The Place That Ran Contrary To (Almost) Every Negative Rock Club Stereotype : A Fond Farewell To Maxwell’s
(the Feelies soundchecking at Maxwell’s — making the world safe for Jack McDowell)
It was reported earlier today that Maxwell’s, the Hoboken, NJ venue that served as that city’s cultural hub in the late ’70′s and early 1980′s, eventually becoming one of the planet’s more revered rock clubs (and a stage the great and not-so-great all longed to play on), will close at the end of July. Club co-owner/booker Todd Abramson cited rising rent, crummy parking and creeping dumbfuckery on Washington Street (“a lot of the bars downtown are fighting with each other for who has the most giant TVs. That’s what Hoboken nightlife has become”), and while my first reaction was, “hey, at least you’re not next door to this place“, I can sympathize. Maxwell’s had a huge hand in the commercial revitalization of Hoboken, but the influx of $$$ and traffic shouldn’t be confused with hordes of people hoping to get a glimpse of Bob Bert (not most of the time, anyway).
Throughout the day, there’s been plenty of chatter on social media about great Maxwell’s shows of years past (G. Love & Special Sauce, Gutbank, Jack McDowell’s Stickfigure, Envelope) and that’s all well and good.
I mean, if you wanna continue living in the past, be my fucking guest. What I’ll remember most about Maxwell’s (besides, y’know, Alister Parker tuning for 20 minutes) are all the amazing people I met. I can’t remember any of their names off the top of my head, but several were either very good looking or at the very least, extremely persuasive. Some of the best arguments I ever participated in took place waiting for the toilet at Maxwell’s — there’s a couple that are still going on to this day. The 1 am wait for the PATH train back to Manhattan will always occupy a special place in my heart — I learned at a relatively young age that managing not to projectile vomit in public is the sort of gallant non-gesture that can win the respect of your traveling companion (if he or she is actually awake at the time).
I’m not gonna tell you the place was perfect. But even before CBGB’s booking turned into an orgy of indifference, Maxwell’s took a curatorial approach to the old & new in a manner that respected the intelligence of the audience & performers alike. In stark contrast to barns like City Gardens or The Ritz, Maxwell’s felt like a place that was owned & staffed by persons who thought the players and paying customers were friends and peers. As opposed to, y’know, targets & tools in the all-important struggle to sell more beer. This might not seem like much to those of you who aren’t ancient and decrepit enough to remember the tri-state area’s club scene in the mid 1980′s, but trust me on this one. It was a genuinely big deal to see live music in a space where every single person on the premises was glad to be there. So to Steve Fallon, Todd Abramson, Steve Shelley and a very long list of bartenders, door persons, sound people and music fans of varied ages/hairstyles, thanks for everything. And to those elsewhere standing against the tide of giant TV’s, glorified pay-to-play bullshit and closed-shop booking policies, I hope your respective runs are nearly as fun or interesting.