The Beat Goes On — Examining the Current State of the Hoboken Live Music Scene
Bailey says the hope at Maxwell’s Tavern—after kicking off in early December—is to program 1 to 3 nights a week of original music. He foresees an uptown music scene including Finnegan’s and The Ale House, with young acts working up the ladder. “I’ve always said, my commitment is not to the venue, it’s to the bands,” Bailey states. “And if I can get the bands a great place to play, I’m going to do it.”
(*Prior to publication, the building that houses D’s Soul Full Café sustained a fire in one of the upstairs apartments. The resulting water damage has D’s out of commission, but as of press time, the café is slated to make a return in the coming months.)
PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE
“To have a thriving music scene, you need young people who live and breathe it,” says Karyn Kuhl. “People who are willing to get messy. Creativity is not clean and shiny and perfectly put-together.”
She speaks from experience. Moving here in 1984, Kuhl and her band Gut Bank toured the country and received a glowing album review in the New York Times. She found further success leading the band Sexpod in the ’90s. And now she rocks more powerfully than ever with the Karyn Kuhl Band, performing all around New York City, Jersey City, and Hoboken too, including the old Maxwell’s, Pilsener Haus, Church Square Park, and Guitar Bar Jr.
Of course, Kuhl is no stranger to Guitar Bar Jr., where she teaches her very popular “Little Rock n’ Rollers” series for children 6 months old to age 4. “It’s awesome doing the classes there,” Kuhl says. “The kids have so much fun. They get obsessed with the ukuleles and guitars.”
James Mastro also loves seeing that light go on in young musicians. He opened Guitar Bar on First Street in 1996. (GB Jr., on 11th Street, followed in 2000.) “Nothing makes me happier than seeing a kid come in who’s 7 or 8 years old, and a couple of years later, you hear him shredding on guitar,” Mastro says. “It’s great. There’s a lot of talent in this town.”
Mastro has seen it all in Hoboken since moving here circa 1979-80. “If you had a guitar or a leather jacket, chances are you’d be at Maxwell’s that night drinking a beer,” he says. “It was really the only hangout for like-minded people.”
Since then, he’s been on MTV as a member of The Bongos, led the popular band Health & Happiness Show, been an in-demand producer, and in recent years, tours the world as guitarist and bandleader for Ian Hunter of Mott the Hoople fame. In-between running two guitar shops, he’s also an occasional member of the Karyn Kuhl Band.
Regarding live music in Hoboken today, Mastro sees it as a “do-it-yourself” atmosphere. He praises Northern Soul for “carrying the torch” and also mentions sporadic shows he’s begun staging at Guitar Bar Jr.
“The music’s here, you just have to find it,” Mastro says. “It’s a great town, changes and all.”