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In the Hudson Valley and Catskills, Veteran Rockers Start Over


Melissa Auf der Maur spent 15 years as a rocker on the road, playing bass in alternative bands like Hole and Smashing Pumpkins, dating Dave Grohl, and sometimes living in Janis Joplin’s old room at the Chelsea Hotel in New York. But in 2006, when she met and fell in love with the filmmaker Tony kicksShe knows it’s time to move away from the city to settle down, become a mother and raise a child in “a cozy little town with a cool kindergarten and lots of nature”.

She was 34 years old and was in the process of working on her second solo album, she said, when Mr. Stone took her to Hudson, NY, to visit friends and family who had moved to the area.

“I had a tingling sensation,” she said. “I said to Tony: ‘If we’re going to live anywhere in America, it’ll be here.’”

The couple moved to Hudson in 2008 and married soon after. But Auf der Maur still feels the urge to create. She also wants to do something community-focused, such as starting an arts center similar to the ones she relied on as a young musician struggling to grow up. in Montreal.

Together with Mr. Stone, you begin Hudson’s Basilica in 2010. The arts and performance space, housed in a former railway wheel foundry, hosts both international music festivals and local events. A reclaimed elementary school, built circa 1901 and close to Basilica’s net-free campus, now serves as a gallery, design innovation center, and media center for the important couple Focus on green design. The Basilica has also become one of the most popular wedding venues in the Hudson Valley, which, as Auf der Maur puts it, “wasn’t in our original plan, but totally paying for the dreams. our wild, pure art and culture.”

Once the grunge icon for Courtney Love’s band in the perilous days of the ’90s, Miss Auf der Maur is just one of many musicians who have moved to the Hudson Valley and the Catskills to start over, by the way or Different ways. Some have put their music careers on hold. Others continue to record and tour, while devoting themselves to entirely new goals. But artists in the area have created a festival of dreams for the Lollapalooza generation, a festival reminiscent of vinyl, cassettes, CDs and when MTV still played music videos most of the time. day.

There are long-term residents businessman Natalie, former lead singer of 10,000 Maniacs, who has volunteered for educational nonprofits including Head Start in Troy; bass player Tony Levin, who played with King Crimson and Peter Gabriel, now lives in Kingston and pursues photography; musician Amy Rigby, now an author and podcaster at Catskill; Daryl Hall, of the famous Hall & Oates who became a nightclub owner with the opening Daryl’s House in Pawling; and Kate Piersonthe inimitable singer of the B-52’s who pioneered the funky vintage-chic inn concept in the Catskills with the opening of Kate’s Lazy Meadow in Mt. Tremper in 2004.

And where else but Woodstock might your dentist have had a past life as the “hit wonder” of pop’s golden year, 1967?

As a couple, Mrs. Auf der Maur and Mr. Stone seemed the perfect match to make a thriving arts center in Hudson a reality; She has the vision, and he has the know-how. “I wanted to see if I could bring the world to us, bring all the things I’ve experienced around the world to this little town,” she said.

Mr. Stone is the son of loft artists SoHo and TriBeCa of the 1970s. Ms. Auf der Maur said: “Tony’s father, Bill, was a contractor in Lower Manhattan who was once close to him. like participating in plumbing work with Philip Glass. She continued: “A lot of artists have worked on renovating many of the lofts in SoHo, a skill that my husband inherited. “We don’t mind taking on large buildings without plumbing or electricity. Our destiny seems to be to take over these buildings and create a second life for them and for ourselves.”

Mr. Stone describes himself as “an urban-rural hybrid” who grew up in a loft on Duane Street in Downtown Manhattan but spends every summer “off the grid in a house.” hippie wood” in Vermont. “When I was 12 years old, I was wiring solar panels and digging wells,” he said. “It sets the stage for what Melissa and I do today at the Basilica.”

He got to know Hudson Valley as a student at Bard College and again when his aunt bought a house in Hudson, then his parents, who moved to the area in 1998. Right after he started dating Ms. Auf der Maur, Mr. Stone introduced her to family hangouts in Vermont and upstate New York, where Auf der Maur “begins to understand the power of nature in its raw form and the need to preserve it,” she said. speak. “It makes you see things differently. And that changed the whole direction of my life.”

Now, the couple are players in the local arts and climate scene. Ms. Auf der Maur is a member of the Capital Area Economic Development Council, where she reviews grant applications. (Basilica Hudson and the River House Project, their green design initiative, received funding from the council.) She and Mr. Stone were part of the team that helped win a $10 million grant. from the council to revive the Hudson River.

Auf der Maur is also a writer, musician and producer Jesse Paris Smith (daughter of Patti Smith) and musician and activist Rebecca Foon to help Hudson become a part of The 1,000 Cities for Carbon Freedom Initiativea project to engage cities of all sizes to participate in the renewable energy and zero-emissions targets set by the Paris Agreement.

