Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Last Weeks of Maxwell's, Part 2: The Feelies, 7/6/2013

Crazy Rhythms

People love music in different ways. For many, a favorite song is a part of life, a marker for an event or a feeling. Favorite tunes soundtrack almost every moment: the last half-mile of the town 5K, the drive to the voting booth on Election Day, romantic times with a significant other, an imaginary takedown of someone who's done them wrong. Music is important, revered.

For others, music is something less cerebral. It's more physical, more primal. It grabs them. It shakes them and fills them with joy. It makes them move uncontrollably. They may not even know the particular song, but they love it in the moment.

I know I'm much more the first type, but I like to feel that I've got elements of the second in me. Last night at Maxwell's, I saw both.

The Feelies were playing the last of their three-night, July 4th weekend stand at the Hoboken spot. Maxwell's was bursting long before the band's scheduled 9pm start time. The Feelies -- the bespectacled trio of Glenn Mercer, Bill Million, and Brenda Sauter up front, percussionist Dave Weckerman and drummer Stan Demeski in the back -- took the stage just after 9. Throughout about four hours consisting of two full sets and five encores during which the band were joined by members of Speed the Plough and the mayor of Haledon, NJ, I got the feeling that The Feelies and most of their fans are the kind of people for whom music holds significant meaning.

They played songs from their entire discography, including the jagged, spastic sounds of their debut Crazy Rhythms ("Fa Cé-La," "Crazy Rhythms") and the more melodic and expansive sounds of the Peter Buck-produced The Good Earth ("The High Road") and their most recent album Here Before. They peppered the main sets with covers like The Velvet Undergound's "Who Loves the Sun," an excellent rendition of Patti Smith's "Dancing Barefoot," and The Beatles' "Ticket to Ride." The encores were heavy on covers.

The Feelies performed songs by The Rolling Stones ("Get Off of My Cloud," "Paint It Black"), The Stooges ("I Wanna Be Your Dog"), R.E.M. ("Shaking Through"), The Beatles ("She Said" and, of course, "Everybody's Got Something to Hide"), The Velvet Underground (show closer "After Hours"), and probably more that I've either forgotten or couldn't recognize.

Were each of the covers fantastic renditions of the originals? No, not in every case. But each selection held meaning for the band and for the crowd. The Stones and The Beatles are obvious influences on The Feelies' own sound. The band are long-time friends with R.E.M. having met them through Maxwell's, even opening for them on a tour. The influence of The Velvet Underground on The Feelies is well-documented and can be heard in Mercer's vocal delivery. The selection of "After Hours" to close the band's final show at Maxwell's ("If you close the door / the night can last forever") was poignant.

But this is where we get into the importance of that other type of music lover. In these last weeks of an establishment that's meant so much to so many people and to American indie rock, we run the risk of becoming overly reverent. The band themselves weren't guilty of this. When a cockroach ran across the stage towards the end of the show, Demeski shouted, "We're never playing here again!"

A young woman next to me was dancing, screaming, and pumping her fist along with every song during the early portion of the first set. "Wooooo! Rock and roll!!!" A couple of times, I swear I saw Brenda or Bill smile in her direction.

Another person in the crowd had finally had enough, though.

"You're ruining this for people. Just chill out and listen to the music."

She kept it up for a few more songs, then she excused herself to go to the restroom. She never came back; and the rest of us stood there, for the most part, bobbing our heads, mouthing the lyrics.

It was a great show and a great experience -- a wonderful ending to the run of another of Maxwell's "house bands" at the venue. I think it's important to remember, though, that Maxwell's is a rock and roll club. They've put on rock and roll shows for about 35 years. If you attend a show there in the coming weeks, try to remember that you're not at church. Let loose, have a blast, and give the place the send off it deserves.


  1. I attended the show. It was excellent and I had a great time. Regarding the young woman you reference, she was indeed ruining it for people. I was not anywhere near her, but her constant jumping and arm flapping in front of the band was distracting. I travelled a long distance at no small expense to see the band, not a crazy person who needs attention. Everyone is entitled to have fun at a show, but not at the expense of others.

    In any case, the Feelies were great. I had not seen them or been to Maxwell’s in over 20 years. It was a perfect ending.

    1. Thanks a lot for reading.

      I'm by no means advocating disrupting the show or ruining things for anyone else. I've definitely been slammed / moshed against my will several times, and that is definitely no picnic. By that standard, I thought she was pretty tame; but the crowd was obviously self-policing which worked out for everyone in the end, I think.

      I'm glad you were able to enjoy the show. I know I'll remember it for a long time.

  2. You need to self police. Early on two nights in a row I personally took the opportunity of in between song Feelie silence to humiliate people holding up their cellphones to take videos that nobody will watch...while the rest of us in the back had to watch their idiot screens rather than the genius band. F em. Humiliation worked two nights in a row...and early. People in the back...youre welcome

  3. Actually had the pleasure of attending the 7/5 show and the band was great as usual. Probably my final night there so it was a wonderful send off for a place that I have loved going to for 25 yrs. Can't wait to see where ylt will hold court this December.
    Also heard the cell phone comment that night and had to admit I thought it was overly self serving and judging from your use of the term humiliate twice it seems like something you take undue pride in. I happened to get a few photos and a brief vid of the band that I will treasure. Sorry you were inconvenienced but after seeing your post I wish I was standing right in front of you the whole show..

    1. On Saturday night, the exchange between the dancing woman and the guy who asked her to calm down was civil and I even saw them sharing some smiles a few minutes later. That's what I meant by self-policing.

      I, obviously, take pics at shows. I try not to bother people, and I'll move if they ask me to. Some of the shots I've gotten in the last year -- these, Death, Springsteen when I went with my daughter -- actually mean a lot to me.

      The whole debate over mobile phones, etc. has been interesting me lately. Saw just yesterday that She&Him have instituted a ban. Maybe I've got a post in there.

      Also, I'd love it if YLT could move Hanukkah down here to Asbury!

      Thanks a lot for reading.