Home Celebrities 10 Iconic Musicians That Played at Maxwell’s in Hoboken

10 Iconic Musicians That Played at Maxwell’s in Hoboken

by Eliot Hudson
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Nearly every Hoboken resident has heard the legend of Maxwell’s, the Hoboken music venue at 1039 Washington Street, inexplicably small as it was famous. Yet due to its reputation, many renowned bands have become lost in the lore, seemingly drowned out by the noise of the more famous bands to have graced the marquee. Today, few venues are lucky to remain en vogue for several years, let alone nearly half a century, as Maxwell’s opened in 1978 and closed in 2018. The following “Top 10 List” revisits some of the greatest bands to play Maxwell’s while also offering additionally outstanding names by both decade and genre. We also urge readers to make their own “Top 10 List” and share it with us. Read on to discover the legend of Maxwell’s and some of the top bands that have played there over the last years.

maxwells hbk

As a venue consisting of only one small room (without even a green room), Maxwell’s seemed to defy the soulless stadium venues plaguing larger rock bands of the 1980s. The little venue embodied the stark departure from Glam Rock arenas, typifying the Grunge and Alternative Music energy of the 90s. There were so many famous bands playing Maxwell’s that to cover them requires us to drop names like the proverbial microphone.

An Overview From the Local Through the Genre

Local bands became regulars at Maxwell’s while also gaining national exposure.

The Feelies regularly played at Maxwell’s from the club’s opening in 1978 while Yo La Tengo became a perennial favorite, even hosting an annual Hanukkah Residency. The Bongos quite literally grew out of Maxwell’s, as they developed from the band, “a”, which played the very first gig at the storied venue. The Bongos’ song “Numbers with Wing” would go on to earn a nomination at the very first MTV Video Music Awards in 1984. They also played the final farewell performance at the venue’s closure on February 10th, 2018.

Read More: Jersey City’s Kool + the Gang Being Inducted Into Rock + Roll Hall of Fame

Vepo Clean
sojo spa

New Jersey natives Fountains of Wayne played countless times while My Chemical Romance performed even before the release of their major-label debut-album, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge (August 16th, 2002); they returned again after their sensational, 2006 album, The Black Parade, performing their smash hit, “Welcome to the Black Parade” (October 24th, 2007).

the feelies e

Zap Fitness

Maxwell’s also punched above its weight when it came to the punk scene featuring touchstone acts such as: Black Flag (October 16th, 1984; April 10th, 1986), Henry Rollins (November 23rd, 1986), Buzzcocks (July 15th, 1991), NOFX (April 4th, 1993), The Mighty Mighty Bosstones (March 3rd, 1996), Less Than Jake (February 10th, 1997), Reel Big Fish (May 24th, 1997), Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg (March 27th, 2009; March 28th, 2012), and The Squirrel Nut Zippers (November 13th, 2009).

Not all the acts were underground upstarts. Iconic legends include the Queen of Rockabilly (and an early Elvis Presley girlfriend) Wanda Jackson (September 5th, 2003), and Blue Öyster Cult (November 16th, 2008) playing “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper” as an encore — likely adding all the cowbell Will Ferrell could ask for. Nancy Sinatra returned to her ancestral homeland when she performed on May 15th, 2003.

The sonic superstars could be as diverse as the Butthole Surfers (September 22th, 1994) to The Goo Goo Dolls (October 26th, 1990; March 9th, 1991; January 29th, 1993); Taking Back Sunday (April 6th, 2011) to Lisa Hannigan (June 23th, 2011).

goo goo dolls

Nationally recognizable names weren’t limited to music. A breadth of A-list comedians graced the hallowed halls, such as: Sarah Silverman (December 4th, 2002), Patton Oswalt (December 9th, 2004), John Mulaney (December 10th, 2012), Fred Armisen (December 9th, 2012), and John Oliver (December 12th, 2012).

