Mini-Guide to Hoboken: An Eclectic Mix of Live Music Bars

It’s one of the most accessible cities from the island. Take a break from the Manhattan music scene, pop onto the PATH train for 15 minutes across the river, and listen to live bands in some of the hippest bars in Hoboken. Here’s a roundup of some of the best.

SCOTLAND YARD | 72 Hudson St. | 201.222.9273 | scotlandyardbar.com

How can you resist a place—with a Hoboken address—that proclaims to be the best blues bar in New York? You can’t. Scotland Yard has the appeal of a popular neighborhood hangout, where some of its patrons are just a generation shy of being wooed by Frank Sinatra.

Every Saturday afternoon from 4-7 p.m., locals gather to listen to blues guitarist Joe Taino play with guest musicians. The arrangement is simple: Joe starts off the jam with his own set, then other groups of musicians alternate on stage. On any given weekend, you may find Joe keeping his cool, sipping from an orange drink while alternating through two different sets as a vocalist, guitarist and drummer.

In spite of the strong individual performances by many musicians, the real protagonists of the afternoon are usually the patrons. Their enthusiasm for blues, exhibited by spontaneous dancing or clapping, fills the space with an energy that won’t burst at the beams. At one point the place got so crowded that they ran out of clean glasses and had to serve beer in plastic cups.

While the Blues Jam is free of charge, tips are collected for the musicians. Another Blues Jam is hosted on Mondays from 9:30 pm-12:30 am by Big Ed Sullivan.

MAXWELL’S | 1039 Washington St. | 201.653.1703 | maxwellsnj.com

Music mavens should know about Maxwell’s, which for years has been a local stop for bands like Sonic Youth, Meat Puppets, Nirvana, The Pogues, David Byrne and Martha Wainwright. The small concert hall is now a popular venue for new indie-rock groups who grace the stage with annual performances.

Not your traditional night on the town, it will begin with an entrance fee of only $10 and a concert featuring bands such as Darkbuster, The Skels, Beantown Boozehounds and Ninth House. Looking around, you’d think you were still in Manhattan, albeit on the lower east side; most patrons will dress for the occasion: black t-shirts, black jeans, black boots. Guests will also tend to have colorful body art and multiple piercings.

Closing in on its 30th anniversary, Maxwell’s still invokes youth and rebellion. Fans cheer for songs about drinking, loving, fighting, and unrest. The Beantown Boozehounds will capture the overall feeling of restlessness: “I can’t stand the peace and quiet. All I want is a one day riot.” For a complete listing of all concerts, visit the Maxwells website.

GOLDHAWK TAVERN | 936 Park Ave | 201.420.7989 | thegoldhawk.com

Update: Goldhawk has closed. 

Singer-songwriter Scott E. Moore hosts the acclaimed Writer’s Hang every first Thursday of the month at 8pm in the Goldhawk Tavern, which offers a relaxed but intimate environment for listening to music, with a certain level of sophistication.

The Writer’s Hang performance series is the result of Scott’s experience as a musician, having toured around the country, playing in a modern coffee house circuit. The series features two singer-songwriters alongside Scott, who often improvise off each other’s creativity. What distinguishes the Writer’s Hang from other performances in Hoboken is the proximity between the audience and the performers. The fluid exchange between artists and listeners gives the impression that they are all amongst friends.

The Goldhawk Tavern also hosts the “People’s Open Mic” on Tuesdays at 8pm, which features upcoming local artists. For more information on these and other events, including cover charges, follow the link above to their website.

WHISKEY BAR | 125 Washington St. | 201.963.3400 | whiskey-bar.com

Known to many of its youngest patrons for its reliable drink specials, the Whiskey Bar has also emerged as a popular venue for many notable cover bands. On any particular night you may be elated by convincing tributes to Bon Jovi, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, or Steppenwolf.

On a recent Saturday evening, I paid a $7 cover charge to see Paul Mahos, Joseph Cumia, Denis Perry and Timothy Bellew pay tribute to U2, with their cleverly named band, 2U. Self-proclaimed as the world’s second best U2 show, the tribute band may also be one of only a few out there. Nonetheless, as songs from “Boy,” “October” and “Rattle and Hum” were being performed, it was difficult to resist Paul Mahos’ charm as Bono. During one of the highlights of the evening, Mahos stepped out of his character to lead the audience in a tribute of other bands. Guitarist Joseph Cumia and bassist Dennis Perry played a series of renditions that started with the Bon Jovi song “Living on a Prayer” and ended with the Steppenwolf song “Born to be Wild,” before returning to the U2 song “Vertigo.” The Whiskey Bar also features many local and upcoming bands that play their own music. For a complete listing of performances visit their website.

How to get there: Take the PATH train to Hoboken Terminal. Scotland Yard and Whiskey Bar are right near the terminal. The other bars are walkable but taxis are easy and charge a $5 flat fee for anywhere in Hoboken. For exact directions from anywhere on Manhattan, click the HopStop logo below.

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  • Many of the shows you may have once caught at The Scotland Yard are now being hosted at The Dubliner (96 River St., Hoboken NJ)

    Here is the jam schedule:

    There are three jams every week. All shows feature outstanding performances by talented professional and amateur artists in a warm atmosphere with a friendly community of enthusiasts.

    Saturday Blues Jam 4:00 – 7:00 : Hosted by VD King, this open jam is mostly electric blues format.

    Sunday Singer/Songwriter Circle 9:30 – 1:30 : Hosted by Christine Santelli and Mike Frensley, this is an acoustic-oriented session with an emphasis on original material.

    Monday Blues Jam 9:30 – 1:30 : Hosted by Big Ed Sullivan, this electric blues jam is one of the longest running open jams in the NJ/NYC area.

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