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ON THIS DATE IN CITY GARDENS HISTORY: August 17, 1985 - Randy Pisses Off The Replacements

The Replacements    at City Gardens. Photo by    Liz Sheehy

The Replacements at City Gardens. Photo by Liz Sheehy

The Replacements/The Rettmans – August 17, 1985

Joe Z. (City Gardens soundman): Randy had this band The Rettmans, and they opened the show. I was in charge of watching the dressing room, so nobody went up the stairs and bothered The Replacements. Before The Rettmans played, Randy said, “We’re going to do something interesting tonight: we’re going to play nothing but Replacements songs.” I thought, well, that’s going to be interesting. The Rettmans go up and play a Replacements song… and then another one. [Replacements frontman] Paul Westerberg comes down from the dressing room, walking real slow, scratching his head, looking at me. He peeked around the stairs and saw them playing, then goes back up. The Rettmans play a few more Replacements songs and then Paul comes down again, but now he’s all pissed off. He said to me, “What are those guys doing?” I said, “I don’t know; they’re playing Replacements songs.” He looked at me and said, “What the fuck am I supposed to play?!”

Randy Now    drumming for    The Rettmans

Randy Now drumming for The Rettmans

Ken Hinchey (City Gardens regular): Bob [Stinson, Replacements guitarist] was onstage wearing a housecoat, and when he bent over you could see everything hanging and dangling.

Randy Now: He used to wear a diaper a lot too, although he never did that at City Gardens. When they played down south, they would wear make-up, just to piss people off.

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Ken Hinchey: During the “drunk shows,” they would take requests, and everyone would yell out songs. Paul Westerberg would yell out, “Give me a band that starts with a k!” Someone would yell, “The Knack!” and they’d play “My Sharona.” Most people yelled for Replacements songs or classic rock, but one time I yelled out “Ghostbusters!” Paul looked over at me and chuckled.

ON THIS DATE IN CITY GARDENS HISTORY: August 6 1989 Bad Brains/Leeway AKA The Hottest Show EVER

Bad Brains    at City Gardens. Photo by    Ken Salerno

Bad Brains at City Gardens. Photo by Ken Salerno

Bad Brains/Leeway – August 6th, 1989

Rob Vitale (Black Train Jack): Leeway had played CBGB and the next show was at City Gardens. [Leeway’s] Eddie came out with this sign that said, “Trenton or Bust.” And then the Bad Brains come on and out comes [Bad Brains frontman] HR with the same sign: Trenton or Bust.

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Steven DiLodovico (author): Hottest show ever. EVER. To this day people still talk about how goddamn hot that show was.

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Jamie Davis (City Gardens regular): Bad Brains only played about five songs because the power kept going out. It was so hot in there that the power would blow out. Leeway was amazing. The best part about Leeway was that the bouncers were all outside and everyone realized it, and everyone was stagediving like crazy through the whole Leeway set. There were so many people outside trying to get in, so that’s where all the bouncers were. Everyone was going nuts. Leeway blew them away, anyway. The Bad Brains came on late, played, like, two songs, said it was too hot, and stopped.

Leeway    at City Gardens. Photo by    Ken Salerno

Leeway at City Gardens. Photo by Ken Salerno

ON THIS DATE IN CITY GARDENS HISTORY- August 4th, 1985: Descendents/Fright Wig. Milo Fondly Remembers the Perils of the Descendents' Death Van

Descendents    and their aforementioned death van outside City Gardens. Photo by    Ron Gregorio

Descendents and their aforementioned death van outside City Gardens. Photo by Ron Gregorio

Descendents/Fright Wig – August 4, 1985

Milo Aukerman (Descendents vocalist): City Gardens was a very distinctive club, and we always looked forward to playing there. If nothing else, any tour we were on, we could always count on having a show there. Places like Philly, every time we would roll through there would be some new club. It would be something pulled together for a short time, and then a month later the club would be gone. There was never like a stable venue in that area except for City Gardens. Even in New York we would play a whole bunch of different places, but City Gardens was always there. I guess that’s why people remember it so fondly. ’85 was the first tour we had ever done in the U.S., and it was pretty dicey, in terms of booking shows and keeping cancellations from happening. [Drummer] Bill Stevenson was doing the booking, and he had learned the ropes from Black Flag. Black Flag set the standard for where you would play, what cities were cool, who the booking agents were, what clubs you would be able to play, and so on. We would go out, probably for two months, and try to hit the whole U.S. We were always guaranteed a good booking at City Gardens from Randy.

