89 North Pushes Onward

In a climate where music venues sprout and topple before their brand ever has a chance to establish itself, 89 North’s doors are still open, as they continue to book shows almost every night of the week. It’s now been a year since this entrepreneurial group of friends opened its midsized venue in downtown Patchogue. Dan Welsch, co-owner and talent buyer, spoke of the experience, “There are a lot of growing pains. But we expected some of them. We’re learning as we go. But it’s getting better each day.”

Their collective vision, now fully realized, has drawn crowds from all over the Island. The people are lured by the variety of national and local musicianship. Inside, there’s a singular roadhouse vibe, expert sound, a bar is rigged with craft beers and fresh pizza and a VIP section at that back of the room that provides tabletop service. The crowds range from young to old, some casual listeners while others are music aficionados. According to Daniel Welsch, co-owner, he said, “We want everyone to feel comfortable here, as if it were a second home. If people can expect a good night of music each night then hopefully they’re just going to keep coming back. It’s the talent and the good sound that brings the people. We just have to keep working hard at providing it.”

Tonight, UK troubadour James Maddock was the main act. He’s a big smile, an NPR darling, with an acoustic strapped to his chest, spouting heartfelt sounds with his signature gritty vocals. The crowd adored Maddock, mouthing his radio hits, as he swayed on stage projecting the illusion “that everything is going to be all right.” His band was tight, as they winded through a collection of both old and new folk pop ballads that melodically contended with the genre’s best.

Supporting the headliner was Alan Semerdjian and his band. Though embracing the folk pop aesthetic, Semerdjian and his gang offered a headier more dynamic set that wasn’t afraid to veer off into artful weirdness. There were delicate numbers and full-on pop jams, all equipped with cymbal rushes, intricate finger plucking, and laconic bass lines. Semerdjian seemed at ease on stage, a seasoned craftsman, as his mellifluous vocals soared about the room.

Additionally supporting the evening was singer Christine Holt whose warm melancholic voice entranced the crowd. She stood on stage with just her guitar, lending the night some real intimacy. Also, local Patchogue favorites The Jay Scott Band pepped up the crowd with some folk pop jams that blended well with the night’s aesthetic. Their sound was contemporary, vibrant and heartfelt.

If 89 North continues to bring veritable talent, the crowds will gather. And considering that Patchogue has transformed over the last ten years into one of Long Island’s formidable art towns, the venue is situated in an ideal location to truly prosper. In a time when the odds are against any venue of this stature (everyone’s an underdog nowadays in the music biz) it seems that 89 North is poised to push onward.

brian kelly

Brian Kelly is a journalist, writing instructor, songwriter, playwright and a mediocre cook. His own writing has appeared in Blackbook Magazine, MEDIA, Hamptons.com and The East Hampton Press. His off-Broadway play, Hello Superstar will open in 2012; it details the vibrant lives of Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick. His band Aeroplane Pageant will put out their 3rd LP Float Above the Yard on September 20th. He currently lives on the fading shoreline of Long Island where now he’s writing/directing a short film for Off-Hollywood and Technicolor Studios.