If you drive U.S. Route 20 from the Finger Lakes to Albany, you may well not notice the hamlet of Nelson. You wouldn’t see the Nelson Odeon, a converted Grange hall on a side street. Yet on a swinging Saturday night, it demonstrates that dreaming and doing can make a space as cool as any club in New York or Paris or anywhere.
Yet a few short years ago this space — so full of life hosting French Canadian Celticana band Le Vent Du Nord over the weekend — was yet another old building slated for demolition. But Jeffrey Schoenfeld, his family and some friends who believed renovated the building and laid the foundation for a folk-based music venue. They faced all the petty, parochial and political opposition any unusual idea encounters, but kept moving forward. The venue opened earlier this year and, as a packed and appreciative house of around 100 people from all over showed, has clearly found an audience.
I’ve attended a lot of intimate shows yet never seen the kind of reaction that followed the band’s first song. In this old hall with pristine acoustics, Le Vent Du Nord charmed the audience with its harmonies, humor, humility and instruments including a hurdy-gurdy, violin, guitar, mandolin, bass, keys, accordion and Jew’s harp. At any given time, much of the crowd clapped along, stomped or hooted. A full-house standing ovation, applause and non-stop cheers bridged the set end and the encore. For a band singing all in French. Did this all really take place in an old Grange hall on a town you won’t find on every map?
It did. And you know what, it could happen anywhere. Anywhere people have a dream. Anywhere folks are willing to put their energy and vision to that dream. Anywhere people won’t let doubters or so-called conventional wisdom hold them back. On this night, a packed and loud crowd having a great time, a hot band cooking at full steam, you realize that if people put their mind to it, cool can be anywhere.