Location, location, location: It’s the summer of live music in these thriving (and historic) venues.

By Sean McAlindin

The simple fact about this region is: the more you look, the more you find. Like its bountiful nature and cultural history, the music of the mountains is diverse, expansive and never-ending.

It’s true Hudson suffered a major loss when Helsinki closed in 2020 due to the pandemic. The beloved BSP Lounge across the river in Kingston suffered a similar fate and, in the Berkshires, The Mission in Pittsfield and HiLo in North Adams both permanently shut up shop.  

But for every venue to close, it seems like two new ones open. We counted more than 70 live music venues scattered throughout our region. Here are a few you simply must check out. 

Bethel Woods Center for the Performing Arts

Bethel, NY

In the summer of 1969, close to half a million hopeful souls traveled to Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in Bethel for three days of peace, love and music. The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts opened in 2006 on the property adjacent to the original concert field.

“So many will tell you, ‘I left a different person,’” says Bethel Woods CEO Eric Frances. “I think the reason that happened is that it should have turned into something much more chaotic, but it didn’t. People helped each other. It just tested humanity for those three days.”

At any time of day or night, pilgrims can be found gathering by the roadside festival plaque, playing guitars, joining drum circles or even spreading their loved one’s ashes. 

“We refer to it as the magic,” says Frances. “The original promoter was kicked out of a few places. But he felt something on this field.”

Saratoga Performing Arts Center

Saratoga Springs, NY

Elizabeth Sobol had been a successful record company and talent agency executive when she was lured Upstate to become the president and CEO of Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC).

“I took the job, came up and was flabbergasted,” she says. “It’s a world-class amphitheater from 1966 built in the heart of one of New York’s flagship parks. You’ve got woodlands, streams, geysers and healing mineral springs. There’s tons of historical preservation and green space. You’re three hours from Boston, New York City and Montréal. Forty-five minutes from six million acres of Adirondack parkland. It’s kind of an astonishing confluence of things here in Saratoga.”

Throughout the year, SPAC features massive pop and rock concerts produced by Live Nation alongside classical and jazz concerts put on by the Center itself to say nothing of being the decades-long summer home to two of the world’s most prestigious cultural institutions, the New York City Ballet and the Philadelphia Orchestra, led by star Yannick Nézet-Séguin (see our exclusive interview).

The Egremont Barn

Egremont, MA

Jenny Rubin and Nick Keene opened live music venue The Egremont Barn, or ‘The Barn,’ in 2016. With a healthy dose of creativity, they managed to keep it open throughout most of the pandemic. While other venues closed, they came out stronger for it. The snug venue housed in an 18th-century barn hosts open mics, jams and a variety of live concerts several nights a week. 

“Our vision has been to create an organic space, a community hub, a meeting ground for people and musicians,” says Rubin. “It’s not easy. You’re not a millionaire. You do it because you love it.” 

The Lion’s Den at Red Lion Inn

Stockbridge, MA

Johnny Irion toured the world as a guitarist for Stone Temple Pilots and The Black Crowes before arriving in the Berkshires when he married Sarah Lee Guthrie. He now runs a home studio where he’s been recording local bands including The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow. He also books music for the Lion’s Den at The Red Lion Inn.

“I really dig the quaintness of old-school, main street America in Stockbridge,” he says. “You can get away from strip malls, sit outside, have a cappuccino, walk by beautiful churches and Norman Rockwell’s studio. Then you duck down into Lion’s Den that night and you feel like you could be in New York City or Europe with a speakeasy kind of vibe.” 


Chatham, NY

Since its state-of-the-art theater was inaugurated in 2018, PS21 has evolved into a Hudson Valley mecca for innovative programming. “Like an exotic bird in the midst of a 100-acre former apple orchard,” according to The New York Times, this “outpost of the avant-garde” offers dance, theater, music, art, workshops, an international contemporary circus and participatory events for young and old, all free or at very low cost. 

Opus 40

Saugerties, NY

Self-taught sculptor Harvey Fite spent half his life creating by hand this sprawling six-acre bluestone sculpture into the walls of an abandoned quarry. He began to build the stonework sculpture park in 1939, inspired by Mayan stone building techniques, first using the site as a gallery for his sculptures. Since 1980, they’ve held outdoor concerts, nature walks and educational programs on this otherworldly historical preserve. (see Halfway There) 

Bearsville Theater

Bearsville, NY

Bearsville Theater is more than an intimate venue in a beautiful stream-side setting. “It’s hallowed ground,” it boasts. Music entrepreneur and manager Albert Grossman made the site historically sacred by cultivating a creative and nurturing live/work environment on the edge of Woodstock for his artists. Bob Dylan, The Band and Janis Joplin took creative refuge in these hills and became leaders in the music revolution of the ’60s. 

Current owner Lizzie Vann has been hard at work refurbishing the venue and re-energizing the historic room for the next generation.

City Winery Hudson Valley

Montgomery, NY

Knitting Factory founder Michael Dorf was determined to bring something a little different to the wine scene when he opened City Winery in NYC in 2008: a fusion of his love for both wine and music. The venues offer intimate concerts, food and wine seminars, upscale dining and a fully functioning winery. The Concerts in the Vineyard summer music series brings brand name acts like Josh Ritter, Judy Collins and Rising Appalachia to their Hudson Valley location. 

Hudson Hall


Hudson Hall is home to New York’s oldest surviving theater, and it’s come this far because its community won’t let it die. In 1992, the theater, which has seen Frederic Church and Sanford Gifford paintings, Bret Harte reading poems, “Blind Tom” Wiggins on piano, Henry Ward Beecher lecturing on abolition, Susan B. Anthony and Teddy Roosevelt grace its stage over the years, was saved by locals who established it as a cultural center and slowly restored the building. 

In 2017, the community helped Hudson Hall complete a $9.5 million restoration. Amidst movie screenings and workshops on their events calendar, you’ll find concerts in jazz, early Baroque music and more. 

Avalon Lounge

Catskill, NY

Along with Tubby’s in Kingston, Avalon Lounge is probably the best dive bar to see live music in the area. The venue features a dance club, Korean kitchen and a lineup of obscure to legendary indie bands from around the country.

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