Maxwellâ€™s, a rock club, bar, restaurant, and Keeper of Hobokenâ€™s Cool, ended its run last night after 35 years. Lots of people gathered outside to say goodbye, sip a few beers, and just keep watch. It had already been a month-long wake for many residents and non-residents, filled with all that wake-y language: Such a shame. A real loss. The end of an era. And you know how wakes go. Some people are laughing on one side, some are crying on the other, and then they rotate.
I think the thing I liked most about Maxwellâ€™s is that it had great equalizing power. People more famous, more talented, more a part of it than you â€” even while performing onstage â€” appeared to be your exact height. It was an understated place with a medium build and a simple name that wasnâ€™t just beloved, but also truly, thoroughly, wonderfully specific. A few years ago, I interviewed a musician who was booked to play Maxwell’s a few weeks later. â€œHave you ever been there before?â€ I asked. â€œNo,â€ he said. â€œBut I hear Iâ€™m going to love it.â€ â€œOh, you definitely are,â€ I said. â€œAnd I donâ€™t even know you.â€ You canâ€™t say that about just any place, but then again, not every business closes out with a block party, either.
So now what? New places will keep opening up. Maybe one of them will be called The Cheetahâ€™s Tail, and maybe bottle service will be roughly $46,000 per table, and maybe there will be a man on stilts who tosses condoms in the air, and maybe the TVs will be 150-feet wide, and maybe the walls will be shark tanks. Maybe it will be fun, or maybe it wonâ€™t. But hopefully the one thing that place and all the others take from Maxwellâ€™s is that â€œbigâ€ doesnâ€™t have to be literal. â€œBigâ€ can still be a good buddy and his new songs.
Alas, those pretty feelings arenâ€™t enough to cover the ugly rent, or change the parking, or turn things back around when theyâ€™ve already started moving quickly in a different direction. But even in the end, Maxwellâ€™s didnâ€™t go over-the-top to get attention, which is probably why it got so much love.