“Melissa and Tony’s effort is a blessing to our community, an effort that truly demonstrates the connection between climate action and social justice,” he said. Kamal Johnson, Mayor Hudson. “Basilica is a great asset,” he continued. “It brought world-class artists and audiences to us and served as the stage for many events that brought our community together.”

Singer Amanda Palmer, half of the punk-cabaret duo Dresden Dolls and has a position in Woodstock, concurs with the mayor’s view of Auf der Maur, now 50, who has also taken the time to write a memoir. will include some of the 30,000 photographs she took during her time as a musician. “She is an important nexus, an important connective tissue in art, the environment and in promoting a certain kind of creativity that, like me, comes to reside in the Valley,” Ms. Palmer said. Hudson.

About five miles south of the Hudson is the town of Catskill. In 2011, singer-songwriter Amy Rigby (best known for her 1996 album “Diary of a Mod Housewife”) moved from France with her rocker husband, Eric Goulden, aka. Eric is broken (best remembered for the 1977 record “Whole Wide World”). Her friends Deb Parker, A former owner of the Beauty Bar in the East Village and turned realtor in the area in the late 2000s, took the couple on a tour.

Once they settled in, Ms. Rigby started working part-time at Spotty & Ale Dog Book in Hudson and pursued writing. In 2019, her memoir “Girl to City,” about being a musician in the East Village from the 1970s to the mid-90s, was published.

During the Covid-19 shutdown, Ms Rigby created a audio files based on “Girl to City” and began writing a follow-up memoir, “Girl to Country.” The Hudson Valley is all about the second act, she said. “People reinvent themselves here.”

Take it Tracy Bonham, who had a #1 alternative single in 1996 with “Mother, Mother”, but has since spent most of her time teaching music to children. In 2020, during the height of the pandemic, she and another musician established Melodeon Music Housean educational program in Woodstock inspired by the popular 1970s Saturday morning television series “Schoolhouse Rock!”

But unlike her peers, Ms Bonham eventually decided full-time life in the countryside wasn’t for her. This fall, she returned to Brooklyn, where she currently teaches the Melodeon program for preschoolers.

“It’s really about the energy and vitality of the city, as well as the diversity of the people,” Ms. Bonham said of her return to the city. “Now that I look back at it, it can be a bit isolated,” she said, referring to Woodstock. “The sun sets early and the winters are long and harsh so you can feel a bit stuck. Now that I’m back in Brooklyn, I feel energized and inspired. There are more opportunities for work and socializing.”

Ms. Rigby also feels the pull of the city. “Recently, when I was driving down to Manhattan to play a show at City Winery, I kept saying to myself, ‘I don’t care about the city anymore,’” she said. “But it is a defense mechanism. I still care about the city that made me, and there is nothing better than performing in front of a New York crowd.”

However, when she got to the New York State Thruway and saw the mountains, Ms. Rigby said, she could breathe again. So now, she stays. “I have probably become a more holistic person living here. New York will always be the epitome of where one pursues a creative life, but the low-rent existence for aspiring artists is no longer viable there.”

Tony Levin, who has lived in Kingston since the mid-70s, is also not going anywhere. Best known for his creative bass playing with King Crimson, Peter Gabriel and Paul Simon, Mr. Levin still tours and records. But he’s also a writer and photographer, and he’s recently taken advantage of his free time during the pandemic to organize many of his photos into a new book on the coffee table. , “Images from life on the road”.

Across the river at Beacon, Richard Butler, charismatic leader of Psychedelic furwho studied at Epsom School of Art and Design in London before pursuing music, lived and painted there for decades before moving to Connecticut last year.

Another rocker with a long relationship with the area is Bruce Jay Milner, whose band Every Mother’s Son, had a hit with “”Get On My Boat” in 1967. The tune also earned him and his bandmates a spot in the “One-Hit Wonders” exhibit at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

Dr. Milner said of instant success as a young musician: “I just started studying dentistry at NYU, but this is a lot more exciting. “I really think I’ll go after this, stay in the music game forever, if we keep getting hits.”

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Dr. Milner graduated from dental school and now lives and practices dentistry in West Hurley, about three miles south of Woodstock. Of course, he claims to have attended the popular music and peace festival at nearby Bethel, in 1969. The name of his practice? transcendental dentistry.

“I still play a lot locally, have a digital keyboard in my office and have been exposed to some of the biggest names in music,” said Dr. Milner. about famous patients like Brian Eno and Sonny Rollins.

Musician Amy Helm, whose father Levon Helm, drummer for The Band, was a patient. She said Dr. Milner is “the kind of person who will play a song and sing in harmony with you before he takes your root canal out.”

“Becoming a dentist in Woodstock, with all these great musicians, is a pretty cool second act,” says Dr. Milner. And what other dentist can say he’s in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?”

Sal Cataldi is a writer, musician and former journalist living in Saugerties, NY

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