Listening Post: Where the music plays

Every time I get the chance to hear a live music performance (or almost every time), I ask myself “And why do you bother listening to recordings?” The best answer is that you have to listen to something between performances. It’s better than a poke with a sharp stick. But all my best, most-exciting, deeply-moving musical experiences happen when I go to someplace where someone is making it up fresh on the spot.

The Fraser Clan on stage at the Edwards Opera House

Not everywhere is well-suited to the task. Electric Hot Tuna should probably not be cranked up to ten inside a small cinder-block hockey arena. And a shy singer-songwriter should not have to compete with the frappacino ice grinder back at the counter. But the North Country does have a great variety of venues, both inside and outdoor, that were made to play music in.

One of my favorites is the lovingly-restored Edwards Opera House–great historic building, decent acoustics, intimate and comfortable, and soft-serve ice cream just across the street for intermission. It doesn’t have to be a made-to-order locale either–old North Country churches are among my favorites. And roadhouses that beg to have a blues band down past the bar, bandshells on the village green, gazebos in the park by the river.

As we did for belly-food last week, I’d like to do for “soul food” this week–and have you send in your favorite music venues around the region. What/who did you hear? What was the venue like? What made it a great experience?

Make your comments below the map. I’ll add them to the map as they come in.

Live Music Venues in the North Country (in progress)

View Live Music Venues in the North Country in a larger map

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7 Comments on “Listening Post: Where the music plays”

  1. Mark says:

    The Wild Oat in Potsdam, god rest its bluesy soul . . . John Hammond Jr., Dave VanRonk, John Mooney, and, dancing between the tables, bar staff who, to this day, still know how to belt the blues 🙂

  2. Byron says:

    Agree with Edwards Opera House. Hard to beat the enthusiasm and good old fashioned band music of the Potsdam Community Band at the Ives Park Gazebo at the summer festival. Hosmer Hall at Crane is superb acoustically. Most memorable concert was a Renee Fleming recital when we had seats on the stage. Love the annual Orchestra of Northern New York baroque concert at St. Mary`s Church in Potsdam. For bagpipes you should see the North American Piping Championships at the Glengarry Highland Games in Maxville, Ontario.

  3. Dale Hobson says:

    Mark: The Oat (with Ellen Rocco behind the bar) also Django’s and Alger’s Pub. I wore a triangular path between them on Saturday night. Downtown Potsdam was a live music mecca before the 21-year-old drinking laws. Unfortunately–also a mecca for sloppy dunks.

    Byron: Great list. My favorite Hosmer concert was probably Bobby McFerrin. My favorite music experience at St. Mary’s was an impromptu solo organ performance of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor at midnight in the darkened church. A friend had late practice rights on the pipe organ. I enjoyed music in Ives Park long before the gazebo was built. Used to climb one of the trees hanging over the water to play my guitar. Went to the Piping Championships in Maxville twice. What a hoot. When a massed band of 2000 plays “Scotland the Brave” every hair on your body stands up. No wonder the whiskey booths run a lively trade.

  4. Susan Miller says:

    The Waterhole in Saranac Lake – they have been having great music for a number of years now and May 12th was another one of those nights with George Kilby Jr and two band members from Railroad Earth
    ( what an amazing show – up close and personal – cause not too many people were there )…. the music and the musicans were top notch & so was the sound system !!

  5. Mark, Saranac Lake says:

    The Downhill Grill also in Saranac Lake has recently started to host live music as well – Studebaker John just performed there this past weekend as a stop between gigs in Ottawa and Chicago and Peter Ostroushco was there a few weeks ago…and local musicians.

  6. Lucy Martin says:

    Not sure I should weigh in because I don’t go out much at all, but the Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield Quebec is famous for its live music.

    Closer to home, The Branch Restaurant in Kemptville hosts live music, which I’ve enjoyed a time or three.

    Have to agree with the plugs for the Glengarry Highland Games in Maxville, Ont. Not just bagpipes and massed pipe bands (as Dale says, an amazing experience) but drumming and fiddling too. If you like those sounds, it’s priceless.

  7. Ellen Rocco says:

    Norwood Village Green! One of the best concerts I ever attended was the CJ Chenier zydeco show a few years ago. The music was over the top, but the visual experience will stay with me forever. Picture this: CJ, an over six-feet tall big black man with long loose dreads, dressed in a sequin bedecked red, tight-fitting suit, leading a group of the best zydeco musicians–CJ strolling out into the audience (lots of dancers, plus the usual lawn chair sitters). I will never forget the sight of CJ among that crowd of North Country old timers–getting them smiling and clapping. I guarantee most had never heard the word “zydeco” before CJ showed up.

    This is the kind of thing Joe Liotta has been doing at Norwood for many many summers: connecting us with the unexpected and wonderful.

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