Friday, August 02, 2013

Farewell, Maxwell's: Club Wraps Up its Last Night with a Block Party & The Bongos (Who Play Unreleased Tunes)

Just as it said it would, the legendary club Maxwell's went out Wednesday night the same way it came in, with the band "a," the first musicians who played the place back in 1978. Oh, and a's successor bands, The Individuals and The Bongos also ripped it up, as well as a new-ish band, New Jersey's Delicate Steve.

Richard Barone and Rob Norris of The Bongos at Maxwell's Wednesday.
Richard Barone and Rob Norris of The Bongos at Maxwell's Wednesday.
The club took out the tables in the front-room restaurant to handle the overflow crowds, and the one-block street party was at times packed with celebrants/mourners (partly because only one lane of the divided 11th St. was used).

We were lucky enough to get tickets to see the second show, a and The Bongos, and the bands did not disappoint. We'd never seen a in person before, and were surprised at how many songs they had: enough for a one-hour show, not bad for a group that was only together six to nine months. The tunes had the jangly pop of The Bongos, but also featured changing time signatures and rhythms. You could see how the group evolved into the more polished, hook-driven Bongos.

That band delivered a strong set, starting with the rocker "In the Congo." Frontman Richard Barone looked much the same as he did in the old days, and still sounding strong vocally and ably handling his guitar riffs. We'd guess they must have been practicing a fair amount to be as tight as they were Wednesday night, or maybe they just know the songs so well by now. (See the Gothamist's coverage for many photos from the block party, and more videos like the one below.)

The Bongos perform the T. Rex classic "Mambo Sun."

And yes, as the headline indicates, they did play some old tunes that had never before been released but will be coming out soon. A new single, "My Wildest Dreams," became available on iTunes Thursday; the entire album, called "Phantom Train," will come out in October on Jem Records. The album, the band's follow-up to "Beat Hotel," was recorded in the mid-'80s but never finished or released. 

The set, and the last show ever at Maxwell's, ended with Glenn Mercer of The Feelies and Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo coming on stage to play, later joined by club co-owner Todd Abramson and former owner Steve Fallon. The show wrapped up with three covers, Lou Reed's "Rock and Roll," Paul Revere and the Raiders' "Kicks," and Big Star's "Thank You Friends," written by the late Alex Chilton.

One part of the Bongos set finale, with Glenn Mercer (in sunglasses) and Ira Kaplan (far right).

 And with that finale, Maxwell's hosted its last show, and closed for good a couple of hours later. Now music lovers in North Jersey will have to wait and see if former owner Todd Abramson can manage to open another club in the area, perhaps in an oft-mentioned space in next-door Jersey City.

If it does come of, it won't be Maxwell's. But that's OK; in an area that's starved of clubs showcasing new, original music, it will no doubt be welcomed no matter how much it differs from its famous predecessor in Hoboken.

More coverage of the Maxwell's farewell: 
Photos and more from Gothamist and Spin (more from Spin here), and articles from (here and here), Rolling Stone, and the New York Times. Also: you can stream the new Bongos song "My Wildest Dreams" here.

Maxwell's gone dark, Thursday night. Perhaps appropriately, it was raining.

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