool” (and when it comes to music, “cool” is in the ears of the beholder), there’s a venue in Westchester that’s got what you wanna hear. There are theatres and concert halls, clubs, pubs, bistros, and cafes where you can catch touring marquee-name musicians; local up-and-comers; folk, rock, blues, country, and jazz pioneers and innovators; open mics and jams; and even an occasional hootenanny. And soon, I hope we’ll have another major music venue: Phil Ciganer, owner of the legendary Towne Crier Cafe in Pawling, is thinking about opening a second venue in central Westchester. “More than half of my clientele comes from Westchester,” he explains. “Westchesterites know and love good music. I’d like to make it even easier for them to hear it.”

 

Mary Chapin Carpenter (Above)

Perhaps the most important thing about our county to musicians, music moguls, and dyed-in-the-wool music lovers, though, is not the music itself—but the music vibe. For someone like me, a music vibe—that nebulous “aura” that resonates from a very place, regardless of what or who is playing there—is, like air and water, essential to survival. It’s that vibe that has kept me from heading down to the Village every weekend and from missing Philly and Woodstock. It’s the vibe here that draws people like Nora Guthrie (Woody’s daughter) to Chappaqua and Rob Thomas to Bedford—and countless other artists, producers, managers, agents, and record-label execs.

  

 Levon Helm of The Band (Above)

That vibe is in the rustic terrain of central and northern Westchester, in the bars and clubs and concert halls to the south. It’s in the many homes of music-industry folk that are peppered discreetly throughout the county in places you’d never expect. It’s that vibe that made me settle on—and in—Pleasantville; that “shock of recognition” I experienced when I first stepped outside what would become our new house. The “mountain range” (I found out later it was actually a hill) behind our home looked exactly like Woodstock’s Ohayo Mountain—that magical, mystical mountain that was the backdrop of the homes of The Band, and Van Morrison, and Dylan. “That’s it!” I exclaimed to my husband. “It looks just like the inside cover of Big Pink! ” (to which he lovingly but sarcastically responded, “Okay Honey, whatever you say”).  Alright, maybe I got carried away. It may not be Ohayo Mountain. The mountain range—and all the other mountains in Westchester—may be, in fact, just hills. But these hills, for sure, are alive with the sound of music.

 

 

WHERE TO HEAR COOL MUSIC

 

The Bayou

580 Gramatan Ave

Mount Vernon (914) 668-2634

www.bayourestaurantny.com

Think of the musical mix at The Bayou as jambalaya for your ears. You’ll hear authentic N’awlins music in all its glorious incarnations—Cajun, Creole, Zydeco, jazz, blues, and more.

 

The Emelin Theatre

153 Library Ln, Mamaroneck

(914) 698-0098; www.emelin.org

Funky and eclectic—that’s what the Emelin is all about. Don’t go just to see and hear the big-name artists take the stage. Go, too, to hear guitar wiz Johnny Winter and legendary blues gurus Roomful of Blues, plus the absolute best bluegrass in the county.

 

Irvington Town Hall Theater

85 Main St, Irvington (914) 591-6602

www. irvingtontheater.com

For audiophiles who simply must hear every bass line in pristine form, there’s no place better.

 

Lazy Lounge

152 Mamaroneck Ave

White Plains (914) 761-0272

www.lazyloungeny.com

There's live blues, jazz, and R&B on Wednesday nights, and live bands on Friday nights, with such regulars as local boy and Grammy-nominated guitar wiz Gil Parris.

 

 

 

Lucy’s Lounge

446 Bedford Rd

Pleasantville (914) 747-4740

www.lucys-lounge.com

Wanna hear good local rock, blues, soul, cover, and party bands—with no cover charge? This is the place. 

 

North Star Restaurant

85 Westchester Ave, Pound Ridge

(914) 764-0200 www.northstarny.com

Pearls of wisdom from luminaries and rock stars like Jimi Hendrix, Bono, and Elvis are painted along the ceiling. Hear a mix of known and unknown talent in a welcoming “living-room” ambience that permeates the space—there’s that vibe again. 

 

Paramount Center for the Arts

1008 Brown St, Peekskill

(914) 739-2333

www.paramountcenter.org

This gorgeous, fully restored, 1000-seat theater is a great place to hear an eclectic roster of high-quality musicians. Where else can you catch the authentic bluegrass of Del McCoury, the acoustic guitar genius of Leo Kottke, the Grammy-winning sounds of Mary Chapin Carpenter in such a spectacular setting?

 

Tarrytown Music Hall

13 Main St

Tarrytown

(914) 631-3390

www.tarrytownmusichall.org

The visually stunning and acoustically superior 840-seat theatre has hosted everything from vaudeville acts to Bruce Springsteen. The grandeur of this place is palpable—come to hear whatever’s being played.

 

Watercolor Café

2094 Boston Post Rd, Larchmont

(914) 834-2213

www.watercolorcafe.net

As most music lovers know, there are music clubs that also serve food, and there are restaurants that also play music. Very few places can do both well. Watercolor Café is on its way to becoming one of the few.  

 

 

Just Across the Bridge

 

The Towne Crier Cafe

130 Rte 22, Pawling, NY

(845) 855-1300

www.townecrier.com

Celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, this is truly the King of Clubs. Founder Phil Ciganer has had the passion and vision to book luminaries from Odetta to Nils Lofgren to Levon Helm and Rick Danko to Buckwheat Zydeco to John Hammond to Aztec Two Step.

 

The Turning Point Cafe

468 Piermont Ave,

Piermont, NY (845) 359-1089

www.turningpointcafe.com

This 30-year-old club/restaurant is a Hudson Valley mainstay. Everyone who’s anyone (on the club circuit, at least) has played here.

 

 

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