Ted Leo, Titus Andronicus and more share their Maxwell's memories

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Hoboken’s legendary Maxwell’s has been an indie- and alt-rock epicenter since 1978, acting as a home base of sorts for New Jersey faves Yo La Tengo and the Feelies, and attracting a slew of diverse acts from around the globe. (As recently as March of this year, Rolling Stone rightfully named it one of the best clubs in the country.)


Sadly, the venue will shutter its doors at the end of the month; the club will throw a last-hurrah block party on July 31, and shows are booked up until very end. For a look back at what the venue has meant to musicians and their fans, we asked some of the artists playing in the next few weeks—including Ted Leo, Titus Andronicus’s Patrick Stickles, and Shell and Shag from Shellshag—along with The Best Show on WFMU's Tom Scharpling to share their Maxwell’s memories.


  • Photograph: Matias Corral

    Ted Leo, musician
    "When I was younger, Maxwell's meant saving me the extra 15 minutes of not having to take the PATH into Manhattan to see the bands I wanted to see. As opposed to going to the Pyramid or CBGB’s for hardcore shows, Maxwell's had a more sophisticated musical cache—a lot of the bands that’d go there wouldn’t even necessarily be on my radar as a teenage punk kid. Instead of going to see bands who were exactly my peers, there were people just a few years older doing a few more interesting and eye-opening things, and I think that was actually really valuable as a scene to be able to tap into.”

    "Some of the best shows I've ever seen [were] at Maxwell's. I saw the Fugazi show in 1988 that they took the photo on their first record [1990's Repeater], and that was something. As legendary as the confrontational nature of the first few years of those Fugazi shows was, to be a part of that energy in such a small room was incredible. It felt explosive. The loudest show I've ever seen in my life was the Smashing Pumpkins at Maxwell's, probably a year or two later. I actually left. [Laughs] It was pointlessly loud. It was the only time in my life that I've ever been like, you know what, this is dumb. It's actually hurting my ears and it’s dumb. I walked outside and smoked a cigarette, and I don't even smoke. [Laughs] I was that frustrated.

    "As Todd Abramson has indicated in some statements about why [Maxwell's is] moving, it signals the true end of an era for Hoboken. It's emblematic of the next phase in the changing of the New York area—Lower Manhattan even as recently as 15 years ago is a completely different place than it is today, and it's the same thing with Hoboken. For Jersey, that's a pretty big loss. In terms of just nostalgia and comfort, arriving at a place that is so familiar to you where you still know so many of the staff, that’s something that you always miss when it disappears. Also, I gotta say, it's a great-sounding room. It's one of the best places to actually see a band."Ted Leo plays Maxwell’s July 21 at 9pm (with Shellshag); sold out.

  • Photograph: Mindy Tucker

    Tom Scharpling (right), host of The Best Show on WFMU
    "The first cool rock show I wanted to see was at Maxwell's. It was Redd Kross on New Year's Eve. I was underage and tried to sneak in with a friend. We were denied and I swore I’d never go back there again. Little did I know that it would rapidly become my favorite rock club of all time. Todd Abramson and Steve Fallon did the people of New Jersey a solid by bringing awesome shows to Hoboken night after night. Maxwell's will soon be gone but my appreciation for the club and the people who made it special will never go away."

  • Photograph: Kyle Dean Reinford

    Patrick Stickles (center), guitarist and vocalist for Titus Andronicus
    "My first, most important memory, is being a 16-year-old kid and taking the train to Hoboken to see my first show at Maxwell's, MC Paul Barman. It was my first time ever going to an alternative rock club. All of the concerts I'd been to up to that point were either bands made up of my peers playing the high school cafeteria or in mom’s basement, or arena rock. As a sixteen-year-old I didn't appreciate that there was another world of medium-capacity venues where people were doing more exciting, challenging music that had less of an opportunity to fill up Madison Square Garden. That was an amazing gift that Maxwell’s gave me.

    "I played in a band called the Library of Congress back in 2004, right before Titus Andronicus started, and we did a show at Maxwell's on a Sunday night. We got 50 of our friends to come, so it was a smashing success as far as we were concerned. It was a validating thing: Maxwell’s was real rock star shit, and we pulled it off—so who knows what other kind of stuff we could do? Then years later Titus started to play there; pretty soon we were headlining shows; and pretty soon the headlining shows were selling out, and that was like a big dream. Some people think the American dream means that you play at Madison Square Garden or the Barclays Center. My American dream was to play at Maxwell's, and I got it.”
     
    "Hoboken is just a garbage dump for bros [who] are running the Hoboken scene now. And so of course Maxwell's is gonna close! Hoboken used to be an artistic community, then these developers moved in, took it over and sold it to bros for twice, three times, ten times what it was worth, turned Hoboken into a playground for the upper class, for the richest and dumbest people from NJ to move, to basically fucking retire at the age of 22." Titus Andronicus plays Maxwell’s July 14–16 at 9pm; sold out.

  • Shell and Shag, musicians, Shellshag
    "As live performers, through the ’90s and ’00s we always left a Maxwell's show feeling good. We could always count on good sound, good pay, good food and good people welcoming our band. This kind of respect has helped our band stay together. When you're born and raised in New Jersey, you spend a good amount of time defending it. Maxwell's is one of the places that made NJ cool. Perhaps too cool, which could be why it is time for them to go, but that’s another story.

