Well, the day is finally here. The last day of Maxwell’s in Hoboken. When word got out about a month ago that owner and longtime booker Todd Abramson was not going to stay open after the current lease expired I, like pretty much everyone I know, vowed to make at least one more trek into the Mile Square City, endure the hassle that is “parking in Hoboken,” and take in one more show, one more meal, one more drink. A lot of my friends made good on that vow, some of them repeatedly. I, unfortunately, just could not get myself back up there from the Jersey shore. Nor could I get myself into any of the shows I had an interest in. Not even today’s farewell block party and show with the reunited “a”, The Individuals and The Bongos. Don’t even start with me… Believe me, I’m upset with myself too.
I’m left with my memories. Pretty sure I never saw a bad show at Maxwell’s. I saw a lot of my friends play on that stage. I saw a lot of people who would become my friends on that stage. I can, thanks to my OCD list of shows and hundreds of photos, look at them now and be reminded of some of the singularly Maxwell’s experiences I’ve had. Shows that were sold out, shows that were far from sold out. Shows that exceeded expectations. Shows that surprised. Shows from just about every genre of music you might imagine being presented at Maxwell’s. I never saw REM or Husker Du or The Replacements there. I wasn’t there when Nirvana or Soundgarden played. I wasn’t there when Bruce shot the “Glory Days” video. But I could probably go on and on about every show I was there for. But I won’t. I could go on and on about all of the club employees that became friends – and all still are. But I won’t. There were even the two shows that Todd let me book. I will mention those. In March 1999 I decided I’d book 3 “birthday parties” for myself. One was at the Saint in Asbury Park, one was at The Budapest in New Brunswick, and one was at Maxwell’s. I asked my friends Framing Dakota, Plug Spark Sanjay, Gigolo Aunts and Steve Wynn to play for me and they did. The birthday party was just an excuse to get the show to happen. In 2009, after producing a tribute album to Winter Hours (another band I saw, met and befriended at Maxwell’s) I had to have a CD release party. I had East Of Venus (featuring members of Winter Hours and The Feelies), Yung Wu (making a rare live appearance) and Wild Carnation – all Maxwell’s mainstays – lined up. Now that was a great night of old school Maxwell’s revelry.
Admittedly, I have not been to many shows at Maxwell’s in the last few years (as that list proves!). Partly because I moved to the Jersey Shore, partly because of all of the reasons Todd has given for closing. Frankly, I don’t like going into that town anymore. There’s always traffic getting in, there’s never any parking, there are too many “amateurs” stumbling from sports bar to sports bar… Worst of all, there aren’t enough people interested in seeing live, original music made by a band that – heaven forbid – they’ve never heard of.
There are a lot of people wondering why folks like me keep waxing poetic and incessantly reminiscing about a dark little restaurant with a small backroom where bands play. It’s about art, it’s about music, it’s about culture, it’s about community and the community of all of those things. It’s why many of us who don’t live in Hoboken anymore (or never did) still feel like it was “home.” Most of the people who live there now are eventually going to move away and they won’t have these feelings because to them Hoboken was just some place to live while commuting to Manhattan. They won’t have the sense of community that comes from having a place to call your own, a place that you just went to to grab a drink or a meal, maybe see a band every now and then. Years from now, are they going look back fondly on that space that used to be a Starbucks?