With go-to DIY venues closing and open mics disappearing, New Paltz performing artists are searching for new places to express themselves. In September, Cafeteria Coffeehouse, home of the New Paltz Open Mic Night, closed for good, sending a ripple through Ulster County’s musical community. In the meantime, musicians have been on the lookout for a new place to congregate.
Without the gigantic coffee shop to house local musical endeavors and cater to students’ caffeination needs, amateur local artists felt displaced, left without a place to congregate and share their latest works.
Crossroads DIY, a house venue in New Paltz, has taken up the open mic torch, hosting the event in their home for a majority of the academic year. Cafeteria MCs Caitlin Zelley and Sanford Fels migrated over to the space as well, carrying on the coffee shop’s legacy by continuing to host the event.
“Everyone needs a moment to get something out, whatever that weird or wacky or sad ‘something’ is,” Fels said. “There is something very different about doing that in front of an audience, in a community. Having that support of creative expression is rare, and even more rare to find every week on a Monday night. Having that community and outlet keeps all of us just a bit more sane.”
While the spirit of the open mic has remained the same since Cafeteria’s closing – just as weird and wacky as always – the amount of space available to attendees has not. Crossroads organizers are now cutting down on the amount of events they host; while the DIY scene continues to grow, their basement has not gotten any bigger.
With this, Fels and Zelley are searching for a new place to host an open mic night – somewhere with “an open space and a welcoming environment” would be ideal, Zelley said.
“We’ve looked into a few places further outside of New Paltz, but keeping it within walking distance of the town is pretty important to us,” Fels said. As weekly open mics are an important place for community congregation, it would be ideal if those without cars could still access the venue.
There isn’t a true shortage of open mic nights in New Paltz, but at the moment many of them present their own issues. At Snug Harbor Bar & Grill on Main St., exciting and eccentric open mics are hosted each Thursday, but with a 21+ minimum-age requirement, a majority of the SUNY New Paltz student body is unable to attend.
Despite this, there are some exceptions made. “We are 21+ at Snugs, but you can perform underage with a bartender’s consent,” night manager Ed Daley says.
The performances at the Snugs open mic can be energetic and magical, like all great New Paltz open mics should be. There is no lack of variety among the performances each week.
“We’ve had 3 didgeridoo players on one night and three accordionists on another,” Daley said. “But my favorite was a small young woman who went on last, one summer night. She didn’t want a mic or an instrument. I think she was on vacation and staying at Mohonk. She sang an aria without accompaniment. Everyone who was watching cried. You could hear a pin drop.”
Apart from Snugs’ open mics, another successful weekly event in the greater Hudson Valley is CelebrateWomxn845’s traveling open mic (one of which will occur this Thursday, Mar. 5 at McFoxlins,) but the slots are for “women, femme, nonbinary and gender non-conforming performers.” It is difficult at the moment to find an open mic night that is fully “open.”
Across the river, one promising open mic night has been growing in Poughkeepsie at the Crafted Kup, a coffee shop on Raymond Ave. The “Kup” is owned by Tanner Townsend, who owned Cafeteria New Paltz from July ‘12 to March ‘19. With local beer and mead, it’s a relaxing space to perform or just watch the show.
Barista Ryan Bosch and Angie Doctor run the show at the Kup open mic nights, which begin every Thursday night at 7 p.m.
“I’d like this to be a space for people looking to enjoy themselves,” Bosch said. “We would like to have a lot of people here watching the show … we’ve really worked to turn it into more of an after-hours hangout.”
It seems that many New Paltz locals have caught on, and are making the 20-30 minute trip to find a sense of community at the Kup’s open mic.
“We’ve inherited a bunch of people from across the river who are performing here now – Los Huevos being one of them,” Bosh continued. “If people haven’t been to the open mic here, and they come over from New Paltz, they’ll probably see some familiar faces.”
In the meantime, the search for a reliable and hyper-local open mic night continues. A space with no limits based on age or gender, within walking distance of the SUNY campus and town, with ample space for dancing would be ideal. Where is this mythical venue? Do you own it, or know someone who does? Then get organizing. The New Paltz music scene needs you.