Like Mike V of The Everymen said in an interview with me a few weeks ago, things might feel worse if Maxwell’s were being forced to close. That’s not how things are happening, though. Todd Abramson and his partners have made the choice that it’s time to leave, and I’m not sure that they’re wrong. So I’m not shedding any tears. And there were no tears from the performers or the crowd on what will likely prove to be my last night at the space.
We arrived just as Shellshag were preparing to take the stage. Had I decided to come a little earlier, I probably could have staked out a better spot; but something about this night had me stressing a lot less about those types of things. One of the things I love about Shellshag is how obvious it is that they love what they’re doing. That’s evident on this year’s Shellshag Forever, and it really comes through in their performance.
The duo — facing each other on stage with John “Shellhead” Driver on guitar and Jennifer Shagawat on drums — played a set heavy on songs from their new record with all of the exuberance that they showed during their record release show a few months ago. King Mike of Screaming Females, who’d played an afternoon set that same day, was right in the middle of things once again, fist pumping and singing along for the entire set. Shellshag closed with their cover of “Just Like Heaven,” built their tower of instruments, and thanked Maxwell’s for thirty years. There were no tears, no emotional goodbyes, only smiles.
Ted Leo took the stage at around 10PM and drew from a setlist 26 songs strong (I think he may have played closer to 30). This would be a solo set without The Pharmacists. As the evening progressed, it felt appropriate to be closing things out with Ted Leo. Yo La Tengo and the Feelies are older than I am. The Everymen, Titus Andronicus, and Screaming Females are younger. Ted Leo is almost exactly my age. He peppered his set with covers, most of which I remembered from my own youth.
The two-hour set covered Leo’s entire discography, from 1999’s tej leo(?), Rx / pharmacists to the songs he’s currently working on with Aimee Mann for their #BOTH project. Leo is a charismatic performer and engaged the crowd all night with stories of his early band days (when an audience member at ABC No Rio told him, “Fuck tune! Just play punk!”) and his days as a student in Catholic school (“Really, Teddy? A song called ‘Angelfuck?’ Take it home.”). He spoke about the Game Theory show he missed at Maxwell’s in 1987, and he also does a pretty good Paul Stanley impression.
The crowd did a great job of singing along with favorites like “A Bottle of Buckie,” “Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone,” “Me and Mia,” “Under the Hedge,” “Timorous Me,” and “One Polaroid a Day.” For “Bottled In Cork,” Leo grabbed an acoustic guitar, stepped away from the mic, and led a full-crowd sing-a-long, campfire style.
Leo included covers of songs by Rush (“The Spirit of Radio”), The Misfits (yes, “Angelfuck”), The Velvet Underground (“What Goes On”), Pink Floyd (“Goodbye Blue Sky”), Game Theory (“Erica’s Word”), and Bruce Springsteen (“I’m Goin’ Down”). He closed out the evening performing Blondie’s “Union City Blue” as an encore.
Leo was joking and smiling throughout the set, getting laughs from the crowd, and having a good time himself. At one point, while reminiscing about Maxwell’s, his voice cracked a little. He was quick to point out, though, “I’m not crying. I’m choking.” There wasn’t any crying last night, and it felt just right.
So this is it for this series. It’s been fun. There are still several shows on the Maxwell’s docket for the next 10 days. Most are sold out, but I hope you get / got a chance to say goodbye in your own way. Don’t cry. Just keep supporting the music that you love, and maybe someplace will appear to take the place of Maxwell’s.
I didn’t have the best vantage point in the house, but I managed to get a few shots to commemorate the evening.