    "We view our upcoming show with Ted Leo as a celebration for two reasons. It's our first show with the awe inspiring Ted and our last show at Maxwell's. Although we are crushed we can no longer rely on Maxwell's for a fantastic show experience in NJ, we are celebrating that the club survived as long as it did and that they are closing by choice with a history they can be proud of.

    "Our absolute favorite past show at Maxwell's was with The Slits, Screaming Females, and Hunchback on March 24, 2008. It was very exciting to see such a diverse show with musical legends from different generations sharing the stage. Our Shellshag Forever record release show on April 20, 2013, with Screaming Females, Swearin, Hilly Eye, and Great Thunder, was also one we will never forget for pretty obvious reasons. Thank you, Maxwell's. You will be missed but never forgotten." Shellshag plays Maxwell’s July 21 at 9pm (with Ted Leo); sold out.

  • Photograph: Christopher Patrick Ernst

    Marissa Paternoster (right), guitarist and vocalist for Screaming Females
    "I don’t remember what show it was, but we were headlining, and my extremely Italian-American second cousin Mario showed up, and I had no idea who he was. He has a really thick accent and was wearing a T-shirt that said made in italy, and he came up the stage and was like, 'Yo, Maris! Do you know who I am?' And I was like, I have no idea who you are. And he was like, 'I’m your freakin' cousin Mario!' [Laughs] He went on this tirade about how [Screaming Females] are, and I quote, 'just one beat away from having a major hit,' and that last week he’d gone to see Bon Jovi and was in the eighth row, no big deal. He made me do a shot with him, and the bartenders were just cracking up because he was like a cartoon character. They were trying to close the bar and he really needed to do this shot with me. We wound up having to do shots of vodka, which is disgusting, but it made him very happy. Consequently, every time after the Mario incident that I've been to Maxwell's, whenever I walk in if the bartenders are there, they'll be like, 'Yo, Maris, what's up!' Cousin Mario really made an impression on the club, and me. [Laughs]”

    "[I'll miss] the comfort in knowing that Maxwell's is there. When you're traveling and people ask you where there is to play in your state, now I'm gonna be like, I don't know, nowhere? The answer used to be that if you wanted to play at a very nice bar and restaurant venue with a great history, it'd be Maxwell's. Now I don't really have an answer.” Screaming Females plays Maxwell's July 21 at 3pm; sold out.

  • Photograph: Tim Shahady

    Mike V (second from left), guitarist and vocalist for the Everymen
    "Maxwell's was home base for many of us. It was church. It was a respite. And in the ever-shifting cultural landscape of Hudson County, it was a constant. No matter how deeply we'd be infiltrated with youths, no matter how many new sports bars and mirco-pubs and dance clubs opened around town, you could always catch a good show at Maxwell's and, more importantly, you could always see some refreshingly familiar smiles. We grew up at Maxwell's. We became the old guys we used to make fun of at punk shows. We were the old guard and this was our fort. In a strictly sentimental (but very real-feeling) way, Maxwell's belonged to all of us. Hopefully our memories will always be as vibrant as the blue facade on Washington and the red brick walls inside the world's greatest rock & roll club." The Everymen plays Maxwell’s July 12 at 10pm; $10.

Photograph: Matias Corral

Ted Leo, musician
"When I was younger, Maxwell's meant saving me the extra 15 minutes of not having to take the PATH into Manhattan to see the bands I wanted to see. As opposed to going to the Pyramid or CBGB’s for hardcore shows, Maxwell's had a more sophisticated musical cache—a lot of the bands that’d go there wouldn’t even necessarily be on my radar as a teenage punk kid. Instead of going to see bands who were exactly my peers, there were people just a few years older doing a few more interesting and eye-opening things, and I think that was actually really valuable as a scene to be able to tap into.”

"Some of the best shows I've ever seen [were] at Maxwell's. I saw the Fugazi show in 1988 that they took the photo on their first record [1990's Repeater], and that was something. As legendary as the confrontational nature of the first few years of those Fugazi shows was, to be a part of that energy in such a small room was incredible. It felt explosive. The loudest show I've ever seen in my life was the Smashing Pumpkins at Maxwell's, probably a year or two later. I actually left. [Laughs] It was pointlessly loud. It was the only time in my life that I've ever been like, you know what, this is dumb. It's actually hurting my ears and it’s dumb. I walked outside and smoked a cigarette, and I don't even smoke. [Laughs] I was that frustrated.

"As Todd Abramson has indicated in some statements about why [Maxwell's is] moving, it signals the true end of an era for Hoboken. It's emblematic of the next phase in the changing of the New York area—Lower Manhattan even as recently as 15 years ago is a completely different place than it is today, and it's the same thing with Hoboken. For Jersey, that's a pretty big loss. In terms of just nostalgia and comfort, arriving at a place that is so familiar to you where you still know so many of the staff, that’s something that you always miss when it disappears. Also, I gotta say, it's a great-sounding room. It's one of the best places to actually see a band."Ted Leo plays Maxwell’s July 21 at 9pm (with Shellshag); sold out.


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