story and photos by Jack Silbert
In 1970, the band Insect Trust put out an album entitled Hoboken Saturday Night. Well, this past Saturday night, Hoboken came through for me in a big way. Some background info: Complications from abdominal surgery at summer’s end left me a double “below the knee” amputee. (Just in case you were wondering why I didn’t run in the Hobooken 5K this past fall.) After three and a half months of hospitalization and rehab, I returned to my Hoboken apartment in mid-December.
Musician friends planned a benefit concert to help with my ever-growing medical expenses (Please please please don’t repeal the ACA.) The event was to be held at WFMU’s Monty Hall in Jersey City. “I’d really like to attend that event,” I thought to myself, “but… how?” Living in a 4th floor walk-up, I’ve basically been stuck up here like Rapunzel, with worse hair. To my rescue came the wonderful people of the Hoboken Volunteer Ambulance Corps. A friendly crew safely and professionally carried me, and my wheelchair, down the stairs — including the tricky curved one at the bottom. Later, an equally great overnight crew picked me up at the venue and swiftly delivered me back to my apartment.
Hoboken friends played key roles in the concert. Todd Abramson, former booker and co-owner of the legendary Maxwell’s, currently books Monty Hall. He provided a coveted Saturday night slot, usually filled by national and international indie acts. (NJ’s own Screaming Females play a sold out show there this coming Saturday.) Tim Gehan worked behind the merchandise table while John Dalton videotaped the proceedings. (Both are loyal volunteers at listener-supported WFMU.) James Mastro and his Guitar Bar shops — on 1st and 11th Streets — generously donated an acoustic guitar to be raffled off.
The performers themselves honorably represented Hoboken’s past and present. First up was Matt Davis of the band The Thousand Pities, in singer-songwriter mode. He kicked things off with wit and melody. Matt was later joined by Deena Shoskes of 1980s Hoboken heroes The Cucumbers.
Next up was a reunion of a local band from the late 80s, the Vines — now called The Vines of Hoboken to avoid confusion with Australia’s the Vines. Their sound was classic jangle-pop. The band was joined by special guest Richard Barone, who was in “a”, the very first band to play Maxwell’s back in 1977. He’d later gain national renown in The Bongos, which also featured James Mastro.
The Bongos and The Feelies were leading lights of the nationally recognized “Hoboken Sound” scene centering around Maxwell’s in the 1980s. The Feelies extended family included the band Speed the Plough, who gained a wide following of their own by the early 1990s. On Saturday, their swirling sound transfixed the Monty Hall crowd with both classic songs and tunes from more recent albums. (Special guests included both Feelies percussionists, Stan Demeski and Dave Weckerman. The Feelies’ new album, In Between, comes out February 24 on Hoboken’s own Bar/None record label.) Plus, Speed the Plough played a request just for me, by born-in-Hoboken newer member Cindi Merklee, so that was pretty cool.
Rounding out the night was the true link between Hoboken’s past and present, The Karyn Kuhl Band. Now, if you like rock and roll and are not yet familiar with the Karyn Kuhl Band, go to their Bandcamp page right this minute. (I’ll wait for you.) Karyn first gained acclaim with her 80s band Gut Bank, and then in the 90s with Sex Pod. These days in addition to leading the Karyn Kuhl Band, she also teaches “Little RocknRollers” kids’ music classes at Guitar Bar Jr. At Monty Hall, the band positively rocked the roof off the joint with a powerful and energizing set. I’m still vibrating.
— hMAG (@hMAG) February 12, 2017
And, oh yes, there was a crowd. A big crowd — it was a sold-out show, for which I am extremely grateful. The evening was a little overwhelming, my first time around a lot of people in many months, but it was fantastic. Many friends came from Hoboken, but also from Jersey City, Weehawken, Guttenberg, West Orange, South Orange, Maplewood, Rutherford, Haledon, Hawthorne, Kearny, Montclair, Medford, South River, Saddle Brook, Cranbury, Robbinsville, Albany, Beacon, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Connecticut, Washington DC, elsewhere. People are good. People are kind.
Prosthetics are in my near future, with much rehab ahead. I can’t wait to soon be walking, and rocking, amongst you all.