Photo by    Ron Gregorio

Photo by Ron Gregorio


We would tour, go back home and try to regain our sanity, and then we’d go back out. We were in a tiny little van, doing all the driving ourselves, and usually sleeping on top of all of the amps that were stacked up in the back of the van. We had this platform that we built above the amps that we called “the stack,” and that was where we all slept. It was about a foot below the ceiling of the van. You kind of wriggled back into that and tried to get some sleep. I’m kind of a light sleeper, and I would be back in the van, thinking, “I really need to sleep, but I can’t sleep because I’m waiting for this van to flip over.” You figure if that van flipped over, you’re on the bottom, and what’s on top of you is several hundred pounds of equipment, which is kind of scary. I would try not to think about it. Between that and the fact that there was no air conditioning. We had one of these old vans with AC in the front, but that AC was not filtering to the back. I would open up the side window to get some air, but that just happened to be right next to the exhaust. So, it was this trade-off, like, “I’m dying back here, I need some air,” and then you open the window and go, “Okay, now I’m going to die for a different reason. I’m going to die from carbon monoxide poisoning.” It was always fun to make that decision: I need some air, but I may die of carbon monoxide poisoning. I’m just going to take that chance. We had another van with a vent on top, and that was better because it wasn’t near the exhaust, so you could get some air through that. However, we sheared off that vent when we drove through the Chicago airport one year. We had to duct-tape the hole, and it became a non-functional vent. Those first vans were crazy, little death traps that, luckily, we never died in.

Descendents    at City Gardens. Photo by    Ken Salerno

Descendents at City Gardens. Photo by Ken Salerno

ON THIS DATE IN CITY GARDENS HISTORY: August 1st, 1986 - X plays City Gardens, Viggo Mortensen shows up on a motorcycle...

X    at City Gardens Photo by    Bruce Markoff

X at City Gardens Photo by Bruce Markoff

X – August 1 1986

Henry Hose (City Gardens regular): Billy Zoom had just left the band, and Dave Alvin was touring with them playing guitar. [X bassist] John Doe, I have to say, is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met in my life… so humble, down-to-earth, and friendly. Exene [Cervenka, singer] and I got along pretty well, talking about books and stuff, and she gave me this book called Pissing in the Snow and other Ozark Folktales. She had finished it and gave it to me. Dave Alvin sat there the whole night in the dressing room with these reflective sunglasses on. I kept talking to him about guitars and he wasn’t responding. I said, “Are you awake?” And he’s like, “Yeah yeah, I’m listening, I’m listening.” Exene was waiting for a guy she was dating, and it ended up being [actor] Viggo Mortensen. He was coming down from New York on a motorcycle, and as soon as he got there, Exene just glowed. You could tell she was in love with him, and as soon as the show was over, they were in each other’s arms the rest of the night. We helped Viggo get his motorcycle on the back of the equipment truck.

Bruce Markoff (City Gardens regular): I was working at City Gardens from time to time, and this was one of the busy shows. A ton of people were calling who had never been to the place before. This is before cell phones, so people were calling from pay phones. This woman calls and she’s like, “I don’t even know where I’m at. I’m in Trenton, and I don’t know where I am.” She was freaked out. I said, “Well, what’s around you? Is there a gas station? Is there a bar, can you see anything?” She’s like, “I’m by this big warehouse building” and she starts to describe the outside of City Gardens. [Bouncers] Carl and Rich are listening to my side of the conversation, and the three of us are looking at each other, like… Carl looks out the front door toward that phone booth that was at the end of the building, shaking his head. I said to the caller, “When you look at the building, is there a guy there hanging out the front door waving to you?” And she’s like, “Oh my God.”

Almost 30 years later,    Dave Alvin    enjoys his copy of     No Slam Dancing.    Photo by    Paul O’Brien

Almost 30 years later, Dave Alvin enjoys his copy of No Slam Dancing. Photo by Paul O’Brien

BTW: Writing Does Not Help with Insomnia - A Look Back at the "Hard Times" Years

BTW: Writing Does Not Help with Insomnia - A Look Back at the "Hard Times" Years

“Punk was standing up against the stage, standing within the splash zone, catching stage divers, stage diving and hoping to get caught, listening to exciting, energetic, emotional, so-real-it-was-almost-insane music being played by exciting, energetic, emotional, so-real-they-were-almost-insane musicians in small rooms like CBGB’s, A7, and Maxwell’s in Hoboken. A bad show just wasn’t possible.”

