Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Chris Halleron on the passing of a national music institution - Maxwell's

Chris Halleron is a Hoboken resident and this story originally appeared on his website chrishalleron.com before finding its way here as Guest of the Stable.



Snotty Brooklynite Hipster: “Y’know, Hoboken is nothing but a homogenized, flavorless suburban enclave full of yuppies and strollers.”

Self-Loathing Yuppie Hobokenite: “Oh yeah? Well we still have Maxwell’s.”

Checkmate. That argument has now been taken off the table.

With the breaking news of its impending demise, I’ll sit here and eulogize Maxwell’s—along with a number of post-post-post collegiate current and former Hoboken residents—because it’s a pretty big blow to the community. In my 15-year Hoboken tenure I’ve seen a lot places come and go—a fair amount of sh!tholes, but a few gems. Maxwell’s is more than a gem, it’s a cornerstone… and now it’s being removed.

It’s not the first major change to hit Hoboken. I imagine the Lenape Indians were equally, if not more pissed off when the Dutch moved in and tore down the first Wigwam. “Ah man—that was Ockanickon’s old joint. We used to have some pretty sweet drum circles down there.” Fact is times change, and places change along with them—sometimes for the better, and sometimes they turn into a Buffalo Wild Wings with a bouncy castle nursery back where the stage used to be.

Over the next few weeks you’ll hear a lot about Maxwell’s being “an institution,” and none of it is hyperbole. With an amazing bar and restaurant, coupled with one of the more intimate venues in the New York Metro Area, Maxwell’s is Hoboken’s mullet—business in front, party in the back. The guestbook includes Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Springsteen, The Pogues, The Feelies, Red Hot Chili Peppers, R.E.M, and so on. But while these names are all impressive, they arguably play second fiddle to the dining room’s legendary chicken potpie.

Yet like many in Hoboken, Maxwell’s has simply grown weary. The town has become noisy, competitive, pushy or even downright obnoxious—and that’s just the parking situation. As noted by manager and co-owner Todd Abramson in his interview with The Star-Ledger’s Tris McCall, “The culture in Hoboken is driven by TV now. 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 you don’t have chicken wings, Bud Light Platinum and wall-to-wall plasma, then you’re simply not going to cut it. Business decisions are made based on market conditions. If the market dictates that cookie-cutter sells, then that’s what you end up with.

And that’s the shame of it all. I can sit here and gripe about it, but it is what it is. Beyond some absurd Schindler’s List notion that, “I could have [drank] more,” there’s not much anyone can do about it. I’m looking down the barrel at 40 and spent last weekend drinking beer in my backyard while my kid chased my dog around. If I’m the Maxwell’s demographic—too old to actually get out and enjoy it, so I sit home and wax nostalgic on the internet, then go to bed—I guess a change may do them good.
Whether Hoboken has outgrown Maxwell’s or Maxwell’s has outgrown Hoboken will be the subject of some debate around here.

Ob-la-di, ob-la-da, as they say. Or perhaps more befitting a New Jersey institution, “It’s a town full of losers and I’m pulling out of here to win…”