Randy also had that annoying habit of talking over the PA from the sound booth while we played. Hey Randy, did we ever go out on your mail route and hand out priority letters? I think not!
Randy Now: This was before With Sympathy came out… before they signed with Arista even. I got their first 12” single called “I’m Falling” from [DJ subscription service] Rockpool. I found my copy of it recently and saw that I had written “Patty” on it, and a phone number. That must have been Patty Jourgensen, his wife, who was also his manager.
Al Jourgensen (Ministry): This was before the With Sympathy nightmare started. We had a nickname for Randy: Goofy Grape, after the Kool-Aid character from the ‘60s. We called him that because he always had a big old smile on his face, even as the owner of the club was yelling at him. He had to deal with so many egos in so many bands. Randy was in over his head, man. But he would just grin and bear it. City Gardens was like CBGB West. In the middle of Bumfuck, Nowhere, this club springs out of the woods. City Gardens was like a mirage. You come out of the woods in Jersey, and all of the sudden there’s these lights and this big parking lot, and everyone played there. If you were anyone, you played there. You’d drive through woods and forest, and then Goofy Grape would be there to greet us. In New York, we played the Peppermint Lounge and some other club, so we had to be there a week. We lived at the Iroquois Hotel, seven of us in one room, because it was cheap and the only thing we could afford. For food, we would go over to Times Square where this movie theater would throw out their stale popcorn. We would take 50-pound bags of popcorn back to the hotel to eat for the whole week. This was not glamorous, trust me. You must tell people this! It’s not glamorous, sharing a hotel room with seven people… seven stinky people in a van, playing shithole clubs. City Gardens was a haven for us. We always sold it out. Other places, 50 scraggly looking people would show up, and we’d be in the van eating stale popcorn. City Gardens was a complete fire hazard. I got electrocuted there. I never got shocked so bad. I went up, plugged in my guitar, went to the mic to sing, touched it with my lips, and got thrown back six feet. I passed out and they were deciding whether to call the paramedics, and then I woke up and yelled at Randy. In 1977, I had a band called Slayer in Colorado, where I went to college. It was originally Reign Slayer, but I made them drop the Reign. We would play three sets a night, mostly covers, Aerosmith and the like. You would barely be able to get away with a couple of original songs without people throwing stuff at you. Like, beer and fruit or whatever. And bands had to be brave, because we didn’t know if clubs were going to pay us! We’d show up, and it would be touch and go, and we’d hope that they would pay us so we could get the hell out of there. But Randy always hooked us up.
New Order – July 9, 1983
Randy Now: Sometimes in the soccer field next to the club they would have carnivals, and those turned into black vs. white. City Gardens kids would have to run from the parking lot to the door of the club because neighborhood kids would throw rocks at them. One time, kids were throwing rocks at punkers and, as the punks got to the door of the club, Tut slammed it on them. He left club patrons out in the parking lot full of rock-throwing teenagers. He was like, “Save the club, and if a few people get hurt, so be it.” I couldn’t believe he did it.
Amy Yates Wuelfing (author): I was still too young to go to City Gardens, but I knew it existed and that it was like Mecca. I saw a photo of New Order in [British music tabloid] NME, and I was so excited because it was taken across the street from City Gardens. It was like a brush with greatness.
Peter Hook (New Order): Yeah, I remember that photo. [Photographer/ Filmmaker] Anton Corbijn was waiting for the car to go back to the airport, and he’d been with us for two days, pissed as a fart the whole time. He just sat there. He was really hung over, and he kept saying to us, “There’s something I’ve forgotten. I’ve forgotten something, but I can’t think of what it is.” We said, “We don’t know. What could it be?” And then he went, “Oh my God, I’m not taking any pictures!” He had flown over to America for the NME article, forgotten to do the pictures, and was about to get on the plane to go home. He ran across the road and bought two disposable cameras from the garage, came back, and shot us in the fun fair. That was the cover. That guy is either very lucky or very talented. I haven’t decided which.
Henry Hose (City Gardens regular): [New Order singer] Bernard Sumner had little white shorts on, and my friend Vanessa kept saying to me, throughout the whole set, “What’s with the fucking white shorts?” When the show was over, there was hardly anyone left in the club but Vanessa and me. They were packing up to load out, and Bernard comes up to the edge of the stage. He’s leaning over, talking to the stage crew, and Vanessa says, “Oh, those fucking shorts!” She walks up behind him and pulls the shorts down to his ankles. It was hysterical, the look on his face. But he just pulled up his pants and walked away.
Vanessa Solack (City Gardens regular): We always made our way to the front of the stage, and whenever we had urges or whims to do something, we did it. We paid the consequences sometimes, and sometimes we didn’t. Back then boxer shorts were the thing, everyone wearing boxer shorts as clothing. It was a no-brainer to yank his shorts down. I remember him being on stage when I did it, but Henry has different recollections than I do with some things. I don’t know whether his memory is a little better than mine or my memory is a little better than his, but I remember [Bernard Sumner] being up on stage playing the guitar when I pulled his shorts down.
Amy Yates Wuelfing: Peter Hook always had the reputation of being the spikey member of New Order, the one who was difficult, would speak his mind, and always show up late.