Decade By Decade

Opening in August of 1978, Maxwell’s became an underground force in the 1980s when bands like Soundgarden (March, 11th, 1989), Living Colour (July 5th, 1986), The Fleshtones (May 20th, 1983; February 26th, 2000), the Pixies (October 31st, 1987), The Replacements (February 4th, 1986), Dinosaur Jr. (July 7th, 1985), and They Might Be Giants (September 21st, 1984 ; November 23rd, 1985) stormed the stage. The Flaming Lips enjoyed Maxwell’s so much they played several shows (including July 10th, 1986; July 17th, 1987; and November 28th, 1987). Note: the biggest band names are reserved for the following “Top 10 List”!

The 1990s saw a slew of internationally recognized heavyweights including Weezer (September 24th, 1994), The Smashing Pumpkins (February 8th, 1991; August 3rd, 1991), Faith No More (March 19th, 1990), Jeff Buckley (February 26th, 1994; December 18th, 1994), Ben Harper (March 27th, 1994), Toadies (October 19th, 1994), Korn (June 21st, 1995), Sugar Ray (June 21st, 1995), Wilco (October 25th, 1995), G. Love + Special Sauce (August 18th, 1995), Ben Folds Five (January 18th, 1996), moe. (January 20th, 1996), Social Distortion (August 9th, 1996), Queens of the Stone Age (October 24th, 1998), Modest Mouse (November 6th, 1998), Guster (August 27th, 1999), and Rufus Wainwright (March 1st, 1999).

smashing pumpkins

The 2000s were no less epic with appearances of Death Cab for Cutie (February 22nd, 2001), The White Stripes (February 19th, 2001), The Strokes (May 4th, 2001; May 28th, 2001), Dashboard Confessional (July 5th, 2001), Yeah Yeah Yeahs (December 20th, 2001; August 1st, 2003); Saves the Day (February 24th, 2000), The Shins (July 22nd, 2002), Bright Eyes (September 19th, 2002; September 19th, 2003); The National (October 26th, 2002); The Black Keys (October 10th, 2003), Franz Ferdinand (February 21st, 2004); OK Go (February 8th, 2004; August 31st, 2004); Iron + Wine (June 24th, 2004), The Decemberists (June 8th, 2004); The Presidents of the United States of America (October 14th, 2004); Wheatus (March 7th, 2006); Band of Horses (June 17, 2006) Vampire Weekend (August 11th, 2007), and Portugal. The man (Aug 14th, 2007).

In its final decade, Maxwell’s decided to burn out rather than fade away with musical juggernauts such as Ben Kweller (November 17th, 2010), The Head and the Heart (February 21st, 2011), the Melvins (October 5th, 2012), Spacehog (February 1st, 2013), and The Struts (September 8th, 2015).

Like a Phoenix From The Fire

Since Maxwell’s closing, the Lombardi Restaurant Group has opened an impressive seafood-focused raw bar, Sirenetta, and has even kept the original Maxwell’s sign.

meet me backstage neon sign

They’ve preserved the site and legacy by modifying the room into a cocktail lounge called “Backstage” where a collage of photos decorates the rear wall with some of the most famous acts. Mark Cebula currently manages Sirenetta and played Maxwell’s in 2009 with his band Missiles + Markers, which went on to become a 3x Warped Tour tenured band.

missiles and makers

“It was one of those NJ venues that everyone knew, no matter what genre of music you were into. We were excited about the history of the stage and the big acts that shared it during their formative years,” Mark said. “I love the fact that they preserved Maxwell’s DNA in the name and overall vibe of the space.”

Sirenetta

Sirenetta honors the sonic heritage with live music every Wednesday for three hours beginning around 7PM.

 


 

Maxwell’s Top 10 List

Honorable Mentions

Justin Timberlake (August 29th, 2013)

Justin Timberlake took Hoboken by storm when he abruptly tweeted at 7:02PM that he was in Hoboken with his wife, Jessica Biel, and that he would play one song at Maxwell’s while filming a commercial for Target to promote his clothing line. The Tweet caused pandemonium with eager residents flocking to the venue to glimpse the pop star as police tried in vain to keep streets clear.

