By Peter AaronThe unique Cavern Membership, arguably essentially the most well-known small music venue in trendy historical past—it birthed the Beatles—was open for 16 years, from 1957 to 1973. Gerde’s Folks Metropolis, the nexus of the Greenwich Village people revival of the early Nineteen Sixties, existed for 27 years (1960-1987). CBGB lasted for 33 years (1973-2006). The Fillmore East and Fillmore West? Simply 4 years apiece (1968-1971). However the Towne Crier, one of many Hudson Valley’s most beloved music spots, has stored the melody lingering for a full 5 many years: All through 2023, the comfy nightery, which is situated in Beacon, has been celebrating its fiftieth yr. And, as with every nice membership or live performance corridor, it is an extension of the one who books and runs it.
“It is a spot for listening,” says proprietor Phil Ciganer, who opened the venerable venue in 1972. “My rule of thumb, with regards to reserving the acts, has all the time been: ‘Would I buy a ticket to see this act?’ And if the reply is ‘perhaps,’ then I will not e-book the act.”
It is unclear what number of “perhaps” or “no” solutions have run by means of Ciganer’s sage thoughts throughout his a few years of operating the membership. However the “sure” responses have resulted within the staggering gallery of names which have graced the stage of this temple of music over its prolonged, ongoing run: Mose Allison, Arlo Guthrie, Levon Helm, Randy Newman, Rickie Lee Jones, Leon Redbone, David Byrne, Suzanne Vega, Ola Belle Reed, Pete Finest, Clarence Gatemouth Brown, David Bromberg, Judy Collins, Pat Metheny, Dr. John, Roger McGuinn, Freedy Johnston, the Bacon Brothers, Buckwheat Zydeco, Roseanne Money, Nils Lofgren, the Clancy Brothers, Taj Mahal, Commander Cody, Ani DiFranco, Herbie Mann, Shawn Colvin, 10,000 Maniacs, Elizabeth Cotton, Bela Fleck, the Soiled Dozen Brass Band, McCoy Tyner, James Cotton, Dave Mason, John Mayall, Dave Edmunds, Ralph Stanley, John Scofield, Mimi Farina, Richard Thompson, John Scofield, Al Kooper, Gillian Welch, Steve Forbert, NRBQ, Joan Osbourne, Ricky Skaggs, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Phoebe Snow, Nation Joe McDonald, Maria Muldaur, Livingston Taylor, Andy Summers, John Abercrombie, Steeleye Span, Southside Johnny, Leo Kottke, Tony Levin, David Lindley, Paula Cole, Michelle Shocked, and Bobby Brief make up a mere fraction of the epic record.
“I’ve by no means had second ideas about leaving my previous job to do that,” says Ciganer, who grew up in Brooklyn and within the Nineteen Sixties labored as a day dealer within the Monetary District. Much more seductive to him than the lure and greed machine of Wall Avenue have been bohemian Bleecker and McDougal streets, through the top of the neighborhood’s famed up to date folk-and-rock growth. “My life then was an actual dichotomy,” he remembers. “Each evening after work I would make my solution to the Village, the place the membership scene was simply exploding. I noticed the Moms of Invention on the Garrick Theater [May 1967, Frank Zappa and company’s first time in Manhattan]. I noticed Cream, Dave Van Ronk. Joni Mitchell, when she’d simply moved to New York. James Taylor, the primary time he performed on the town.” Sit down with Ciganer and he’ll regale you with additional terrific tales, like that of his befriending a pre-fame Jimi Hendrix when he was nonetheless referred to as Jimmy James, and taking drives, getting excessive, and consuming apple pie with the guitar god. “No person was greater than life then,” he stresses. “There’d be jam periods the place Hendrix or Jerry Garcia would simply present up and play.”
At age 21 Ciganer was so profitable at his Wall Avenue job that he was supplied a seat on the New York Inventory Change—which he declined. “I had a tough choice to make,” he says. “However I actually needed to spend extra time within the golf equipment at evening and get extra concerned in that world, so I stop. Phrase unfold about that, and everyone [at his former employer] thought I had unfastened screws. My mother advised me, ‘Properly, if this different stuff does not work out you may all the time return to Wall Avenue,'” he says with amusing. Ciganer opened a hippie boutique referred to as Ye Olde Selective Service Shoppe, which supplied draft counseling and bought artwork provides, tie-dye attire, and different gadgets, and he organized some Brooklyn jam periods and outside concert events. By the daybreak of the next decade, although, the novelty of New York nightlife had worn off, and he set his sights on Austin, Texas, the place the underground scene was simply starting to bubble up.
Earlier than heading south, he took a detour by means of the Dutchess County hamlet of Beekman to drop off some sculptures a pal had bought. There, he observed a country little 18th-century constructing that had as soon as served as a stagecoach cease and basic retailer. The place caught in his mind. “I used to be transferring to Austin to open a membership there, and my pal in Beekman stated, ‘Man, you need to keep right here as an alternative and do one thing with this constructing,'” recollects Ciganer. “So I stated, ‘How a couple of coffeehouse?’ ‘Nice thought!,’ he stated. So I made a decision to attempt it for a few months, and if it did not work out I’d simply go to Austin, like I would deliberate.” He’d by no means depart the area.
