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Yo La Tengo Says Goodbye To Maxwell's

Maxwell's is closing in July. Yo La Tengo's Ira Kaplan and Soundcheck's Irene Trudel share memories of the beloved New Jersey venue.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Yo La Tengo's Ira Kaplan performing at Maxwell's in Hoboken on Dec. 7, 2010. Yo La Tengo's Ira Kaplan performing at Maxwell's in Hoboken on Dec. 7, 2010. (Barry Yanowitz/Flickr)

Sometimes certain musicians are not only associated with a city or a particular scene, but with a specific music venue. In classical music, it happens all the time: The New York Philharmonic is always associated with Avery Fisher Hall, while the Los Angeles Philharmonic means Disney Hall. 

Still, you don't see so much of it in the rock world. Perhaps that’s why the imminent closing of Maxwell’s, a club in Hoboken, N.J., is making such big headlines.

The venerable music institution was one of the rare places where a rock band could be closely associated with. And the group most closely linked to Maxwell's was the veteran indie rock band, Yo La Tengo. For the band, Maxwell’s was a musical home, a place where they apparently felt they could play anything — even a sacred Beatles song like “Eight Days A Week,” which the band covered in 2007 during their annual Hanukkah concert series.

Watch Yo La Tengo perform "Season of the Shark" at Maxwell's in 2012 for their annual Hanukkah series:


Ira Kaplan, the guitarist and singer of Yo La Tengo, goes almost all the way back to the beginning of the club. He reminisces with Soundcheck host, John Schaefer, about visiting Maxwell’s for the first time, running the soundboard for the club, and playing Yo La Tengo’s debut gig at the historic venue in 1984.

We also hear a some of your stories about the venue, and our technical director, Irene Trudel, emerges from the control room to talk about her favorite Maxwell’s Moments.

And, we want to hear yours. Tell us about your favorite shows and moments from Maxwell's in the comments section below or on Twitter (@Soundcheck).

Ira Kaplan, on the closing of Maxwell’s:

I’m sad that it’s closing. I’m close enough to the situation that I understand that it might be time. Obviously, our group has made it abundantly clear that we’re all about keeping things going for a long time, but you also want to recognize when it’s time.

On his first Maxwell’s experience:

I just remember the first time I went there to see The Individuals. Probably my first time on the PATH train [that runs between New York City and New Jersey]. Just that lonely walk up Washington Street, past fast food outlets that I never heard of. It felt like you were somewhere else. That was a nice feeling.

On Steve Fallon, the original owner of Maxwell’s, creating a positive atmosphere for bands:

He was feeding bands meals when a lot of those bands had probably never been given a free meal at another venue. It wasn’t necessarily economically driven. If the door didn’t do that well, he’d throw in extra money rather than to finding ways to cheat you out of the money that you’d earned.

On Yo La Tengo’s debut as a band, which happened at Maxwell’s:

Prior to that [we] had played parties there for our friends under different names doing cover songs. I don’t think I was really prepared for how different is was going to be. About half of the songs were songs we had written. A cover song instrumental was our first song, and then we launched into our first original song. I literally opened my mouth and nothing came out. I was so terrified.

Listen to our Maxwell's Spotify playlist:



Ira Kaplan and Irene Trudel

Comments [7]

Bethanne from Weehawken

I was lucky because I worked at Maxwell's for many years. Yo Lo Tengo are a great band. I worked many of the Holiday shows. But my all time favorite would have to be The Buzzcocks. I also loved the Bomboras, Beck, Big Sandy & His Fly Right Boys, The Donnas... There are so many. Maxwells is a great place and it will be missed but no one knows better than the people who run it day in and day out and the they seem to think it is time to go. And leaving while you are on top is not a bad thing.

Jun. 13 2013 11:42 PM
chuck from Bayonne

I've seen a couple shows at LOT 13 in Bayonne and it definitely will fill that black hole! Brings me back to the early days of Maxwells!! there is Hope!!!!

Jun. 12 2013 10:03 PM
Shannon from New Jersey

Oh yeah! Lot 13 in Bayonne is a great suggestion! Their band scene is awesome! I've been going to Maxwell's about 15 years and it will be sorely missed!:(

Jun. 12 2013 09:55 PM
Jean from Bayonne nj

In response to the question, in anticipation of Maxwell's closing, "will there ow be a black hole" in NJ when it to music venues?Lot 13 is a cool rock n roll bar/venue that just opened up in Nearby Bayonne NJ!

Jun. 12 2013 09:44 PM
monica from Cranford

although we lived out in the suburbs 25 miles away, Maxwell's was our music home base since the early 1980's. I think we saw the Mekons play there about 30 times. Parking the car was always a challenge. This past December we were on the guest list for Barbara Manning's surprise appearance there with Yo La Tengo, which was a special treat.

Jun. 12 2013 09:33 PM
John from Long island

Had been to many shows but one of my favorites was seeing phantom tollboth open for the minuteman in October 1985, one of the best Minuteman shows I had ever seen and one of D. Boone's last since he died not soon after.
Oh an the great smell of Maxell coffee factory late at night!

Jun. 12 2013 09:28 PM
c. Daltry from Rhode Island

great piece. i especially like that you took the time to play lots of the bands referenced in the interviews here. farewell Maxwells. i had the pleasure to play there on several occasions with my old band Purple Ivy Shadows and i value being part of its history.

Jun. 12 2013 05:58 PM

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