The Sound of Music: A Profile on Mike Cohane

Cold Hands getting ready to perform

The Platform isn’t an easy venue to find. It’s above a recording studio that’s right on Main Street in Beacon, but you can only get to it by going into the actual building of the studio and walking past their receptionist heading up the narrow, carpeted stairs up into an even narrower hallway. The first door on the right of the hallway leads into a large, open room with a low stage on one end.

The musicians on the stage shout directions at the people who are setting up all of the speakers, microphones and all the other equipment. They have to shout because sound engineer and the control panels for all the settings on the equipment are towards the back of the room and their microphones aren’t on.

Guitars are strummed, drums are hit, microphones are tested. The small crowd of people that have gathered speak in murmurs, not wanting to distract the performers while they set up. A small group of men, presumably in their mid 20’s, stroke their short beards and adjust their skinny jeans and baseball hats while they discuss the latest album release of band they’re all familiar with. A pair of girls stand toward the back of the venue, quietly laughing and showing each other whatever they see on their phone. There can’t be more than about 25 people in the room and everyone wears a black “X” from a Sharpie, showing that they already paid for the show.

There’s an air of camaraderie in the room, as if everyone there already knows each other. Almost every time someone new walks in, someone they know is there to greet them. Considering how small the audience is and how unknown the bands are, it’s assumed almost everyone there is to support a loved one’s band.

There was even pair of parents in attendance. You didn’t have to overhear them talking about their daughter’s band to know that they were parents. All you had to do was notice how the father was wearing a NHL jersey and how the mother was wearing a floral blouse, neither of which could be seen on anyone else in the room. Not to mention the age difference between them and the rest of the crowd. They left, while discussing dinner plans, the second their daughter put down her bass and stepped off the stage. This clearly wasn’t the type of music they listen to, but they were supportive of her, nonetheless.

There are folding tables that line the walls. The tables are garnished with merchandise being sold by the performing bands. Most bands are only selling T-shirts, but some have other goods like stickers, hats, or physical copies of their latest music. Each table is accompanied by an disinterested salesperson, apathetically scrolling on their phones, not making eye contact with any of the people in the audience. Almost no one approaches the tables, despite how much the performers plead with them to buy their merchandise in between songs in their set.

There was a door to the right of the stage that lead to a narrow hallway that looked to be overcrowded with band and sound equipment. At the end of the hallway, was a door that lead to the back parking lot of the venue, giving performers and the crew easy access to the equipment that was loaded in their cars. People were walking briskly in and out of the hallway, looking like they were rushing around to make sure everything was in it’s place so the show could go over well.

One of these people, was Mike Cohane.

His production company, Upstate Media Productions, booked the gig for tonight, leaving Cohane and his colleagues to make sure everything is set up correctly.

Cohane started the production company himself. He wanted to get more involved in the music scene, outside of being a performer. It started as him interviewing bands and doing videos for them but it progressed into more, quickly. He noticed there weren’t a lot of shows being produced in Poughkeepsie, so he started bringing bands that he knew around to strengthen the music scene in Dutchess County.

The recording studio where The Platform is located.

He doesn’t really have a set role with the production company. He kind of just does everything. When he was first getting into the music business, he would put on shows at My Place Pizza, a pizzeria in Poughkeepsie that also doubles as a venue for local bands to perform. He would set up his own equipment and book his own shows, giving him the experience he would later need when he started doing the same things for other bands.

“So, basically anything for the actual production of the show is all me,” he said. He has, however, gotten a few people to join him at the company, helping him book shows for the bands. He said he’s hoping that will help Upstate Media move on to bigger and better things.

Whenever Cohane isn’t backstage, plugging endless wires into copious amounts of audio equipment, he’s out on the floor, mingling within the audience. It seems as though almost everyone knows him.

Another day, another show at the Platform. Except this time, Cohane’s band, Cold Hands, is on the list of performers for the night. Upstate Media is also producing this show, giving Cohane more work to do than one would could imagine. Everywhere he goes, someone’s calling his name, asking him something. He never looks stressed out, even for a second. He keeps his cool, friendly demeanor and gives his full undivided attention to anyone who asks for it.

When he was upstairs, before the doors were even open, he was talking with the two young girls who would be collecting money at the door, giving them quick instructions and sending them on their way. When the receptionist mentioned that she couldn’t find a key she thought she gave him, he insisted on helping her find it until she finally convinced him it was okay for him to go back to setting up the show. When someone walked in and greeted him with enthusiasm, Cohane gladly reciprocated and didn’t rush the interaction, despite how much needed to be done before the show started.

When he arrived back upstairs, about 20 minutes before the show is set to begin, one of the girls at the door said “Like, everyone is looking for you.” He makes his through the the venue, working his way to the narrow hallway that leads back stage, and without fail, several different people come up to him to ask questions or greet him.

The room starts to fill as the night goes on. More and more people show up and greet each other. The opening band starts tuning and getting their equipment set up, while Cohane jumps around from being backstage and on stage, helping the bands.

Both vocalists of the first two bands thank Cohane for his work and for helping them get this gig. “He’s supported us since day one,” said one of the performers.

Every time one of the bands mentions how Cold Hands is coming on, the crowd wildly cheers. “They’re real nice, I like them,” another performer said to the crowd.

Eventually, Cohane takes his place behind his drums, while there are other people helping with the audio engineering. Someone puts on “DNA.” by Kendrick Lamar while Cold Hands is getting ready and crowd starts getting fired up.

Cohane once saw Rush perform and said the drummer, Neil Peart, inspired him to start playing. When he was in high school, he knew a bunch of other people who played guitar and sang and one thing lead to another he was in his first band.

Cohane’s been in four bands. He was in two bands when he was in high school. They would play shows at The Loft in Poughkeepsie and sometimes at the school. He moved on to another band called The Underline. They would tour sometimes and played shows pretty often. It was also where he met one of the future members of Cold Hands, Peter Mallas.

“Those three bands helped me figure out what not to do,” Cohane said. “Just being in a band, there’s a lot of mistakes you make.”

Cohane and the other members of Cold Hands say their music fits within a range of genres between pop punk, hardcore, and alternative that blends together to form what they describe their sound as “dab rock.”

Even though Cold Hands isn’t a “political” band (most of them are more outspoken on their individual social media accounts), Cohane will still support bands that are. The opening two bands at the Cold Hands show both discussed social issues on the mic. The vocalist for the first band wore a shirt that said “Kill Rapists and Pedophiles” and the vocalist for the second band told counted the women in the crowd and gave out statistics of women being sexually assaulted and performed a song about her own assault.

While Cold Hands doesn’t write songs about political or social issues, they’re still making an effort as a band help out with as much as they can in the Dutchess county. They are currently donating all the money they make from their merchandise to Planned Parenthood. They even held a charity event a few months ago where all of the proceeds also went to Planned Parenthood.

“You do what you can,” Cohane said.

He advises anyone who interested in the production side of the music industry to get a start by promoting for the friends bands and trying to get the word out. For aspiring musicians, he says keep practicing because there’s a good chance your band will “mostly likely suck.” Being on time is also an important factor to maintaining a good reputation for a local band. Bands being late without letting Cohane know is something that irritates him and many other production companies.

“There’s always something you can do if you’re musically talented or not,” he said.

Cohane is shaping the music scene in the Hudson Valley and giving local bands the opportunities to let their music be heard. He said his favorite part of being apart of Upstate Media and Cold Hands has just been meeting all the people and bands. And considering how much all the bands praised him and how many people ran up to him when he came into the room, it’s not hard to tell that the feeling from his friends and colleagues is mutual.

You can check out Cold Hands here.