If only there was an emoticon that accurately conveyed “mourning.”
As you, dear reader, have probably heard if you follow music media closely (if you’re reading this, it’s safe to assume you do), or if you live in the greater New York metro area, legendary Hoboken, NJ venue Maxwell’s has officially closed its doors.
Generally considered one of the best venues in the New York area, the (barely) 200-person room offered an intimate, if not unique place to see bands. “Maxwell’s staff has always treated bands and patrons like very welcome company; bands get treated uniquely well there, and so they love playing there,” says WFMU’s Scott Williams, “audiences come back for the vibe, the size, and the great sound (and the decent odds that they’ll get to hang with various members of Sonic Youth or Yo La Tengo).” If I may go on personal harangue, Maxwell’s was pretty damn cool. Bands would often book a date in Manhattan or Brooklyn and tack on a show at Maxwell’s the next day before heading down to Philly on the East Coast touring circuit, and because of that, rarely would you have to deal with apathetic audience members casually glancing up from their phones or talking through sets. All the cool people already saw the band at the Music Hall of Williamsburg or the Bowery Ballroom. Hoboken is close enough to New York that it isn’t hard to get to from Manhattan, but inconvenient enough to scare off vapid scenesters. Considering how shitty parking is in Hoboken, anyone driving in from New Jersey was more than dedicated as well. If someone was at Maxwell’s for a show, they were there for the experience.
Speaking of parking, the city’s authoritarian parking policy’s factored into co-owner and booking agent Todd Abramson’s decision to leave; “for all intents and purposes,” he said in an article for New Jersey’s Star Ledger, “[parking has] been outlawed. I’ve had bands whose vans have been booted because the signs are so unclear.” Aside from parking woes, the attitude and taste of those in Hoboken has changed; “a lot of the bars downtown are fighting with each other for who has the most giant TVs,” continues Abramson, “That’s what Hoboken nightlife has become.” So thanks to the proliferation of cheap, giant LCD TVs and this asshole’s inexplicable popularity, most of the clientele that populated Maxwell’s has moved out.
So what does this mean for music fans on the west side of the Hudson? “What it definitely means is that no one has to endure the mile-long walk of shame up Washington Street anymore,” joked Williams adding, “hopefully, what it means is that someone will pick up the gauntlet in Jersey City, which seems to be turning back from about 10 years of hostility towards live music.” Rumors of the owners moving to a new location in Jersey City sprang up on the internet quickly, but as of now they remain rumors and speculation. Nothing official has been announced.
While it had its own feel, at the end of the day, Maxwell’s was just brick and wood. It may seem to contradict some of what I said a couple paragraphs ago, but what really matters, what made the place special wasn’t where it was or what it was made out of, but the people who managed it, and even more importantly, the people who frequented it. Regardless of the zip code or address, if Abramson and company do indeed find a new location and open up shop elsewhere, what made Maxwell’s something of landmark will move with them.
• Maxwell’s: http://maxwellsnj.com