by MEGAN UY & SAMANTHA WALLA , Staff Writer & Asst. Production Editor
Even a first time visitor at An Beal Bocht Cafe will feel like they have been there before.
Between the art-filled walls, friendly staff and mistletoe hanging above the door, the pub has cultivated a homey atmosphere for the Riverdale community. Conversation never ceases, as the lack of televisions brings human connection to the forefront of the bargoing experience.
The cafe’s dedication to the arts is inextricable from its spirits and food: doorways are framed by stage curtains, a prop loft hangs over the bar and musicians and a table is even added to the tiny stage to accommodate patrons during busier hours.
A Riverdale staple since 1991, An Beal Bocht has served as a haven for the arts, featuring a theatre company, poetry nights and most notably, local musicians.
On Thursday, Aug. 23, seasoned regulars took the floor of An Beal Bocht to play for a crowd of Riverdale locals and Manhattan College students.
The band Yas King, a reggae-rooted aspiring pop band, is no stranger to An Beal Bocht’s stage and were the featured performers of the night.
Two out of the five-man band are locals to the Riverdale area.
Lead singer and guitarist Eric Sullivan and bassist Rocky Russo grew up in Fieldston, where they went to high school together, became close friends and eventually co-musicians.
Originally, they started a band together and brought in other musicians, including Seth Nicholson, who is one Yas King’s current drummers and Dylan Chandler, who plays the piano and trumpet for the band.
From there, they played at many venues not only within New York City, but also around the Northeast.
But now with a new member, second drummer Chase McShea, and without some of the originals, they began their new journey and formed a new iteration of their band.
Their six-piece ensemble showcased some of their original songs that consisted of pop, alternative, rock and of course, those light-hearted reggae tones. No instrument was left behind and the audience was able to hear and take in each of their unique sounds.
“We’re a bit more on the experimental pop side right now. A little bit more direct. A little bit more formulated, to say the least. That’s what we’re trying to bring eventually,” said Nicholson.
An Beal has always been a home for their art and they’ve never stopped coming back to it.
“We’ve known this bar for a long time. We’ve been playing here for a long time at various iterations of different bands.” said Sullivan.
It was obvious that they were and have been loved by neighborhood locals by the immense amount of support they were receiving. Friends of the band were constantly on the side cheering, people were up and dancing, and at the end of their sets, and dedicated hometown fans were there to express their love for their music.
“We’ve been dipping in and out of some songs we know,” said Sullivan before taking a break. A collection for the band was passed around at the set break as the crowd moved outside to the picnic tables. Bare feet rested on the benches and small dogs enjoyed the excitement. The comfortable, relaxed atmosphere served as a perfect home to the music of the night.
Javi Diaz, another native to the neighborhood, brought his singer-songwriting talentsW to An Beal’s Open Mic night. Attorney by day and musician by night, he continues to pursue his love for music, even just as a hobby, because it’s what keeps him sane.
With just him and his guitar, he filled the bar with his soulful and gentle yet captivating voice that kept everyone’s attention focused on him.
After performing on many different stages, he still finds himself coming back to his stomping grounds and doing many of his gigs at An Beal.
“I love it. Everybody’s great. This is always a reliable and great time. Right now, my pre-K teacher is here and I’ve known her since I was four years old,” said Diaz after his set.
The hometown feel, support and passion is obviously what fuels these local musicians on coming back to An Beal and giving their people what they have to offer. Clearly, this bar is doing something right and inspiring in the music industry, even if it may be on a smaller platform.
The pub’s connection to the music scene does not end with the performers.
Keith McDermott, bartender at An Beal Bocht, played guitar in the band during one of its earlier iterations, Rocky and the Pressers, before becoming a teacher. McDermott has worked at An Beal Bocht on and off for 11 years.
“There’s no better place to be,” said McDermott, taking a brief break from the bar. “I love the live music, that’s what brought me here in the first place. Now I book the music, so I get to kind of foster it, help it grow. It’s something I love to do.”
An Beal Bocht features live music five to seven nights a week of all different types, featuring not only local musicians but traveling musicians from Ireland and other countries.
The scene has grown throughout McDermott’s time at the bar, as bigger names have made it a destination in New York City. The bar’s Irish roots have also contributed to its rising popularity with an international crowd.
Manhattan College students have their own presence in the music scene, as many open mic performers will be invited back to perform at other times of the week.
An MC alumni himself, McDermott first became involved with the bar during his time at the college, although the music scene was not as much a part of college life as it is today. McDermott cites the MC community as a valuable part of the community despite its role as more than just a college bar.
Music may be An Beal Bocht’s most prevalent connection to the arts, but it also serves as a haven for art and poetry. The back room features different artists of varying mediums once a month, many of whom also play music at the bar. Suzanne Hochstein, local musician and artist, puts on an art show every year in addition to her involvement in the theatre company and live music nights.
“We’re lucky in this neighborhood to have people with a diverse array of talents and they can come here and showcase them,” said McDermott.
The best part of An Beal Bocht? If you ask McDermott, it’s the diverse mix of regulars and travelers that frequent the bar.
“We become like a family…We try to have a homey, welcoming feel, so if people are feeling comfortable then we’re doing what we want to do,” he said.