On any given night, but especially on the weekends, Kingston resounds with music. Strolling down the street past that open restaurant or tavern door, one hears the sultry strains of a jazz singer drifting on the air, the twanging notes of a rockabilly band, or perhaps the throttle of an electric guitar, which sounds darn good. Whatever your taste, you’ll hear something that catches your fancy, making that evening out especially memorable.
Several of Kingston’s restaurants feature live music on weekends, such as The Steel House Restaurant. Frank Guido’s Little Italy often enlivens its happy hour with a combo. Savona’s features jazz singer Nancy Tierney, newly arrived from northern California, once a month. Mint has showcased well-known jazz singer Rebecca Martin and singer-songwriter Mark Brown. Other businesses are also getting into the act. Half Moon Books, for example, features musicians during the First Saturday gallery openings. Artie’s, the bar on North Front Street, also entertains its patrons from time to time with noteworthy local acts.
At Keegan Ales and The Basement, however, music takes center stage. The microbrewery, located at 20 St. James, features music five nights a week. According to Tommy Keegan, who opened the brewery in 2003 (the pub followed four years later), Wednesday is devoted to bluegrass and Americana, Thursday is the same, with a little rock ‘n roll mixed in, Friday and Saturday is “straight up rock and roll,” and Sunday is a mix: the first Sunday of the month is tango dancing, with lessons offered from 2 to 3 p.m., and the third Sunday is jazz, with a 15-piece band playing classic Big Band tunes as well as fusion compositions. There’s usually no cover–though the musicians are tops.
Keegan’s has three beers on tap: Old Capital, Mother’s Milk, and Hurricane Kitty (named after Keegan’s grandmother, who got the nickname from the cops). The brewery also makes seasonable beers—one, Joe Mamma’s Milk, has become so popular it’s being made year round (it’s infused with coffee and brown sugar, to increase the alcohol content and won Best Beer in New York State from the TAP New York festival competition.) Keegan’s also serves food—burgers, salads, nachos. It opens at 4 p.m. on weekdays, 11:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.
The Basement, a mysterious storefront at 744 Broadway, just before the turn off to Albany Avenue, cooks on weekends. Last Saturday, Pearl, featuring famous 1980s singer Meatloaf (Pearl is Meatloaf’s daughter), took the stage. Guitar player Scott Ian hails from the famous heavy metal band Anthrax. Another nationally known band that recently played The Basement is The SuperSuckers, who play rockabilly.
It never hurts to solicit a famous band, said Kevin Rowe, who does the booking and marketing. “We send an e-mail to the band or tour manager, and if we get a reply, we work with them,” said Rowe. The Basement rents out office space across the street at Seven21 Media Center, where Rowe does the bookings. Bands also rent out rehearsal space at the center. (Rowe has long-term plans to establish a recording studio at Seven21.)
Sometimes the headliner is featured on a Tuesday or Wednesday. “A lot of times we’ll get a touring band coming through the middle of the week,” Rowe said. Most nights feature both a touring band and a local act. Admission ranges from zero to $12, with $5 the standard. The Basement serves wine and beer and “top shelf liquor,” according to Rowe. Most shows start at 9 p.m.
Rowe said the March 19 show for Murphy’s Law, an old punk band, sold out. But local bands can also hold their own. Nightmares for a Week, for example, is an up-and-coming band that “just got into the alternative press as one of the top 100 bands of the year,” according to Rowe.
Owner Robert Stango opened The Basement three years ago. Rowe, a native of Cleveland who was living in Georgia, spent three days in Kingston while traveling with a band from Detroit. He liked Kingston and asked Stango if he had a job. Stango hired him, and the 25-year-old Rowe has been loving his life in Kingston ever since. “Everyone I’ve met has been the kindest, nicest people ever,” said Rowe. “There’s a lot of history in this town, and I want to see it do well.”