The impressive lineup of artists – a partial list at best – includes such greats as Ralph Stanley, Guy Clark, Shawn Colvin, Patty Griffin, Pete Seeger, Rigdzin Namkha Rinpoche, Leo Kottke, Mike Gordon of Phish, Levon Helm, Norah Jones, Jim Lauderdale, Hamiet Bluiett, Soulive, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Tom Tom Club, John Scofield, John Medeski, Odetta, Steve Earle, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock, Mose Allison, Michelle Shocked, Michael Wex, Olu Dara, Burning Spear and many more.
The couple had already produced larger concerts in the neighboring Mahaiwe Theater (the capacity at their rented digs in Great Barrington was a maximum of 75), when their lease option at the original Club Helsinki became less desirable. They’d purchased a two-story industrial building in Hudson a few years back, and decided to make the move – and bring their reputation with them. The riverside structure – built in 1863 to house, over the years, a door factory and lumberyard, a garage and maintenance facility for city buses and a car dealership – has since been renovated with great love-labor and a lot of sweat, along with lots of antique and salvaged materials. McDowell, Schafler and their new partner Cameron Melville have worked to keep the restoration as green as possible, and to use local workers and craftspeople as well.
The resulting venue features two performance rooms, one a 235-capacity multilevel main space and another 250-capacity ballroom upstairs; a state-of-the-art audio and video recording studio; an art gallery; a performers’ lounge with shower amenities; and a full-service, 175-seat restaurant. An outdoor dining area and an artist’s lodge are in the works, too.
“Helsinki Hudson hasn’t ‘officially’ opened yet,” says McDowell, “but we started doing music in May, and the Restaurant opened three weeks ago.” When asked if there are any regrets about making the move, she says, “None at all. We loved our time in Great Barrington [with more than 1,500 shows to their credit] and got to know the community well. We’re just happy to have our own place now.”
Musicians and artists have always been well-cared-for by McDowell and Schafler. Now with their own hospitality space – not to mention the surrounding ambience of the eclectically born-again town of Hudson – they might not want to leave.
Upcoming at Helsinki Hudson: On Wednesday, December 29 at 8 p.m., Lauren Ambrose and Leisure Class belt out New Orleans-style jazz and swing like they were Dixie-born and bred. And on December 31, it’s the wildly popular New York klezmer/rock band Golem for a New Year’s Eve extravaganza to end all: a spectacular night of dancing and ringing in the New Year Helsinki-style. Helsinki will offer a special New Year’s menu in the Restaurant and Club-side for the celebration.
Creating a new community of artists, musicians, poets, dancers and appreciators of great food, the trio McDowell, Schafler and Melville welcomes the diverse and discerning Hudson Valley populace to their door. Look for other events (yoga, anyone?) and scheduled performances on their website. Helsinki Hudson is located at 405 Columbia Street in historic Hudson. For further information call (518) 828-4800 or visit www.helsinkihudson.com.