Maxwell's, the venerated music venue and bar in Hoboken, New Jersey long known for its eclectic and independent-minded bookings, will be closing its doors after 35 years at the end of July, the Star-Ledger has reported.
Speaking to Star-Ledger reporter Tris McCall, Maxwell's co-owner and booker Todd Abramson described a situation where playing it safe seemed the only option. "We were offered a renewal with rates that weren't necessarily onerous, but after much thought, given the changing nature of Hoboken and the difficulties of trying to run a business in this town, we decided it was time."
Abramson, who began booking the club in 1986, went on to explain that the club's last night, July 31 will be headlined by 'a,' the first band to play the music venue when it was launched in 1978 by Steve Fallon. Other artists who played the venue off Hoboken's Washington Avenue at 11th Street over the course of its four decade span, reads like an alternative rock primer and includes: Nirvana, New Order, REM, the Replacements, Husker Du, Liz Phair, The Minute Men, Wire, X, Yo La Tengo, Sonic Youth, X, Pylon, Dinosaur Jr. and the Red Hot Chili Peppers among many others. Hometown heroes Yo La Tengo, who formed in Hoboken, have played their nearly-annual 8-night Hanukkah shows at the venue since 2001.
This isn't the first time that Maxwell's has closed -- in the late '90s a failed reboot of the venue as a brew pub led to Abramson and two partners, Sonic Youth's Steve Shelley and the Amazing Incredibles' Dave Post, reclaiming the space and continuing to run it as it had been previously. At other times, according to the Cliff View Pilot, Peter Buck of REM owned a stake in the club to help keep it running; and later Bob Mould, formerly of Husker Du, bought out Buck’s share.
Maxwell's may have gained its greatest mainstream exposure in 1985 when the venue was used as the backdrop to Bruce Springsteen's “Glory Days” video directed by local John Sayles (below).
The club was also a loci of Hoboken's indie rock community spawning several other Hoboken music institutions: 'a,' which consisted of Richard Barone, Glenn Morrow, Frank Giannini and Rob Norris would go on to form the basis of the Bongos. Morrow would become a partner in Hoboken's Bar/None Records label, which Tom Prendergast, a Maxwell's bartender, launched in 1986. Earlier, in 1982, Prendergast co-founded the town's beloved Pier Platters record store with co-worker Bill Ryan and help from Maxwell's Fallon.
During a 1998 interview with the New York Times, Abramson described the uniqueness of Maxwell's, pointing to the very thing that made the institution stand for as long as it did: "We get a lot of the same bands that play in New York clubs, but the performers tend to be more relaxed here because in clubs of this size in the city, many of the tickets will be bought by the band's record label or the concert promoter. There's less pressure on the performers when they play here. Also, it's exciting to see these great bands in Hoboken, a city of 30,000, and in a place that only holds 200 people."
Abramson, according to the Star-Ledger will continue to book shows at the Bell House, a larger club located in Brooklyn's Gowanus neighborhood.