By Allie Catalano
The Hudson River Coffee House is a large building that stands in the middle of downtown Albany. From the outside it’s seems like any other building, but once you walk inside the ambiance is more welcoming than you can imagine. I was greeted by the smell of warm coffee and food. The people are warm and welcoming too. A small stage off to the left surrounded by some chairs is all that was needed for the night’s activities. The set up of the stage can vary, but it seems open mic night is by far most popular. The owner and host Anton Nelson set up open mic night almost 8 years ago in 2011. He studied abroad in China and while he was there he frequented a coffee shop. People would gather together in this coffee shop to share ideas, perform and give their writing life; he knew he wanted to bring that to America. When he returned to America he didn’t have much to his name but was determined to start a coffee shop. Fast forward to 2019 and Hudson River Coffee House is a thriving business and place for people to come together.
The open mic nights are open for the entire community to enjoy. Acts range from poetry to music and comedy. Many are creative but all are unique. Each person has their own style of performance keeping the audience engaged in the creative atmosphere. The 400th show was no disappointment of creativity either. The night started out with a dedication to Anton for all his hard work in keeping the show together for so long. The performers proudly boasted that it is the longest running open mic in Albany. Anton was humble but smiled as he accepted a small gift on the stage.
Shortly after, the acts began. One act in particular that stood out was a song by Anton’s brother Sam. The soft, slow song sounded more like poetry, “forget your blues on stage where we all get along”. The crowd really enjoyed the song as well. I learned that the song had become the unspoken anthem of the place and everyone sang along. Another original song by performer Ed Smythe was titled, “He Ain’t Here”. The song comedically pokes at what it’s like to work in the coffee shop and set up the acts. If the person “ain’t here” they are off the list. Comedy seemed to be one of the more popular types of acts of the night. Several acts tried out new jokes or ‘material’ on the crowd. Josh Knight’s comedy was about racism which might not seem like a topic to joke about, yet he somehow made it appropriately funny. Some performers were originals from the very first open mic, but new people still flowed in. No matter who or what was performed the crowd was so enthusiastic.
During the middle of the show, Anton spoke on how he has been able to use the UAlbany community to bring in a good vibe of young talent to the show. He was a former student himself and always likes to help out aspiring students. It is this sentiment of hospitality that surrounds the entire place. Whether you want to hear some great original acts or share material of your own, Hudson River Coffee House is the place to do just that. Anton has no intentions of stopping the show anytime soon. There will be many more great open mic nights to come. Come enjoy them with us!
** This event was held in the Spring of 2019. Hudson River Coffee House has since closed. You can find out more at https://www.strosechronicle.com/fresh/hudson-river-coffee-house-runs-into-some-trouble/. **