(above : actually a photo taken at ABC No Rio, but this seems to be how one businessman recalls the old Maxwell’s)
Hoboken, NJ’s Maxwell’s was eulogized in this space last year (“The Place That Ran Contrary To (Almost) Every Negative Rock Club Stereotype : A Fond Farewell To Maxwell’s”) thusly : “even before CBGB’s booking turned into an orgy of indifference, Maxwell’s took a curatorial approach to the old & new in a manner that respected the intelligence of the audience & performers alike. In stark contrast to barns like City Gardens or The Ritz, Maxwell’s felt like a place that was owned & staffed by persons who thought the players and paying customers were friends and peers. As opposed to, y’know, targets & tools in the all-important struggle to sell more beer.” Of course, times change, neighborhoods get pricey, and a new generation of monied types have their own ideas of what does or doesn’t constitute quality entertainment. Enter the co-owner of the new Maxwell’s, Peter Carr, whom the Hudson Reporter’s Carlo Davis credits with turning what used to be a tremendous performance space for 30 decades + of pioneering bands of local and international import into a home for “trivia, stand-up comedy and fantasy football.” For better or (mostly) worse, Carr’s decided to reintroduce live music to the mix (a random assortment of “American Idol” runner ups, cover bands and would-be Blues Hammers), though he hilariously claims, “we’re trying to get back to some of the roots of Maxwell’s”. I wonder what he thinks those roots are?
In the old days when Maxwell’s was at its height,” said Carr, “it was primarily punk rock and grunge, and that was kind of back in the day when the artists could afford to live in Hoboken. Some of that’s changed and the demographics are a lot different than they used to be so we’re trying to cater to the demographics that we see in the town.”
“It’s not an old broken down stage with PA systems and your feet sticking to the floor because the floor hasn’t been washed in two weeks,” said Carr. “The old place was a dive.”
In seeking a new upscale concept, Carr holds little nostalgia for the Maxwell’s that was. “The place has been completely redone,” said Carr. “It’s nice, it’s clean, it’s open, the food’s good, so it’s a whole different type of atmosphere than the old Maxwell’s, where you would have the people…come in and have a hamburger and drink and spill stuff all over the floor and go into the back room and jump up and down and get their ears blasted out. This is a lot higher quality.”
Alright, this (dopey) entrepreneur is more than entitled to try and make a buck however he sees fit, but any characterization of the old Maxwell’s as either a) a punk/grunge HQ or b) biohazard-central is pretty off, especially the “dive” comments. By the standards of real dives, Maxwell’s was one of the cleaner, best maintained, more hospitable live music venues in the entire country. It’s mostly the booking that made it special, but the room itself was great (the P.A., especially). Was it a “punk” club, you ask?.Only the hardest of the hardcore. I nearly sprained my ankle trying to stage dive at a Richard Thompson show ( because the entire audience was sitting quietly on the floor and I kept tripping on people).
The irony is that Carr is dissing a place that by most rock’n’roll standards (at least those for clubs too small to have VIP viewing decks) was pretty upscale (yet very welcoming to all who played or attended). It’s very likely there’s been enough turnover in Hoboken that there’s few persons remaining who’d be offended at Carr trashing a local institution that generated so much goodwill (and curiously, a brand name he still wants to milk). But it’s not great P.R., and the Hudson Reporter’s willingness to let Carr’s claims run unchallenged isn’t great journalism, either.