DiWulf Publishing House Teaming Up With Filmmaker and Historian Angela Boatwright for New "Los Punks" Book

DiWulf Publishing House Teaming Up With Filmmaker and Historian Angela Boatwright for New "Los Punks" Book

“With hundreds and thousands of people in the scene you will for sure meet some new faces in the book. My hope for the film is also my hope for the book, I’d like to inspire young people worldwide to start their own scenes. To put down the video games (do I sound old yet?) and go outside and create a community. I would also like to inspire empathy and understanding with the individuals in this community, a community that is largely Latino, a community that has existed for generations. A community that worked for tens of thousands of hours, for free, to create a scene for themselves. I’d also like to illuminate the history and give counterpoint to the unfortunate assumption that punk is mostly young white kids and that the history of the Los Angeles punk scene begins and ends with Decline of Western Civilization Part 1. The punk scene, specifically the backyard punk scene, in Southern California existed before and during Decline and it and continues to this day.”

Author Profile: Marco On The Bass

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Marc Wasserman is no stranger to challenge. Whether on a stage or writing, Marc is not one to shy away from a daunting task. And now he’s initiated a bold undertaking in his attempt to put to paper an oral history of the American Ska scene. While still in its infancy, Marc’s as-yet-untitled collection of history and anecdotal experience centered around the birth and formation of America’s version of a British stalwart, the founder of New Jersey’s first ska band (Bigger Thomas) is at the outset of a historic venture. This is Marc’s first book, and it is also DiWulf’s first foray into the American ska scene. Marc, who divides his time between writing and performing, is finding the demands of being an author intense but satisfying. Tackling the history of such a revered and storied art form is not something to be taken lightly, and he is finding new challenges with every story told.

What was your impetus for writing this book? What made you decide to undertake this project?

I’ve written a ska blog called Marco on the Bass for some time. My goal has always been to tell the stories of bands, DJs, and people who love ska and reggae music. At one point I focused on posts about all the bands of the New York City ska scene of the mid-80s. I interviewed band members and at one point held a reunion party for the 25th anniversary of the iconic NY Beat: Hit & Run LP released by Moon Records that included all the key bands that were part of the NYC ska scene. That opened my eyes to the idea of documenting the origins of the larger American ska and reggae scene of the mid-70’s through late-80s that was influenced by the 2-Tone movement as well as other musical genres like 80s new wave, punk, and hardcore. It’s an incredibly rich subculture that led to the explosion of the 3rd wave ska in the 1990s with bands like Sublime, No Doubt, Reel Big Fish, and more who drew their inspiration from bands like the Untouchables, Bim Skala Bim, the Toasters, Fishbone, and the Uptones.

As corny as it may sound, writing this book is my way of giving back to so many people who have given me so much and have inspired me through their music
-Marc Wasserman

Tell us a little bit about your life in music. When and how did you discover ska?

Hearing the Specials first album at a friend’s house in 1979 when I was 14 was a life changing experience for me. What I heard confused me at first. The sounds were alien. It was manic and gritty. The syncopated beat was different than anything I had ever heard, and the lyrics were almost indecipherable. But the punk energy of it was amazing, and the reggae vibe and its message resonated with me immediately. It was like a switch was turned on in my brain and I was immediately connected to something much larger. Suddenly, I felt like I was home.  I immediately became a disciple of 2-Tone and bands like English Beat, the Selecter, Madness, Bad Manners, as well as UB40 and Steel Pulse. That was the start to a musical journey that has included starting the first ska band in New Jersey in 1988 – Bigger Thomas - and playing ska and reggae music for the next 30 years! I’m still at it, playing live with Rude Boy George and a studio project called Heavensbee.

I know you’re in the early stages of research and writing, what is the most surprising thing you’ve learned so far?

How much more of the story I need to tell!  By that I mean, that each interview I do leads me down another path to another story and so on.  I thought I knew the whole story but the more I dig the more I realize there is so much more of a story to tell. It’s both overwhelming and exhilarating!

