Maxwell’s, RIP

Pub date June 5, 2013

Maxwell’s–one of the very first stops on the Indie rock circuit–closes up shop this July. In business since 1978, the Hoboken nightspot has hosted bands all the way from indie mainstays like Yo La Tengo and the Feelies and Husker Du and the Replacements to unlikelies like Blue Oyster Cult. But when their lease ends at the end of July, so do they.

Unlike their punkish forefather across the Hudson, CBGB, Maxwell’s wasn’t entirely done in by gentrification, although that undoubtedly had a part in it. Hoboken–once only famous for Sinatra–had gone from being a very cheap Big Apple alternative to another pricey borough. Mostly, the issues were parking (which had become impossible) and general malaise. Given that the place will have made 35 years in business, that’s a good run.

Whatever takes its place will have nowhere near the same effect. But it’s telling that club management says that their actual competition in Hoboken came more from sports bar and “big screen TV’s”.

That isn’t the only reason. Let’s get real here–tastes have changed and indie rock is not the music of choice among the most prized demo of club goers, folks 21-28. When I was bouncing at Bottom of the Hill and the Kilowatt in the mid 90’s, I noticed that while carding patrons, the number of habitues over 30 was rarely over 10%. This is 2013–the average clubgoer now was born in 1987, which means that by the time they came of age, most of what they’d heard was hip hop and techno. Rock hasn’t been a sizable player in radio listener demo (outside of oldies) for years. A 24 or 25 year old now has been into Electronic Dance Music for maybe 10 years and its reach has expanded as it has replaced or become a hybrid with hip hop as dominant pop music. The idea of a band with guitars is, well, quaint (and banjos and uke’s even quainter, and now commercially viable–who says “folk” is dead?). However much I’d like to think that the “Beatles set up” (two guitars, bass, drums) would live forever–nothing does.

The Maxwell’s of the world cannot compete with DJ’s. The latter are solo acts whose music is immediately accessible. They’re cheaper and the relentless and steady flow of beats mean dancing feet and drinking faces. Clubs love that. They do not love five bands jousting for 40 minute sets, changeovers, audiences fleeing and complete indifference–who can blame them?

Everything that lives has to die. I played Maxwell’s once, in 1984. Good place. Played a zillion other places that are now gone, from CB’s to the Rat to Raji’s to Nightbreak–and it doesn’t pain me to say that they’re gone. They’re rooms–what counts is the music and the people. Mourning the Mabuhay or the I-Beam or Max’s Kansas City or the Satyricon or Off Ramp is silly. They, like Maxwell’s, are alive in your memories just like the clubs the EDM fans go to now will live in theirs. Viva le whatever, OK?