The Club Is No Longer Open: Memories of Maxwell’s

[The following is a guest post from Christopher Harris.  As a native New Jerseyian and an indie-rock fan since the early days, he has a special attachment to Maxwell’s and everything it represents. He shared his thoughts below.]

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Today is August 1, 2013 which means that Maxwell’s is officially closed.  Recently we’ve been bombarded with articles about the closing and history of the now legendary Hoboken bar and restaurant.  I still have yet to come to terms with the fact that I will never be able to see another band in what is considered to be one of the best clubs in the NYC area.  I thought I’d talk a little about the best show I ever saw there, Guided By Voices on December 30, 2010.

I have been to Maxwell’s more times than I can count at this point.  I grew up in the New Jersey suburbs and missed out on City Gardens (which closed in the 90s).  When I was in high school, Asbury Park’s The Stone Pony closed for a few years. Unless you wanted to see cover bands or travel to New York or Philly to catch a band, we were only left with Birch Hill to see live bands (until it closed in the early 2000s).  

I discovered Maxwell’s in college when I heard that Yo La Tengo was going to be doing eight shows for Hanukkah. I ventured from NYC to Washington Street and 11th Street for the first time.  I got way too drunk and really don’t remember much about the show except that it was a really cool venue.

Fast forward to 2010: the year of 90’s indie rock reunions.  That fall, I had seen Superchunk, Pavement and Guided by Voices within a few weeks of each other.  The Guided By Voices show was at Terminal 5 which has a reputation for being one of the worst music venues in New York City and I left very disappointed.  I had seen GBV twice before they broke up and they sounded pretty bad on this reunion. But I figured it was the venue, not the band.  

A few weeks later, the band announced a New Years Eve show at Irving Plaza. I already had plans for that night so I had to skip this show.  Days before the show was to take place, they announced a warm up show at Maxwell’s the night before and I knew I had to go.  I have never before (or after) spent as much for two tickets to a club show then for this one but it was absolutely worth it.  

[image by Christopher Harris]When you charge $85 per ticket for a bar with a 200 person capacity you are pretty much going to guarantee that only the biggest fans show up and that they did.  

I started off in the way back of the room but somehow was pushed into the very front by the end of the night.  They played for hours, only the classic era material. Every single person in the room was hammered as they sang the words to every single song. It was probably the most respectful crowd I have ever encountered.  If anyone had their phones out, they were mindful of those fans around them as to not disrupt the line of vision straight to the band. I have not seen this type of respect ever before or anytime since.   

I’ve gone to many other Guided By Voices shows and many shows at Maxwell’s since but none have compared to that night.  The venue may move to Jersey City but who knows if it will be the same.  Brooklyn is where you have to see bands now. But for a while, New Jersey had a unique place that wasn’t filled with memories of Bruce Springsteen or Bon Jovi and for that I thank everyone that helped make Maxwell’s what it was.


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