songs: Richard Dalbec at Revolution Hall.
Photo by Leif Zurmuhlen
Troy Pub crew pays homage to the past to transform a 19th-century
factory into a state-of-the-art concert venue
Lots of performance venues call themselves a “factory”—Warhol’s
Factory and New York City’s Knitting Factory come to mind—but
Revolution Hall, the Troy Pub & Brewery’s new venture,
really was a factory—an 1860s collar factory, in fact, that
contributed to Troy’s industrial prominence in the 19th century.
And now the old brick building is contributing to the city’s
revival as an arts mecca: The four-story structure has been
reconfigured as a state-of-the-art concert hall, theater,
and studio. Yet despite its cutting-edge acoustics, the hall
is keeping one foot firmly in the city’s egalitarian past.
[owner Garrett Brown] and I were thinking about calling it
Riverfront Hall,” says manager Chris Ryan. “We’re proud of
being on the river, but we both wanted something more Troy-related.”
Says Brown: “Chris came up with ‘Revolution Hall,’ and we
all liked it because it comes from the Industrial Revolution
that Troy was so renowned for. It’s what the building is all
Ryan adds that they also wanted to acknowledge Troy’s history
as a hotbed of labor uprisings. “The Molly Maguires, the pro-labor
group, were from here,” he says. “And Irish labor organizer
James Connelly lived here.” Stepping inside the capacious
hall, it’s easy to imagine it as a place where tunes and beer
will foster solidarity as in days of old. (The hall opens
on Saturday, Feb. 1, with an appearance by Celtic act Hair
of the Dog.) Brown says his inspiration for the hall came
directly from his customers, whose enthusiastic quaffing of
the pub’s homebrew funded the project’s construction. “I wanted
to give them back something special,” he says.
Brown bought the factory in 1994, a year after establishing
the Troy Pub in the warehouse next door. “I bought the buildings
because they were cheap, and had the river behind them,” he
says. “I looked at places all over the Capital Region—I didn’t
have any knowledge of Troy then. But I have tons now.” Brown
says his interest in the old structures led him to become
an aficionado of Troy history, and he proudly displays one
of the city’s famed detachable collars, found amid the debris.
“This is a good thing for us, of course, but it’s what’s best
for the building,” he says of the conversion. “And it’s what
the city wants for the waterfront.” It’s also what local music
fans want. Shows at the Troy Pub, and outdoor music festivals
on its riverfront deck, were overflowing capacity. “We’ve
been providing music ever since we started here,” Brown says.
“The hall just raises the bar.”
And raises it two stories high. The main stage encompasses
two floors, with an open ceiling surrounded by a balcony with
VIP visibility from every seat. The factory’s turn-of-the-century
addition has been turned into a large lobby, with plenty of
room for ticket booths and loitering in line from the River
Street entranceway (where patrons will pass by an artifact
from the collar company: the decorative door to a huge vault
located in the basement). Above the lobby is a 24-track recording
and video studio, which will allow for live recordings and
direct broadcast. Ryan, who estimates the hall will hold 700
to 800 patrons, says the studio could make it a destination
for high-profile acts looking to fine-tune their live shows.
The factory’s 1899 freight elevator, they’ve discovered, is
just the thing for hauling music equipment between the two
Used as a warehouse for the last hundred years, the hall has
the auditory advantage of having been converted in tandem
with the installation of its customized sound system, designed
by Richard Dalbec of Dalbec Audio Lab. Dalbec describes the
system as a theater-style design built for resonance. “It
will capture every nuance at every level,” he promises. Dalbec
and Brown worked on “room corrections” during construction,
and it was Dalbec who spotted the potential of a pile of office
partitions junked on the fourth floor. Filled with high-density
fiberglass, the partitions were adapted into sound panels.
“Everything we build ourselves helps to keep prices affordable,”
notes Brown. The panels also blend in well with the room’s
painted brick walls and exposed pipes—although for this high-tech
venue, the chic industrial ambience came with the deed.
Before opening the Troy Pub, Brown was a photographer who
worked for the Schenectady Gazette for over a decade,
yet he happily admits his structural ideas for the factory
came from not from his visual training, but from “five years
of having a couple of pints and walking around looking at
it.” Brown and a crew of friends, family, and pub employees
did nearly all the construction themselves. “We’re a small
company, but everyone is multitalented,” he says. “And if
they’re not, they learn,” he jokes. (As if on cue, brewmaster
Peter Martin motors by on a manlift.) Foreman Brown did the
welding and metalworking. “He took out a two-story brick wall
and staircase and put in the steel I beams,” says Ryan admiringly.
Brown’s father Sid did the electrical work, and the pub’s
property manager did the carpentry. As for sound engineer
Dalbec, he falls under the “friends” category, and he readily
admits he moved his audio business to nearby King Street to
be walking distance from the pub.
Ryan, the pub’s manager since it opened, also manages the
hall and books the bands. The room’s open configuration gives
him a lot of leeway. For folk acts, he explains, the floor
will be set with tables and chairs. For larger, rowdier bands,
the setup will be cleared away, although there will always
be cocktail tables, and eventually a service bar, on the balcony.
“We want to give people a nice experience,” he says. Just
how open the booking policy will be has yet to be determined.
“We’re going to see who regionally brings people in,” he says.
“We want artistry, but we’ve also got a big room to fill.”
Ryan’s wish list ranges from Ani DiFranco to Moby to the Doobie
Brothers, along with Black 47, who’ve already been scheduled.
But mostly, he emphasizes, booking will be determined by the
customers. “They’re the ones who are going to tell us who