2013 Jul 22nd

What’s Your Best Memory of Maxwell’s? A Hoboken Institution

As we pass the midpoint of July, we are now officially in the final few days of Hoboken’s rock ‘n roll landmark, Maxwell’s.  They say it is closing because young Hoboken residents would rather watch the game than listen to live music but I have to take issue with that.  What I heard through the grapevine is that the reason Maxwell’s is closing is because the landlord jacked up the rent. maxwells
In law school I learned that the nature of discourse is affected greatly by the way the issue is framed.  Why frame the issue here as an “us vs. them” pitting music lovers against sports fans when the real issue may be the rising commercial rents on Washington Street?  Every time I’ve been to Maxwells, and there have been quite a few, the back room was packed.  Is something about how Maxwell’s is operated making it less than profitable?  Or not profitable enough?  Maybe that’s what needs to be discussed – not the popularity of sports over music.
Live music is undoubtedly a draw in Hoboken and elsewhere.  Have you ever been to Jazz Fest, Coachella or Bonaroo?  Closer to home – Bethel Woods is packed for almost every show.   Then there’s the Brooklyn Bowl, Williamsburg Park, the Mercury Lounge, Irving Plaza, the Bowery Ballroom, the Bell House, the Beacon…  the list goes on and on. All these venues manage to remain open and even thrive.  Maybe the business profitability of Maxwell’s has nothing to do with Hoboken parking or audiences.  Maybe they just needed to book different bands.
Howie and I love going to concerts and have been to Maxwell’s many times.  We’ve seen many bands at small venues that later went on to bigger stages and world acclaim.  Howie once saw Aerosmith at the Beacon Theater in Boston and sat next to Steve Tyler’s mother in the fifth row.  I waitressed at My Father’s Place in Roslyn during the late 70’s, another long gone, legendary music venue.  The Ramones stand out among so many other bands I enjoyed during that era.  I wish I had kept a list of who I saw back then and now can’t quite remember.  We both saw Foo Fighters at the Roseland Ballroom.  Many incredible musicians that went on to great fame and fortune played at Maxwell’s over the years.
As a resident of Hoboken for the past 15 years, I think back with great fondness of the many great bands I’ve seen at Maxwell’s.  The Psychedelic Furs, Fountains of Wayne, Ian Hunter, The Duke Spirit, Dick Dale, the incomparable El Vez… and who can forget the time Glenn Tillbrook of Squeeze ran out the fire exit and we all followed him around the block, stopping for songs in front of the Elks Club before running back in to the club to watch him finish the set.  Those were great shows and great memories.  We will miss being able to walk down the block to go home when the music ends.  Maybe, I hope, some other enterprising individual will see that music does appeal to many Hobokenites and will open a new venue.
What was the best show you ever saw at Maxwells?
  1. JC

    Yo La Tengo! Totally agree this great place is not going out of business because customers like watching sports better. If BCBG couldnt be saved then poor Maxwells’ didnt stand a chance either. How long will that building stay unoccupied for? Will the lack of rent during that time be worth it to the landlord? Its a gray area for a landlord. He/She deserves to receive market rent but at the expense of losing beloved Maxwell’s and a bunch of jobs? All those condos in Maxwell place right there, the landlord certainly thinks she can get an upscale something to move in that will pay a lot more. Its certainly plausible.

  2. Lori Turoff

    Yo La Tengo every Hanukkah!

    Who knows that they don’t already have another tenant lined up?

  3. Maureen

    Without a doubt, the Yo La Tengo Hanukkah shows – I have been fortunate enough to catch 6-7 of them since 2001. Also managed to see X about 1 1/2 years ago and it was quite the experience to see them in such an intimate venue. I have been to many of the other venues mentioned above – the Bell House, Mercury Lounge, Bowery , as well as others which have closed (Academy of Music, the Bottom Line, Brownies, Sin-e, the Ritz – I also remember going to My Father’s Place also and seeing Toots and the Maytals,but really enjoyed Maxwells with its unpretentious, laid-back vibe and now wish I had gone more often during the brief time I’ve been in Hoboken – (moved here from Chelsea 2 years ago).

    I agree that the sports bars and lack of parking are not the main issues, nor the changing demographics – there have been articles about the gentrification of Hoboken since the early 90’s so this is not new news. Hopefully we will have a new venue in Hoboken in the near future as there are still plenty of music lovers right here in Hoboken as well as others who are willing to travel for a good show.

  4. Gilby

    It’s probably BOTH changing demographics AND a large rent increase. The changing demographics probably just hit the tipping point. Hard to find a bar in Hoboken without multiple TV screens always tuned to some sporting event.

  5. JC

    Bar ownership 101: Unless you area an upscale lounge, have a few TV/s and put on the game or sportcenter. It keeps customers in the bar, engaged and ordering drinks.

  6. Lori Turoff

    Why can’t I watch the game at 1 or at 4 or even at 7pm and then go see a music act? Hoboken doesn’t support music? I invite you to go down to Pier A on Friday night this week and say that out loud!

  7. Scott D. Briggs

    I can’t even remember anymore, but I believe the
    first time I was ever at Maxwell’s was to see
    one of my fave indie bands Winter Hours play
    a show there in 1989 after their sadly ill-fated Chrysalis Records
    major label debut album finally came out: I’d seen them once before at The Ritz (long defunct) in 1986
    supporting Rain Parade and Let’s Active, and I’d already followed the band since 1984 or so,
    or maybe early 1985 with their first EPs on vinyl.

    Anyway, I cannot communicate the excitement of seeing Winter Hours live at a place like Maxwell’s in 1989, even. You had to be a fan and you had to be there to understand why it was so important to me and many other people. I drove out with a friend of mine from Nassau L.I. that night and almost got lost
    taking the wrong turn in Jersey City (what a hole
    that place was then!) but then finding Hoboken
    and the infamous North of Washington Ave. parking
    lot which saved our butts!

    Anyway, met Mike Carlucci briefly after that show and said hi and he thanked us for coming, etc. The show was so great it was beyond belief, they even did encores of the Stones’ “Sweet Virginia” etc. Magic through and through. And that’s just one of my favorite shows at Maxwell’s over the years. I never got to go nearly enough, sadly. I missed the early heyday of Maxwell’s because I was in middle school thru junior high and had no idea and no interest and now way to get there even had I the inclination. I only got into R.E.M. via MTV and college radio
    and WLIR FM in NY around 1983 or so. But once
    I latched onto them, WNYU, college radio,
    and Winter Hours and taking runs into NYC
    for record shopping in the W. and East Village,
    I was off and running.

    I also want to say this is in memory of the late
    Joseph Marques Rodriguez of Winter Hours, and
    do yourselves all a favor and go listen to their
    music on YouTube and remember when new and alternative rock/pop music had soul and emotion
    and feeling and real raw talent to burn and there
    were bands out there worth following and worshiping and getting obsessed with. Unlike lately when
    we have nearly zero of worth out there that even
    compares. And RIP Maxwell’s. As Joni Mitchell
    once sang “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”. I will miss that back room and bar and the smell of that kitchen going full-steam as I walked by to get to the stage area. And standing on the side bench to get a better look at the bands. sigh.

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