It Was Never The “Legendary” Maxwell’s To Me

This was where I met and made friends. Where I discovered new music and art. Where I ate delicious food. Where I drank. Where I laughed.

Crowd at the 2011 Hoboken Music Awards

To many, Maxwell’s was a landmark that needed to be experienced. To me, it was my local bar. My memories are different than a lot of my friends. I can’t even remember my first show there. It was probably a local band. I didn’t see many famous acts here (before or after they achieved fame). Oh sure there was the time I got to rub up against Christy Turlington on my way to the back room to see her husband Ed Burns play. Believe me, my subtle contact with her was way more satisfying that his guitar work.

There were the Yo-La-Tengo shows. The various shows featuring members of The Bongos and The Feelies. The English Beat. Swingadelic. The Gefkens. Skanatra. As an emcee, I got to share the stage with Chris Butler of The Waitresses. Steve Holley of Wings. Ted Mason of Modern English. And that’s about as close to fame as I got.

For me, Maxwell’s will always be the place where I met the most wonderful people on the planet who became close friends. Far too many to name here for fear of leaving someone off the list. Just search my site and you’ll see them. With more to come as I scour my photos for things my life outside of publishing inadvertently prevented me from posting.

It was also a place where I got to host and even book a handful of shows over the years. For that I have to thank co-owner and booker Todd Abramson for indulging me. You see, he didn’t have to. One of the best things about Maxwell’s was that — despite being in high demand for national acts — there was always room for us slovenly locals. And not in the “oh we’ll find a place for you sometime on a Monday after midnight” sorta way like CBGB or other so-called legendary clubs. We were often given free reign of a night.

Whether it was the Hoboken Music Awards, the Clueless Global Fund for Women benefits, Gibbypalooza or whatever, I always felt respected. There was never this shunning of the locals that you see in other places. None of the “tell us who you’re here to see” bullshit at the door in order to get paid. It was just a wonderfully fair place to put on a show. And one of the few places left that was literally an all-ages venue. I’ve seen patrons from 8 to 80 years old rockin’ out here.

That’s how I choose to remember Maxwell’s. Not to take away from it’s legendary status. Nirvana, R.E.M., New Order, Replacements and more cut their teeth here. When we say Hoboken is losing a landmark, we’re not bragging. It’s the honest truth. Take a look at the outpouring of memories on the Maxwell’s Of Hoboken, NJ Facebook group.

But what makes the loss of this place even more tragic are all the other things Maxwell’s was to so many different people. One of the better restaurants in the area. Nothing fancy. American comfort fare done like no other. The Grilled Chicken Sandwich with heavenly Herb Mayo (I could do shots of that stuff). The Sheppards Pie. The Chicken Pot Pie. The Meatloaf … my god THE MEATLOAF!! The Naughty Veggie Burger (you know, with bacon).

And then there was the art. I’ve seen some of the finest, most creative art displayed on the walls of this place. It’s one of the things that inspired me to buy my cafe. I love the idea of “alternative” gallery space. Especially in a town whose cultural identity has been fading away for over a decade and now seems to be in a free fall.

And there in lies the true sadness of the loss of Maxwell’s. That it not only survived, but remained true to it’s integrity for 35 years in this town is a miracle and a testament to those who owned it, ran it, worked it, played it, called it home. You will all be missed.

Godspeed Maxwell’s…

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