Maxwell’s of Hoboken, NJ, is one of the last iconic punk/alternative clubs in the New York Tri-State area. And. It is a loss on par with that of CBGB in terms of its history and importance, leaving an impression on its corner address at 1039 Washington St. all the children of the Real Housewives of NJ combined could never take away, no matter how many of those brats move there.
“It’s a consequence of the ever-rising tide of gentrification,” explains Titus Andronicus singer Patrick Stickles in a recent New Jersey Star-Ledger article about the effect Maxwell’s closure will have on the rich local indie rock movement it helped incubate throughout the club’s entire existence, namely leaving a massive sinkhole in the northern part of the state’s live music circuit. “Hoboken used to be a place for working-class people to live. Then artists came and created a community to support a space as legendary as Maxwell’s. Create enough of those amenities, and then the developers move in. Then the artists get priced out.”
But while the doors of its terrestrial bones might be closing forever to the horror and dismay of the two generations of musicians, fans and hangers-on who’ve made the place what it is in its 34 year existence, the memories of this historic space live on forever courtesy of the Internet. Here are ten moments that can easily be argued to be the most essential to go down in that beautiful basement, the likes of which will never be experienced again
1. Bruce Springsteen “Glory Days“: The Stone Pony is normally the Jersey rock club often associated with The Boss. But Bruce and the E Street Band opted to film the video for the Born in the U.S.A. hit “Glory Days” at Maxwell’s, where they eschewed the stage in favor of jamming right on the barroom floor. It would be the only time Springsteen would ever play the place, though you never know what this final month may bring!
2. Nirvana 7/13/89: Maxwell’s was always a go-to space for the acts on the burgeoning Sub Pop label back in their first couple of years of operation. And, miraculously, someone had the wherewithal to film a savage young Nirvana playing a summer date at the club in support of their blistering debut LP Bleach, where the original trio of Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic and drummer Chad Channing blasted through such pre-fab favorites as “Blew”, “Floyd the Barber” and “Negative Creep” in addition to a primitive version of the Nevermind number “Polly”. The cut of this footage is rough, but well worth checking out from a historical standpoint.
3. The Replacements ’86 and ’89: This pair of ‘Mats gigs from Maxwell’s are two of the greatest examples of the legendarily sloppy band playing for keeps. The ’86 show is one of their last East Coast dates with original guitarist Bob Stinson, and the crude video footage of soundcheck that precedes the excellent A- audio audience capture of the actual show is perhaps the most valuable visual closeup of Bob’s infamously awesome six-string style onstage available anywhere. Meanwhile, the ’89 show is an audio-only affair that is somewhat crude but listenable enough document of the band—with a healthy Slim Dunlap in tow—letting off the stream of dealing with audiences full of drunken troglodytes opening for Tom Petty on his summer tour in support of Full Moon Fever.
4. The Minutemen 10/27/85: Maxwell’s has always been a favorite haunt for legendary punk bassist Mike Watt. Having seen him five years ago there myself on his “Prac’n the 3rd Opera” tour with his group the Missingmen, the man definitely owns every square foot of that room once he steps onstage. But nothing could’ve touched being eyewitness to seeing one of his electrifying performances with The Minutemen at the club, highlighted by this beautifully captured audience recording available on Archive.org. Two months after this October 85 show frontman D. Boon would be dead, the tragic victim of a freak auto accident. But it is a marvel to know that one of the guitar great’s last great shows not only went down at Maxwell’s but is available for download onto your desktop at the click of a button. http://archive.org/details/minutemen1985-10-27.flac16
5. Yo La Tengo Hanukkah shows at NYC Taper
“Without this club, this band doesn’t exist,” Ira Kaplan recently stated in a recent Jersey Journal article about Maxwell’s. “And [club owner] Todd Abramson is the last person in America to admit he’s booking a club and not ‘curating’ it.” And one of Abramson’s hottest tickets was always YLT’s famous Hanukkah residency, where the Hoboken trio would play all eight days of the Jewish holiday, where they would freewheel each night with random guests, spontaneous jams and quirky covers. The last few years of the Yo La Hanukkah gigs are available for download at NYCTaper.com. I suggest you start with Night 6 of last year and work your way back. And don’t forget to check out the opening act sets too from the likes of Jeff Tweedy and Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake while you’re at it.
6. Jonathan Demme films The Feelies’ “Away” video at Maxwell’s
Married to the Mob wasn’t the only masterpiece the Academy Award-winning director crafted in 1988, as the Silence of the Lambs auteur shot the video for the Feelies’ “hit” single off their masterful (and still woefully out-of-print) third album Only Life in the very space that made the band a household name for every hipster in the Tri-State area during the Reagan years.
7. The Hoboken Sound Channel 5 news piece: Long before WNYW became gobbled up by Roger Ailes and the Fox News machine, the local newsteam had the creative (and sociopolitical) freedom to produce shows like this awesomely obscure show hosted by legendary Channel 5 reporter Bob O’Brien, which chronicles some of the great early bands of the “Hoboken Sound”, including The Feelies, The Cucumbers and Chris Stamey’s post-dB’s band The Chris Stamey Group in addition to candid interviews with Glen Morrow of The Individuals and club owner Steve Fallon. A must-watch for any fan of Maxwell’s!
8. Husker Du Release Live EP with Live Jam from Maxwell’s
This raucous gig at the height of the Minneapolis punk trio’s tour in support of their major label debut Candy Apple Grey, which was only a month fresh in the local Tower Records at the time, is one of the best and rarest official releases to emerge from the room. But it is well worth the hunt. Seek it out if you dare.
9. Elliott Smith 8/12/98: http://archive.org/details/ElliottSmith1998-08-12.sbd.flac16 This storied gig from the XO era, long available on the bootleg market as an audience recording but now available as a crystalline soundboard on Archive.org, is so clear and pleasing to the auditory canal it’s a wonder it hasn’t been made available as an official posthumous release yet. Highlights include a rare live reading of “Tomorrow, Tomorrow” and heart-stopping covers of George Harrison’s “Isn’t It A Pity” and Big Star’s “Thirteen”. Go download it right now. What are you waiting for??
10. The Wrens celebrate 20th Anniversary by playing their masterpiece The Meadowlands in its entirety:
It has been a solid decade since local heroes The Wrens released their outstanding third full-length. And while there’s been talk of the band finally aligning the stars of their hectic (and decidedly non-rock star) private lives enough to start work on the long-awaited follow-up to The Meadowlands (rumored to be coming out sometime this year), you can anticipate the promise of new material by watching the Wrens perform their 2003 must-own from front to back on the Maxwell’s stage in celebration of their 20th anniversary in December of 2009, starting with this fiery version of LP highlight “13 Months in 6 Minutes” featuring Beth Wawerna of Bird of Youth on guest vocals.