What do you hope people will take away from this book when all is said and done?

I don’t feel that the American version of ska gets the love and respect that other uniquely American sub-genres like punk, hip hop, and hardcore do.  I’m hoping through the stories I’m collecting to show how important this music was to a lot of people. This is music that really changed the course of people’s lives. It’s amazing to learn how hearing a ska or reggae song moved a lot of a people to become musicians, promoters and DJs and those people created music scenes that impacted thousands of other people.

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Who are some of the people you’ve interviewed so far? Do you have a favorite interview at this point?

I’ve been amazed at how interesting everyone’s individual stories have been. There is something hilarious, moving, harrowing, and sad in nearly every story that I’ve heard. It’s the human condition with a ska and reggae soundtrack! That said, a few interviews have really stood out. Ron Rhoades of The Shakers was particularly fascinating. The Shakers were the first American reggae band. They built a huge following in Berkley, CA in the mid-‘70s and were signed by David Geffen to Elektra/Asylum Records in 1975. Their story is a microcosm of the music business of that time, but also about how far ahead of the curve they were. No one got reggae music in 1976 in the halls of a major record label. I also really enjoyed interviewing Vicky Rose, who was the original bass player for The Toasters. She was one of the few female musicians in the nascent American ska scene of the early ‘80s.  She also paints a vibrant picture of the East Village at that time, including a rehearsal space on Avenue A that was home base for The Toasters but also for the Beastie Boys and Bad Brains and many others. 

What made you decide to tell the story using the oral history format?

At one point, a long time ago, I considered being an academic, so an oral history seems like the most accurate and academic way to tell a larger historical story from many varying points of view.  Also, I didn’t want to bias the larger story with my point of view. But, I also find the spirit of oral histories to be super creative. They provide a ton of leeway in how you can approach telling a big story. Two recent oral histories that I loved reading and that have served as blueprints for my approach include Mad World – An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined The 1980s by Lori Majewski and Jonathan Bernstein and Walls Come Tumbling Down: Rock Against Racism, 2-Tone, Red Wedge by Daniel Rachel. I hope my book is as good as both of those books.

What has been the most difficult part of writing this book for you?

The most difficult part of writing this book is the actual idea of writing a book –if that makes sense.  I’ve never written a book, so intellectually that’s been daunting.  But the best advice I’ve received is to just put my head down and do the work and that’s what I’ve been doing. I’m a hard worker and I’ve just been trusting my instincts, which, I think, is a good way to go. I see two parts to this process. The first phase is the research and interviewing process. I’m deep into that now.  It’s a lot, and there are still a lot of people I need to speak with. Knowing when I’ve reached the end of that phase is one I worry about. I’m always worried I’ll miss that one key story. The second phase is the actual writing phase. I think that will be fun, but I still need to find the thread that holds the story together. I have an idea of how to do that, but I won’t know until I sit down and look at all the stories I’ve got. And it will be a lot of stories! 

As a ska fan, why do you, personally, think this book is necessary?

I’ve had a lifelong love affair with ska and reggae. The music helped me get through some very difficult times when I was young, and being in ska bands; being a part of ska scenes has provided me with a surrogate family that means the world to me. As corny as it may sound, writing this book is my way of giving back to so many people who have given me so much and have inspired me through their music. Plus, the story of American ska is one that deserves to be told. 

Your love and passion for ska has been well documented through your blog and your many years being a part of the culture. Is there any other type of music you listen to or that inspires you?

I’ve had a lifelong love affair with ska and reggae. The music helped me get through some very difficult times when I was young, and being in ska bands; being a part of ska scenes has provided me with a surrogate family that means the world to me.

I’m equally as obsessed with ‘80s new wave as I am with ska. 2-Tone ska and reggae revealed harsh economic, social, and racial injustices with a power and a fury that was undeniable, but also danceable. It forever influenced my worldview and moved me to learn an instrument and start a ska band. While ‘80s new wave retained the vigor and irreverence of ‘70s punk music that had fueled 2 Tone, it incorporated style and art in a way that opened my world to ideas of love, friendship, fashion, and helped give form to my own burgeoning identity. I sought refuge in new wave's incredible diversity of nervy pop (XTC), synth pop (Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, Human League), new wave songwriters (Elvis Costello), pop bands (Squeeze, INXS), pop-reggae (The Police) and more mainstream rockers (Billy Idol, The Romantics). Here in the US, 2-Tone was lumped in with new wave, so, in many ways, despite their completely different musical worldviews, they are inextricably linked in my musical consciousness.

