By Mike Jurkovic
Supporting Live Artists
Talk about a long, strange trip, imagine this one: Nineteenth century button factory turned roller rink turned cabinetry shop manifests into major musical Hudson Valley venue. Want another one? Try this: rock band fronted by family man and environmental scientist Tony Falco plays an abandoned Methodist church in Marlboro. Front man buys the place and starts putting on concerts. Realizing his descent into a money pit, Falco sells church to the Post Office but they only want the land. Scientist begins taking the place apart beam by antiquated beam; using them to build an intimate and still legendary concert space behind his own home in Marlboro. The audience brought their own food and drink. Regional art graced the walls. There was never any admission charge, only a donation box. Except for the food and drink, it all holds true to this day. Street musician, Grammy winner, bluesman, rocker, jazz master, funk/country, retro/electronic, classical, world/beat/alternative musicians came and played, and played . . .
And they are still playing today, only not behind Tony's house. No, since November 2009, the new Falcon is now located in that former button factory, 1348 Rt 9W, Marlboro, NY. "It still carries the same vibe," Falco is pleased to say. "I used to feed the musicians at my kitchen table. Now I feed them here, in the restaurant. But the food is still fabulous, farm to table, prepared by our great chef, Chad Greer."
"It's all reasonably priced and by May we'll have draft beer in. I've been trying to make a place to hear music in an atmosphere that respects the artist and the audience in a great sounding room."
"When I first built it I tried to make it right but the band started playing and the sound was bouncing all over the place. So I called in John Storyk (a long time Hudson Valley resident and designer of Hendrix' Electric Lady Studios and Bearsville Studio) and he made it right."
Did you always see yourself doing this?
"My dad was a musician, so was my brother. I was in various grade c, grade d, rock bands. I love it and I've been around music all my life. So it was natural for me. I find it very rewarding."
"From listening and working with the musicians I know what they want. We have a large stage, we provide them with quality equipment - piano, drums, amps, my dad's upright bass. It's all about quality in every detail."
"They have the freedom to present themselves as they want. I never say would you do that or this. They play how they want and what they want. They can relax and stretch here."
"I love it all truthfully as well as it's high quality. And I try to turn the people on to what I love in the best way possible.
Ever encounter a performer you didn't get along with?
"Some come in like lions and are more demanding than others, but I win them over most of the time. They always shake my hand and want to come back. It's all about respect. I have a nice green room for them. They thank me for the appreciation."
Is this mutual respect and appreciation the reason why you have never charged admis-sion? The performers get paid through the donations box.
"Ever since I started as a house concert series, I saw it as a community space where it wasn't about the money. You throw in what you can, whatever you wanted. It's about the community supporting the artists."
"In twelve years I have never taken a penny from the donations. I have never taken a penny from the sale of artwork. I never take a cut of the musician's merchandise. My motto is support living artists 'cos I feel our society doesn't do enough to support our artists."
"It's brings a lot of love to the room, where people are happy and comfortable with the whole place because it doesn't have the monetary trappings so prevalent in our society. Mine is mom 'n pop thing. Sure I need money to be sustainable, but it's never been about profit for me."
"These artists don't have health insurance. They struggle to buy cars and pay for the family. I've had artists who have wanted me to sell tickets, but I won't do it. It makes it difficult sometimes with agents 'cos they want they're cut, but we keep it honest and it works out."
"It takes a while for some artists and their management to get their heads around the donations concept but they get it most of the time. Metheny brought a thirty foot truck and four people who worked with him all day setting up. And the people pulled through. He was able to pay for all that."
"Brad Mehldau has played for me at least fifty times. He's got to be the number one piano player in the world. He's a star. He does it for the vibe. He loves the place."
"This is a gig for the music, not for the money."
Has there ever been times when you felt there wasn't enough in the donations box? Where you felt nervous or anxious about giving the performer too little?
"Too often. There's been many times where I took it out of my wallet to supplement it."
"There's truly beautiful music coming from New York, the world really, but New York is the wellspring of new music. I try to bring emerging artists up here and they play great, but they don't draw. They don't make enough for traveling expenses. I don't make enough to cover my overhead. It's lose lose financially, but the music is a beautiful thing. And my audience, whoever shows up, gets turned on to a beautiful sound."
"And I don't want to stop that. My heart's tellin' me give them a place to play. I want them to perform here. They don't deserve to be opening acts or support acts y'know so I give them a headlining gig. I find myself booking them because my heart tells me to do it."
"Hopefully I can build a following for them and the bigger acts will make up for it. This way they can get on with their careers because it's a tough road, it's a struggle for any artist to make a living in this country, in this time. You know that."
"If I could do more shows I would. There's so many great, great musicians out there and they're all suffering. The masters and the novices. It's sad."
Let's move away for a moment from the art of music to the art on the walls. Are the artists primarily local and how do you pick who gets shown?
"It's all people I like. I usually leave the art up two or three months. I give a shout out to the artist at every show. The artists are mostly all local and from New York. I usually go about a hundred miles out."
"But not much sells. People will go to the malls and buy a print for a couple hundred dollars but they won't buy an original where you meet the artist, sustain the artist, visit their studio, have something beautiful. It's painful, it really is."
"So I'm trying to have an oasis that supports living artists. People get it and a lot of people really love the place because of that."
Check the online calendar and join the Falcon mailing list.
John Abercrombie, The Arlington High School Jazz Machine, Marc Von Em, Joe Lovano, Graham Parker, Brad Mehldau, Erin Hobson Compact, Medeski, Martin, & Wood, Pat Metheny, The Funk Junkies,