Hoboken, part 2

There is another element to my relationship to Hoboken, completely unrelated to my dalliances with her northern section on my nightly rides from West New York: Maxwell’s.

It was/is a club that I had to come to know well since the early ’90s. There were many legendary bands I saw play there, many infamous nights I spent with close friends there, many memorable meals and drinks I shared with close friends there.

Last week, news broke that it was closing. I can’t say I was surprised. As a business, it had become noble in a town where money talked. Not that it was entirely noble in and of itself, just that it was a bastion of dire indie hope in a town that was quickly becoming the ‘Jersey Shore’ of Hudson County. Actually, it had been that case for a very long time before it decided to shut its doors, and everyone (myself included) chose to ignore the writing on the wall, even when they remodeled the bathrooms many years ago.

It was running its course pretty quickly. In between the many legendary bands, the many nights out between friends, there was the daily comings and goings of brunch for the locals, drinks for the few out-of-towners that made it that far down Washington Street, and bills to pay for the people that worked there and operated the restaurant.

Most nights it was pretty empty, despite the “legendary” status.

That was what occurred to me on the last night I saw a show there: April something-ish, 2011, Rebecca Gates and The Consortium. Gates led The Spinanes, I had been listening to her since 1993, and was an eager fan. There were maybe 30 people there. It wasn’t her doing. It was pouring rain outside, and for New Yorkers, it was still “New Jersey.” But, between my allegiances to Maxwell’s and Gates’ music, I decided to go.

Her band’s set was breathtaking. Between the 30 or so of us assembled, I knew we weren’t paying anyone’s way to the next show, let alone the rent on this magnificent show space that overlooked the Hudson River and the Empire State Building. In 1994, it made complete sense that me and my brother could drive north, see an obscure band play in Maxwell’s, and drive home. In 2011, it just wasn’t feasible anymore. And not just for the band, but also for the music listener.

The listeners didn’t seem to care as much, but the bands kept coming, amid exorbitant gas prices and hotel costs. I remember thinking during Gates’ set, “Should we invite them over? There’s four of them and they’re probably getting a meal and maybe $20 each out of this night.”

I didn’t extend the offer, their set was amazing, and Maxwell’s is soon to be closing. I guess that ends my tenure with Hoboken, with exception to nostalgia and the coffee smells on the northern end as one enters into Weehawken.

You can buy the very excellent last album from Rebecca Gates and The Consortium here, it is great.

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