In the spring of 2022, with Covid-19 restrictions finally easing, a group of Warwick Valley High School teenagers decided to revive the tradition of live local bands performing at the Warwick Valley Community Center.
Bands of all kinds – punk to pop, all playing original music - have taken to the stage in the old Hamilton Avenue schoolhouse, once known locally as the Doc Fry building after one of the founders of the community center, a potter who saw a need for a place for people to gather and enjoy educational, social, recreational, and creative activities.
“Live music at the community center is not a new thing,” says Milo Gendelman, member of the Doc Fry Music Sessions production team, “we’re continuing a tradition that’s been carried on since the 80s.”
The newest iteration of the Doc Fry Sessions took shape last spring, when a group of high school friends began discussing how to build their own art and performance scene in town. Each week a group of a dozen young artists, musicians, and music-lovers meets at the Warwick Valley Community Center, which sponsors Doc Fry. They plan the shows, book the bands, screen print posters and T-shirts, and curate the pop-up art gallery that accompanies each event.
“Youth music is hard to come by in the Hudson Valley. It’s either in New York City or some place two and a half hours away, so having Doc Fry in Warwick allows the youth to have a place to socialize and see bands without having to travel,” said Mason Vitiello, musician and Doc Fry production team member.
Starting in 2017, local arts organization Wickham Works hosted the previous Doc Fry Sessions, showcasing multiple young bands. They were happy to offer production help and a place for the teens to gather and plan in their reuse maker space at the Community Center.
“There was a real lack of things for teenagers to do,” said Gendelman. “It’s been great to see so many people come out to support these local bands and really enjoy themselves.”
Starting last August, there have been three shows. In addition to local bands, the show lineups featured performers from Kingston, Poughkeepsie, Newburgh, Goshen, and Beacon. Between sets, in the pop-up art gallery and lounge, the crowd makes band buttons, browses the zine display and screen-prints show posters to take home.
“When we first started talking about bringing the doc fry sessions back, a big question was, what could we do differently? The first thing that came to mind for me,” says production team member Julie Woods, “was finding a way to incorporate visual artists in the local scene as well as musicians. It’s rare for young artists to get a chance to display their work in front of people other than their friends or family, so not only is the gallery always a positive experience for the audience but the artists get a lot from it too.”
When we first started talking about bringing the doc fry sessions back, a big question was, what could we do differently? - Julie Woods