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Warehouse songs: Richard Dalbec at Revolution Hall. Photo by Leif Zurmuhlen

Viva la Revolution
The Troy Pub crew pays homage to the past to transform a 19th-century factory into a state-of-the-art concert venue
By Ann Morrow

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.

“Gary [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 about.”

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 floors.

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 they want.”

 

 

 


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