Live @The Falcon: Tony Falco, Marlboro, NY
Garage band and CBGBs meets Adirondack lodge at The Falcon, a music and art-themed watering hole in Marlboro, NY where the acoustic confessionals of karaoke and synthetic DJ spinning have been given up in favor of revved up live bands. Blends of jazz, folk and pop simmer, often boiling over, in a bi-level venue with a bar above and pub below, which means you’ll miss less of whichever on-the-verge act or Grammy winner is performing while getting a refill. Tony Falco, an environmental scientist and one-time musician whose three brothers, son and father are also musicians, moved his backyard stage and house concert series into a former button factory on the Hudson River.
A loan from Community Capital enabled Tony to equip the club’s middle floor for catering, add air conditioning and soundproof between levels. Though the club is commercial, and house-made burgers, warm pretzel bites and generous pours of Ommegang Hennepin (brewed in Cooperstown) are served in a den-like cabin rather than the potluck, BYO food and drink shared in his yard, the vibe of garage concerts begun in 2001 continues. The Falcon suggests donations for musicians rather than selling tickets and a deliberate attempt is made to encourage parents to bring their children. “It’s important to instill an appreciation for music and art at a young age,” urges Falco. “I never mind a baby crying.”
How did you get into the music business?
I’m a musician, but more as a hobbyist. I’ve been in bands my whole life. My father was a musician and played base for 50 years with The Keynotes. My brothers are musicians (Gerry plays piano in jazz bands, and Eddie and Chris play blues guitar). My son, Lee, 19, is a working musician (a drummer/singer with The Connor Kennedy Band, Buffalo Stacks, and Ben Fields bands). I built a stage behind my house and invited the community in to hear shows, raising money for musicians with a donation box. We played, and invited other bands to play, and as word of mouth spread, crowds grew. People brought food and drink to share, and in nine years it outgrew the space. I looked for a place that was both a performance space to support local bands and high profile artists, a restaurant, and a home for my environmental laboratory. I found a 19th century factory on the Hudson River that used to make buttons out of seashells, powered by a water wheel, situated on a waterfall. My lab is a water testing laboratory on the ground floor—I was a chemistry major in college—testing water for municipalities, cities, villages, any public water supply. I deliberately set out to make a commercial entity different than most bar/restaurant/clubs. I provide a donation box, with suggested donations of $20 to $40, depending on the profile of the artist. It’s all about the music and art appreciation. We use the walls as an art gallery to feature the work of visual artists.
How did your business evolve?
The Falcon business has evolved steadily, growing as I’ve stuck to the business plan, supporting The Falcon through food and drink—as opposed to ticket—sales or cover charges. Advertising is a big part of growth. We have a great reputation, particularly with musicians. Artists come from all over the world to play here and we run at least five shows a week. We’re big supporters of live performances, and draw from a 50-60 mile radius to fill about 150 seats. We’re located between some small cities; Newburgh is eight miles, Beacon, Poughkeepsie and Kingston are an easy drive. It’s a listening environment; I promote respect and appreciation of the artists. So Grammy Award winners like Jessie Harris, who produced and wrote the tunes for Nora Jones’ award-winning album—David Bromberg, Larry Campbell, and singer/songwriter Dayna Kurtz, come to perform, as well as members of the David Letterman Band and the Saturday Night Live Band. We have visual artists like Maria Lago, who lives and works in Beacon, whose Exodus series of big canvas oils will be on the walls for the next three months. I don’t take any percentage of art sales, we’re just trying to support local artists in the area’s communities. My motto for The Falcon is ‘Support Living Artists.’
What’s the best advice you got along the way?
Observation. I knew I wanted to incorporate respect for the artists. So there are no large TV screens behind them inhibiting the performance. Most small clubs have a TV screen above the heads of musicians and don’t really have a stage and professional lighting.
What would you do differently in hindsight?
The more I learn, the easier it is to make decisions. I try not to dwell on past mistakes. I live in the moment and do the best I can with what I have.
When did you know you’d arrived?
The reaction of people telling me they love The Falcon makes me realize I’m going in the right direction. People appreciate that I’m not trying to make as much money as possible on each person who comes in the door. I let people pay what they can.
Expanding the middle floor balcony into a beer garden, selling only products made in New York—beer, wine, whiskey, vodka, and a new menu with everything under $10 in that space. You’ll have a pager or beeper that lets you know your food is ready and you can come and pick it up in a basket, whether you’re at our inside or outside stages.