The Turning Point – Piermont’s Musical Mainstay
For fans of folk, rock, and the blues, settling in for a set at The Turning Point Cafe in Piermont is as cozy as inviting their favorite band to stop by for a house party.
John McAvoy has been luring Rock & Roll Hall of Fame-caliber performers to his intimate, 55-seat venue at 468 Piermont Avenue for decades.
The low-ceilinged, brick-and-wood-paneled basement has hosted everyone from Arlo to Entwistle, Seeger to Spector, and various Animals, Byrds, Rascals, Drifters, and E-Streeters.
The Turning Point caters to what McAvoy calls adult contemporary artists — many of whom started out in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s — and their loyal fan bases. Genre stalwarts have returned often, including Richie Havens (more than 100 shows), Steve Forbert, (85 times), and Robert Gordon (70 appearances). But he’s open to booking emerging artists, such as singer-songwriter Eilen Jewel, who’s established a local following.
Three 1,000-watt, bi-amped Apogee loudspeakers deliver a clear, crisp sound in the small room, where no seat is more than 30 feet away. The 500-watt monitors do the same for on-stage performers.
“That’s a system that customers don’t even hear,” McAvoy says of the monitors. “It’s important for the band to hear themselves clearly and precisely so that they can go ahead and deliver their best sound.”
Admonishments posted at the bar to discourage patrons from talking during performances are testaments to his fidelity to the sound. “How would you sit there and talk while these musicians are up there pouring their heart and soul into giving you a show?” he says.
There’s no space for a backstage area, and with the “green room” located two flights up, many performers — especially the older ones — prefer to wait in the rear doorway or just stay on stage while the audience clamors for an encore.
McAvoy’s been presenting shows in his building’s basement since 1985, when he moved it from an upstairs space that’s now home to a Mexican restaurant. He first launched the venue in 1976 at an address about a block north of its present home.
Among the more than 10,000 shows he’s hosted, one date was particularly memorable: the night of March 10, 1988, when folk/blues legend David Bromberg sang happy birthday to McAvoy from the stage. Afterward, a woman from New Jersey named Judy Scallon approached McAvoy and shared that it was her birthday, too. Scallon returned a week later; the two began dating and later married.
With no immediate plans to retire, he’s scaling back at age 73, with shows limited mostly to weekends. “I liken it to the fact that in 1991, there was a month where we had 36 or 37 shows in one month,” he recalled. “It was literally nonstop, and there were some nights when we had two shows.”
McAvoy remains enthralled by the power of live music. During his induction into Rockland Roll Hall of Fame a few years back, he spoke of his reverence for musicians and his dedication to giving them a stage.
“To me, it’s magic and I love it, and I want to be there for that,” he recalled telling the audience that night. “There’s still new musicians coming along that are still exciting me that are amazing, and then, still, the old ones that have been here are doing new things and doing the old things.”
Looking for live music in the area? Here’s a list of some other venues:
- Maureen’s Jazz Cellar – >maureensjazzcellar.com
- Union Arts Center – >uacny.com
- West Gate Lounge – >westgatelounge.com
- Casa del Sol – >casaofnyack.com
- Rockland County Jazz and Blues Society – >RCJBS.org
- SouthBound Cafe and Bar – >facebook.com/southbound.barandcafe
- Outpost in the Burbs – >outpostintheburbs.org
- Jazz Forum – >jazzforumarts.org
- Tarrytown Music Hall – >tarrytownmusichall.org
Robert Brum is a writer, editor, and blogger covering the Hudson Valley and beyond. Visit >robertbrum.com to read more of his work.