How to Be the Old Guy at the Music Festival
It was a small room of 200, but Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth, Peter Buck of R.E.M., Bob Mould of Husker Du and Sugar all thought enough of it to serve as investors at various points, with Shelley owning a piece of it to this day. Nirvana played there and did a photo shoot there. The photo behind the cover of Fugazi's Repeater album was taken at Maxwell's. Guided By Voices and The Meat Puppets recorded live albums there and the video for Bruce Springsteen's Glory Days was filmed there. Basically, if you have gray hair, a dresser full of black T-shirts and jeans and an extensive vinyl collection, you may have heard of the place.
So what killed it? Did rising rents kill it, like they killed legendary punk club CBGB's just across the river on The Bowery? Nope. Did it have a tough time selling out shows at the end? Nope, Titus Andronicus, We Were Promised Jetpacks and Mountain Goats shows all sold out within the past month. The main culprit is The Old Guy At The Rock Show. We'll let Todd Abramson, the club's co-owner who has booked acts there since 1986, explain in detail.
"Parking has always been difficult in this town," Abramson told Star-Ledger writer Tris McCall. "But now, for all intents and purposes, it's been outlawed. I've had bands whose vans have been booted because the signs are so unclear."
Yep, that's right, it's closing because there isn't enough parking. Oh, and because The Cake Boss, JWoww, Snooki and various cast members of The Real Housewives of New Jersey have turned the town's nightlife into a sea of LED screens and cheap cocktails.
"The culture in Hoboken is driven by TV now," Abramson continued. "A lot of the bars downtown are fighting with each other for who has the most giant TVs. That's what Hoboken nightlife has become."
If those explanations sound a little cranky, there's a reason for it: It's just reflecting the mood of the clientele. The people who came to shows during Maxwell's punk and alt-rock heyday in the '80s and '90s are, at best, in their late 30s by now or, at worst, are putting kids of their own through college. They left Hoboken, Jersey City and Lower Manhattan for the surrounding suburbs years ago and found parking in Hoboken a tremendous pain when they came back in for Feelies shows or Yo La Tengo's annual Hanukkah parties.
And while younger audiences still make it in for Titus Andronicus, Ted Leo and Miracle of '86 shows, most of the action has shifted over to Brooklyn and left Hoboken to a crowd that prizes table service and fantasy baseball scores over indie bands and pre-set pot pie at Maxwell's restaurant. The venue's core audience, Gen Xers, are as former Gizmodo writer Mat Honan so honestly put it two years ago older, more exhausted and less prone to put up with nonsense like circling the block for parking. Even Portland, Ore., alt-weekly Willamette Week advised fans "older than 32" heading to the Sasquatch! Festival in Washington to "probably just get a jump on traffic" rather than checking out the Postal Service's 10 to 11:30 p.m. Memorial Day set.