When thinking of DIY music in New Paltz, Blueberry Field immediately comes to mind. This venue operates through the so-called “hippie store,” The Groovy Blueberry, down towards the famous Water Street Market, right by the bright red bridge leading out of town. One could brush the place off as another spot like Heady Teddy’s, but the Blueberry stands uniquely with its offerings of live music all throughout the year, fair weather permitting.
While not being a basement venue or a more “official” venue complete with a stage, Blueberry Field is more of its own thing. Strictly outdoors on the lawn of the Blueberry, they host bands and artists of all genres and provide a safe space for locals, tourists and students alike to perform and enjoy music. During the pandemic, Blueberry Field was essential to keeping the music scene alive in New Paltz; being an outdoor venue, it provided ways for musicians to continue performing without the safety issues that indoor spaces presented. The Field was one of the first local venues to begin shows after the lockdown and jump started the revival of the post-pandemic scene.
In addition to traditional shows, Blueberry Field has also hosted various music festivals such as Door Daze and Jerry Day (a tribute to Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead). Now, through the new management by Eric James – SUNY New Paltz alumni – this rich tradition continues. I had the chance to speak with him about his plans for the venue, why he took on the project and any changes he has planned for the space.
James took notice of the venue back in 2022, seeing bands perform on Saturdays and people strewn across the lawn, thinking to himself, “This is awesome. I’ve been waiting for something like this to happen.” At this very same show he stumbled upon, James unexpectedly ran into Joe Davis of Happenstancery, local New Paltz improv troupe. After learning that Davis helped run the venue, James was quickly offered a slot to play for that show. One of the previously booked bands couldn’t make it, and James ended up playing an hour-long set. Soon after, James was offered to take over management from Davis and Hannah Burlaw, who also assisted in running the Field but relocated to North Carolina.
Emphasizing his passion for music, James details that he has been playing guitar since eight and writing lyrics since 15 years old, explaining that it’s been a long road to get where he is as a musician today. Knowing what it’s like to be an independent musician, James explains his reasoning for taking on the project; “I want to be able to lift up other bands who are just starting, to give them a platform to be like, ‘Hey, you can actually do this.’”
When talking about any changes or improvements to Blueberry Field, James says he plans to extend the season in which the venue operates. Previously, the Field was generally only hosting shows during the summer months and some of September. Now, under James’ management, he plans to keep it open all through the warm months. “I want it to be like a spring, all the way through fall, type of thing,” says James. He also stated that he plans to live in New Paltz indefinitely, giving credit to the local music scene and the scenic nature that surrounds the town, so Blueberry Field will certainly be in good hands for the foreseeable future. There’s still plenty of time left before the cold, and there are even some shows coming up at the Field in the next coming weeks. This Saturday Sept. 30, Sean Lippen, Sarah Stamberg and Matt Hogan will be performing with music beginning at 1 p.m., so be sure to stop by while the shows are still going on!