Bruce Springsteen (May 28th, 1985)

Parts of the music video for “Glory Days” were filmed in Maxwell’s with the video being directed by Hoboken resident, John Sayles.

David Byrne and Fred Armisen team up with The Feelies and Yo La Tengo (March 24th, 2011).

David Byrne of Talking Heads played with SNL alumni Fred Armisen and Glenn Mercer of The Feelies along with Yo La Tengo for a benefit concert to aid Japan following the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami.

Maxwell’s Top 10 Bands

10: Pogues (March 9th, 1986)

the pogues

Helping to usher in an international revival of Gaelic music, the Pogues came to Hoboken fresh on the heels of the smash hit album Rum Sodomy + the Lash, produced by Elvis Costello. While the setlist has been lost, they were known to play such hits as “Dirty Old Town,” “Sally MacLennane,” and “A Rainy Night in Soho.”

9: Moby (April 10th, 2008)

moby

With over 20 million records sold, Moby boosted dance and electronic music to the mainstream. Many recordings of his Maxwell performance can still be found on websites like YouTube, including his cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire,” which he performed that evening.

8: Maroon 5 (July 16th, 2002)

Following the June release of their album Songs About Jane, Maroon 5 arrived in Hoboken likely playing hits from the album such as, “This Love,” “Harder to Breathe,” and “She Will Be Loved.” The band has since sold over 135 million records to become one of the world’s best-selling musical artists.

7: Joan Jett + The Blackhearts (September 27th, 1982)

With stages too often festooned with male rock stars, Joan Jett has been dubbed “the Queen of Rock ’n’ Roll.” When she arrived at Maxwell’s, her song “I Love Rock ’n Roll” was in the midst of its seven-week run as Number 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100.

6: Black Flag (October 16th, 1984; April 10th, 1986)

black flag

True pioneers and innovators of Punk, Black Flag’s dextrous sound and musical nuance elevated Punk Music from what had been characterized as a genre comprised of “three-chord songs.” A small venue with a big sound, Maxwell’s resonated with Black Flag’s underground reputation.

5: R.E.M. (January 30th,1982; November 27th, 1982; April 28th, 1983)

REM

Another “world’s best-selling artist” of all time, R.E.M. encapsulated the alternative, art-wave aesthetic and vibe of the 80s. They adored Maxwell’s so much they returned two more times.

4: Beck (September 1st,1996; February 14th, 2003)

beck

Music virtuoso Beck first played Maxwell’s on his Odelay Tour, but enjoyed the venue so much he returned in 2003, when he not only covered Nelly’s “Hot in Herre” but also Hank Williams’ “Lonesome Whistle” along with Busta Rhymes’ “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See,” and concluded the show with Prince’s “Erotic City,” showcasing his musical prowess.

3: Red Hot Chili Peppers (November 14th, 1984)

red hot chili peppers

The Red Hot Chili Peppers played Maxwell’s before they even secured their permanent drummer, Chad Smith. Incidentally, they also played without John Frusciante, who would later play Maxwell’s as a solo act on May 12th, 1997.

See More: A Guide to Live Music Spots in Montclair + Essex County

2: Oasis (October 28th, 1994)

In 1994, the ever-feuding Gallagher brothers embarked on their Definitely Maybe Tour, which included such hits as “Rock ’n’ Roll Star” and “Supersonic.” Arguably the biggest band on the planet at the time, audio recordings of their Hoboken performance still exist and can be found online.

1: Nirvana (July 13th, 1989; April 28th, 1990)

nirvana

Before even retaining David Grohl as a drummer, Nirvana not only played Maxwell’s, but enjoyed Hoboken’s ambiance so much they took some of their most famous promotional photos around town. Nearly the entire set can still be seen online. Interestingly, Courtney Love would also perform at Maxwell’s both with her band HOLE (July 19th, 1991) and again as a solo act (June 21th, 1991). Later that year, she would go on to become Kurt Cobain’s girlfriend where they presumably discussed their mutual love of Hoboken.

Make sure to share and post your own Maxwell’s Top 10!

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