Adorning the place with dry items left over from its basic retailer days that he’d discovered within the basement, Ciganer opened the Towne Crier’s preliminary incarnation in 1972. Befitting the small area, the fare was primarily acoustic people, and it wasn’t too lengthy earlier than the music’s father determine himself had blessed the brand new membership with an look. Ciganer had booked the erstwhile Clancy Brothers member Louis Killen (who would later transition to grow to be Louisa Jo Killen) for a three-night residency, however when automobile issues prevented the English folksinger from making the primary date he put out the decision for keen replacements. “The cellphone rang, and it was Pete Seeger on the opposite finish,” the proprietor says. “He stated, ‘I hear you want some assist over there.’ In order that evening he got here by and performed. On the time, I could not imagine it was occurring.” Thus started a protracted and loving relationship with the native people grandaddy, and, quickly after, exhibits by Seeger’s mates Odetta and Richie Havens that added to the venue’s burgeoning fame. Ciganer returned the favor, serving to arrange the Seeger-cocreated Clearwater Competition AKA the Nice Hudson River Revival amid his involvement within the World Peace Competition and the Bear Mountain Competition of Music and Dance.
By the mid-Eighties, Ciganer was on the lookout for a bigger place, one the place he’d be capable to herald greater artists and provide meals service as effectively. He settled on a former barbeque restaurant in Pawling, giving it a Southwestern makeover and launching it because the relocated Towne Crier in 1988. The nightclub’s profile continued to rise, attracting most of the notable names talked about above in addition to frequent outstanding viewers members. “When Jeff Daniels performed, that was an enormous evening,” says Ciganer concerning the present by the folk-singing Hollywood luminary. “We had individuals like Meryl Streep and Timothy Hutton exhibiting up in limos.” The membership’s assist slots and open-mic nights proved more and more fruitful, yielding many, because the proprietor phrases it, “diamonds within the tough” who’d later grow to be headliners themselves. Getting his begin within the wood-paneled room was a teenaged Rufus Wainwright, who made his debut there because the opener for his dad and mom, Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle. One other alumni act of the Pawling web site that has gone on to greatness is the domestically primarily based, internationally touring people rock band the Slambovian Circus of Desires.
“Phil simply has this antenna for great things,” says the group’s chief, Joziah Longo, who will carry out along with his bandmates on the Towne Crier on December 16. “He comes off like your grouchy uncle generally [laughs], however he actually makes issues occur. He noticed us at one of many open mics once we have been simply beginning out and he set us as much as again folksinger Invoice Miller, which actually labored out effectively. Issues simply received greater and greater for us from there. Phil’s actually pragmatic, he is aware of methods to present a construction the place artists can actually be free.”
After greater than 20 years in Pawling, Ciganer started trying to find a brand new residence for the nightspot. “The owner and I had form of a rocky relationship, and the city had taken an financial downturn,” he explains. “I did not know the place I needed to go, however I did know I needed to get out of Pawling.” (At the moment the previous Pawling location is one other high venue: Daryl’s Home.)
He scouted different areas, however the focus stored coming again to Beacon, the place his pal Pete Seeger had lived for many years. “I used to be getting lots of invites from different communities, however I wasn’t actually feeling any of them,” Ciganer says. “There’d been all this discuss Beacon having a renaissance, for the reason that Dia artwork museum and [hotel/restaurant] the Roundhouse had opened right here, however I wasn’t so certain about that then. Issues have been nonetheless fairly tough in Beacon on the time.”
However in the future his realtor referred to as and implored him to take a look at an enormous empty warehouse on town’s Important Avenue. “It was only a shell, utterly gutted,” he recounts. “My mates stated I used to be out of my thoughts to consider transferring the membership there. I advised the realtor to present me half an hour to stroll across the neighborhood and give it some thought. I did that, and my imaginative and prescient began kicking in. ‘Individuals in different elements of the world could make a home out of bamboo or virtually nothing,’ I believed. ‘So I can positively do one thing with this place.'”
And so he did. In 2013 the third and most spectacular manifestation of Ciganer’s residing shrine to music was unveiled to delighted audiences. World-class musicians are a gentle presence in its massive predominant stage room, which boasts desk seating and wait service for its kitchen’s menu of modern consolation and ethnic meals picks, house-made pastries, and full bar. The power additionally encompasses a cozy cafe area that hosts small-scale acts and the open mic showcases that Ciganer nonetheless screens for up-and-coming expertise. “I simply need individuals to really feel at residence and really feel comfy once they come right here,” he says. “Good sound and good meals—apart from good music, these are the principle issues we all the time be sure now we have.”
As Ciganer and the Towne Crier and its workers have fun a half century, has he began fascinated about retirement but? “I nonetheless really feel wholesome, I am nonetheless itching to do that,” he says. “For me the reward is sort of nightly, once I see individuals who come right here and find yourself beaming from having seen a fantastic present in a fantastic place.”
Towne Crier Cafe