A small sign on the front door said: “Sold out.” It was a good kickstart to WFMU’s new performance venue, and music radio fans gathered to celebrate. Designed not as regular bar venue, but a space where the station will feature local musicians and other acts in regularly-scheduled performances, the facility resembles a classic club such as CBGBs or the old Mudd Club in New York City, only with a twist.
“We’ve installed cameras and screens for viewing of the performances from anywhere in the room,” said Station Manager and Program Director Ken Freedman during a recent pre-opening tour of the facility.
The place has the flavor of the back room at the former Maxwell’s, the legendary rock club in Hoboken, helped along by the eclectic lineup of musical acts that included performers such as the Pampers, Watery Love, Doug Gillard, and Spectre Folk.
WFMU-FM is a listener-supported, non-commercial radio station broadcasting at 91.1 Mhz FM and has its broadcast station in the same building at 43 Montgomery St., near the Exchange Place section of Jersey City.
Currently the longest running free-form radio station in the United States, the station has been on the cutting edge of technology for decades, and has incorporated a significant amount of web technology into the performance space.
“We’ve installed cameras and screens for viewing of the performances from anywhere in the room.” – Ken Freedman
The creation of the new music venue also comes on the heels of changes in Jersey City municipal law that clear the way for live music.
In boasting about the recently-acquired permits before the patron-filled room, Freedman even joked that the facility had just installed ADA-accessible restrooms.
Assistant General Manager Liz Berg said the idea behind the performance space – which patrons at the kickoff voted to name Monty Hall (typical of WFMU humor) – was to provide a venue for local and other acts that is currently lacking in Jersey City, filling also a void as a possible venue for name performers left by the closing of Maxwell’s last year. The venue may also feature weekly acts, although the schedule has not yet been determined.
Attracting music fans of all ages
Indeed, Monty Hall inherits some of the good vibes of the old Maxwell’s. If the kickoff party is any indication, the hall will draw from many of the same demographics that Maxwell’s did, ranging in age from Millennials to Baby Boomers.
The varied selection of the acts on opening night from hardcore punk to contemporary psychedelic, with some hard rock/pop thrown in, seemed to suggest the range of performances people can expect in the future. Located a block from the Hudson Bergen Light Rail and the Exchange Place Path, Monty Hall will likely draw people from throughout Hudson County as well as New York City – and avoid some of the parking issues that contributed to Maxwell’s demise in Hoboken.
While the party was not simulcast over the radio airways in any of its broadcast areas in Jersey City and the Hudson Valley, fixed and movable video cameras help document the acts for later web broadcasts.
The kickoff party also served as a fundraiser for the station. WFMU’s primary source of support comes from listener contributions made during their annual on-air fundraising marathon and revenue generated from the annual Record Fair.
The performance space will provide another stream of revenue since the station not accept underwriting or corporate sponsorships.
Berg said the station gets some government and foundation grants, but only on the condition that it does not restrict content of broadcasts.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.