What do you think is the reason for the longevity ska has enjoyed as a movement, as fashion inspiration, and as a music scene?

That’s a question I’ve asked a lot of the people I’m interviewing. Despite the diversity of the people I’m talking to, they almost always say that ska music helps to dance the blues away. When it’s done right, there is an undeniable power and energy to it that is emotionally and physically satisfying. You feel it in your soul. As a musical form it’s also mutable, which has had a lot to do with the more American forms of the genre: ska-punk, ska-core, etc., that appeared in the mid-‘90s. I think the 2-Tone dress style that was driven by the traditional Jamaican rude boy look just never goes out of style. Looking sharp and fashionable has always been as important as sounding good!

What can readers expect from your book?

If I do it right, I hope they can expect an epic story on how the music of Jamaica – ska, rocksteady and reggae-- has served as the inspiration for a uniquely American version with its own subculture. At the very least they will be able to read some very entertaining stories from a very diverse group of people who, at one point or another, have made ska music the be-all-end-all of their lives.

Do you have a title for the book yet?

I’ve got an idea for a title that I’ve shared with a few people and their reactions have been positive, but I want to sleep on it a bit longer before I reveal it.

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Urban Styles Comes to Jersey with a Book Signing at Randy Now's Mancave

Author Freddy Alva will be appearing at Randy Now's Mancave in Bordentown, NJ on Sunday January 14th to sign copies of his new book Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore. Freddy will also be part of a panel discussion about New York Hardcore history, graffiti, subculture, and will participate in a Q & A with legendary NY writers SMOG RISFCEE, and JERE DMS. Panel will be moderated by DiWulf co-founder and author Steve DiLodovico.

Randy Now's Mancave, a Bordentown staple, is owned and run by New Jersey's most well-known music promoter, Randy "Now" Ellis. Randy's history with music is a long and storied one that has been chronicled in a book: No Slam Dancing, No Stage Diving, No Spikes: An Oral History of the Legendary City Gardens as well as a documentary film: Riot on the Dance Floor. His shop is an emporium of collectibles, records, books, films, and a whole lot of general wackiness. It has become a favorite among the collectors' community since it opened.

Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore is a gritty and vibrant history of art and music colliding in the underground NYHC scene of the '80s. Told through strikingly visual photos and interviews from the artists and writers who lived it, Urban Styles tells of a mostly-unknown cross-section of subculture that could only have happened in New York. Elements of graffiti, hip-hop culture, skateboard culture, and, of course, NYHC are all seen intersecting in a wild randomness that flourished in a pre-internet world. Featuring art and interviews from such NYHC giants as Mackie Jayson (Cro Mags, Bad Brains, Leeway), Chaka Malik (Burn, Orange 9mm), LORD EZEC aka Danny DiabloHOYA ROC (Madball, Dmize), Sacha Jenkins (Mass Appeal editor and member of NYHC outfit The Wilding Incident), Gavin Van Vlack (Absolution, Burn, DIE 116), legendary Absolution frontman Djinji DRUMS Brown, Sergio DEEM Vega (Quicksand, Deftones), and many more

Freddy will also have a limited number of specially-made CBGB prints from artist Andrew Monserrate (whose work is featured in Urban Styles) for sale with copies of Urban Styles.

Limited edition prints made specially for Urban Styles by Andrew Monserrate

Limited edition prints made specially for Urban Styles by Andrew Monserrate

Andrew is featured in the "artists'" section of Urban Styles, and he has graciously created these one-of-a-kind prints to commemorate the release of Urban Styles and to celebrate the vibrant art scene that came out of the New York Hardcore scene in the '80s. Andrew's prints are limited to a first-come first-served basis and will last as long as supplies hold out.

No, Iggy is NOT included with the prints!

No, Iggy is NOT included with the prints!

This event is free and open to the public and starts at 1pm on Sunday January 14th. Randy Now's Mancave 134 Farnsworth Ave Bordentown NJ 08505. For more information check out the official facebook event page.