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Saying Farewell to a Legendary East Coast Venue: After 35 years, Maxwell’s closes its doors

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The Bongos’ grand finale at Maxwell’s | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com

All photos by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com

A rousing cover of Big Star’s “Thank You Friends” was a sincere and apt final song for the occasion last Wednesday in Hoboken, N.J.

On July 31, Maxwell’s closed its doors for good after 35 years of intimate gigs with established and unknown bands of local and international pedigrees. A full house of 200 attendees packed the back room of the restaurant, bar, venue and nexus of alternative musicology for a double-bill curated with an air of history. The first band to ever play the venue, “a,” which had not played its songs since 1978, and The Bongos, a Hoboken band of the past (and the future). As there was a dream for a Hoboken of a time gone by, there is a wealth of evidence for the spirit of Maxwell’s to continue on in bands, other venues and the desires of the public for great music.

“In a lot of ways, Maxwell’s was to Hoboken what J.C. Dobbs on South Street in Philly used to be in the ‘80s and ‘90s and what Johnny Brenda’s is to Philly now — a center of a great local music scene that brought in emerging national bands,” WXPN program director Bruce Warren said. ”I saw one of the earlier Yo La Tengo Hanukkah shows, Freedy Johnston, the Bongos, fIREHOSE; I saw an insane Sonic Youth show there. I was also a fan of Bar/None Records, from Hoboken, which is still thriving, and if one of the bands on the label were playing, I’d go up.”

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Scott McCaughey performing with Dennis Diken with Bell Sound in August of 2010 | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com

Musicians also eagerly reminisced about their Maxwell’s experiences.

“The closing of Maxwell’s is sad, primarily because of all the essential rock ‘n’ roll memories it brings to me,” said Scott McCaughey, who played there with Young Fresh Fellows, The Minus 5 and The Baseball Project.

McCaughey cited performing “The Gorilla” on the bar, singing with Dennis Diken and Bell Sound, “any number of rabble-rousing Fleshtones shows and especially the many ridiculous Young Fresh Fellows nights, going back to our earliest days.”

Linda Pitmon, who plays drums behind McCaughey in The Baseball Project, said Maxwell’s shows were particularly memorable.

“As a performer I’m going to miss that little thrill I’ve always felt walking in to that small, square, unassuming but perfect rock room,” Pitmon said. “Maxwell’s gigs never cease to stand out in my mind. They don’t become subsumed into the blob of generic shows.”

Glenn Morrow, one of the founders of Bar/None Records and member of two bands that played on the last night of Maxwell’s – “a” and The Individuals – will miss Maxwell’s more as a member of the public than as a performer.

“I’m probably sadder as an audience member,” Morrow said. “I live four blocks away! Even more than being on stage, it was such a great place to see music. I saw so many great shows there: The Feelies, the Replacements, the Gun Club, Mission of Burma, Pylon, Husker Du, the dB’s, They Might Be Giants, Sonic Youth, Big Black, The Fleshtones, Ted Leo. The list is endless.” Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Chris Sikich’s top five concert photos of 2012

For The Key’s year-in-review, we asked our trusted sources – our writers and photographers, XPN’s on-air staff, fellow bloggers in the Philly scene and even a few musicians – to send us their Top Five Whatevers. Could be the traditional music route – albums, songs, concerts of the year – or it could be only loosely connected. We’ll be sharing these recaps every day through to the end of the year. Today, contributing photographer Chris Sikich recounts his five favorite concert images from the year.

The following represent my five favorite concert photos I took this year.

1.Wild Flag, Tuesday, April 3, 2012, Trocadero Theatre, Philadelphia, PA

Very little in contemporary rock is closer to perfection than bringing together Carrie Brownstein, Mary Timony, Janet Weiss, and Rebecca Cole in one space. The aural ecstasy that is a Wild Flag concert oozes forth from this shot: Brownstein’s leg-kick, Timony’s guitar crouch, Cole as keyboard-extraordinaire, and Weiss at one with drumming.

Photo by Chris Sikich

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