The Feelies / July 2, 2008 / Hoboken, N.J. (Maxwell's)
For Haledon, N.J., new wave heroes the Feelies, the rock club Maxwell's in Hoboken is as vital to their fabric as the Stone Pony is their sonic brother on the South Shore, Bruce Springsteen.For Haledon, N.J., new wave heroes the Feelies, the rock club Maxwell's in Hoboken is as vital to their fabric as the Stone Pony is their sonic brother on the South Shore, Bruce Springsteen.
It opened the same year they were just starting to take flight, 1978, also the same year the Village Voice hailed them as the "Best Underground Band" in New York. They played there regularly for years, booking shows during various holidays and random weeknights whenever they could. It's where they cut their teeth on the wiry, dynamic hybrid of late '70s new wave's sharpness with Chuck Berry guitar rips and John Lennon's Beatle jangle, inspiring everyone from R.E.M. to Sonic Youth to their fellow elusive N.J. indie rock heirs the Wrens.
It was also the place they played their final show together, July 4, 1991, when founding guitarist Bill Million took up and left for Florida. Luckily for us, Million and his fellow founding Feelie, guitarist/frontman Glenn Mercer, never had an irreparable beef, always leaving the notion of a reunion not too far out of their reach. On the week of July 4 some 17 years later, the high school pals from the Jersey suburbs made good on that notion, and what better place to stage a homecoming than Maxwell's, followed by a free NYC concert co-headlined by patawan learners Sonic Youth.
The second of the group's two-night stand at the club was a full-tilt blast of everything that makes the Feelies one of the all-time great rock bands of the new wave era. Ripping through material from all four of their acclaimed albums and a few choice covers, the classic lineup of Million, Mercer, bassist Brenda Sauter and drummers Dave Weckerman and Stan Demeski were at their primal best.
The interweaving of Million's cavestomp-heavy rhythm guitar and the piercing guitar solos of Mercer gave the same jolt of urgency to the A&M material like "Slipping (Into Something)" from 1986's "The Good Earth" and "It's Only Life" from their 1988 classic "Only Life" as they did with material from their flagship masterpiece on Stiff, 1980's "Crazy Rhythms," like "Loveless Love," the continuously called-out-for "Fa-Ce-La" and their defiant version of the Rolling Stones' "Paint It, Black."
The covers spanned the scope of the Feelies' primary inspirations, and each were performed with the utmost grace and vinegar, be it Patti Smith's "Dancing Barefoot" with Sauter on lead vocals, Wire's "Outdoor Miner," Neil Young's "Barstool Blues" or the Beatles' "She Said, She Said." But Mercer and co. saved the best for last, dishing out two rockers from the Velvet Underground catalog in "We're Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together" and "What Goes On."
Though the Feelies were also well-known on the prolific city club circuit, gigging regularly at Max's Kansas City and CBGB, it was Maxwell's where you wanted to see these Boys with the Perpetual Nervousness get down, in their own neck of the woods. And on Independence Day week, just like they did all those years ago, they made a few hundred people's holiday another great one to remember.