Peter Hook: That is what makes bands great, that type of chemistry. I never looked like the rest of the band, did I? People would tell me I looked like I should have been in Judas Priest, which I took as a compliment, actually. I must say my life has been pretty surreal. I’ve had two different actors portray me in movies, and that fits in quite well with everything else that I’ve been through. [Ed. – The movies are 24 Hour Party People and Control.] 24 Hour Party People… we weren’t very hands-on with that, so that was the weirdest moment. The guy didn’t play me very well I don’t think, which was kind of odd because he worked with my ex-wife. I thought she would’ve given him a few pointers, but she mustn’t have. But in Control, Anton [Corbijn] was adamant that the actors had to act like us, and they were schooled very, very much in being like us. They came to meet us, they came to watch us play, and they watched a lot of videos. That was a bit freaky, because the guy was too much like me. But it’s very flattering to be in two films, or three films if you count the Joy Division documentary, and still be alive. Thank God! And there was a play in Manchester called New Dawn Fades where we were portrayed again!
The following excerpt is taken from “No Slam Dancing, No Stage Diving, No Spikes: An Oral History of the Legendary City Gardens” by Amy Yates Wuelfing and Steven DiLodovico
Bad Religion/ALL/Vision/Shades Apart – June 29, 1990
Dave Franklin (Vision, vocals): Shades Apart opened up, then we went on, then ALL, and then Bad Religion. The night before Shades Apart opened for Bad Religion at the [punk club] Anthrax in Connecticut. I went up with the Shades Apart guys to see Bad Religion, and there were maybe 150 people there, 200 tops. I was hanging out talking to [Bad Religion’s] Brett Gurewitz and Greg Hetson, and they were both like, “Man, I thought we were a little bit bigger on the East Coast.” And I was like, “This is kind of a weird place.” I mean, it was a great place to play—totally cool people—but was hit-or-miss. I said, “Tomorrow night in Trenton, at City Gardens, the show is going to be off the charts.” When the next night came and we pulled into City Gardens, there was already a line around the building. Then the Bad Religion guys pulled up in their van. The first thing Brett said to me was, “You weren’t kidding!” The place was already sold out.
Peter Tabbot (Vision, guitar): This was another amazing City Gardens show. Bad Religion are/were…well…BAD RELIGION. One of my favorite bands, and we were all so psyched to share a stage with them in Trenton. They had pretty much come back from the dead just a couple of years before with the release of Suffer and No Control. This may have been their Against the Grain tour, and they had totally reestablished themselves as the smartest, best punk-rock band around. ALL just had a release or two out at the time, I think, and they were still kind of riding the coattails of The Descendents popularity while generating their own fan base with their kind of prog-punk melodic style. But they were definitely a good draw on their own. With us and Shades Apart, even though we were local bands, we both had a significant following. The show was packed. I would never, ever throw my band into a conversation about the great shows you would catch routinely at City Gardens, but objectively, it was a pretty good bill in 1990. It was typical of what Randy would do: four bands, each of whom has a significant audience psyched to see them for $7 or $8. Randy would put that together every single weekend, for seemingly years on end. You’d get two, three, or even four national touring acts on the same bill, and then the next night you’d get another fantastic show. Maybe it would be hardcore/metal one night, and then punk/indie the next night, but always amazing shows for just a few bucks. What I remember most about shows like this Bad Religion show at City Gardens [is that] you knew a fair number of the people. And you often went to whatever shows were happening on the weekend, even if it wasn’t a band or style that you closely identified with. A place where you knew the bouncers and the bartenders. I would imagine that this happened, to a lesser degree, at places like CBGB or The Ritz in New York, but those places didn’t have that same feeling. As large as City Gardens was, and as many people as you’d see there for bigger shows, it always felt like someone was having a great show in your backyard. That is, if your backyard happened to be the bowels of Trenton. This show is a really good example of Randy pairing great national acts with some pretty decent local bands.
Scott Reynolds (ALL, vocals): I remember the stage smelled like puke all the time. We’d come in and load in and every time we’d be like, “God, it smells like puke up here!” I mean it was really, really strong. It was really gross, and you could smell it while you were playing. It was part of the charm, I guess.
Dave Franklin: That was a great show. I recall I was in back bar and the Shades Apart had just finished. The crew was setting up Vision’s equipment, and [Vision bassist] Kevin was there with his brother and a bunch of other people I knew. I wasn’t in the conversation, but I was probably three or four people away from the conversation, and I could hear Kevin saying, “Wait ‘til Vision goes on, this place is gonna’ go CRAZY!” And sure enough, we went on and the place just went absolutely crazy. Blink of an Eye was out, and we were already like the house band. Everybody knew our songs and went nuts! Bad Religion and ALL were amazed by the crowd.
Scott Reynolds: That was always one of my favorite places to play. We had big shows there.
Jeremy Weiss (City Gardens regular): The show was sold out. This is a true story: I was a very resourceful kid. I knew how [clubs] worked because I’d started booking shows, and I knew back then that bouncers would just as soon check IDs at the local bars as they would at City Gardens. I also knew they were susceptible to bribes. So, I walked around the back, I knocked on the door, and this towering individual popped his head out and said, “What?” I said, “I’ll give you $100 to let us in.” He didn’t say one word, nodded, put his hand out. I gave him $100 and me and four of my friends jetted right into the show while 275 other people stood out front, bummed out. We got into that show and were completely blown away. It was so packed that it was raining inside the club.
Scott Foster (1124 Records): I caught just about every ALL show that came through there. They were one of my favorites. That night we were waiting in line outside, and I saw some guys playing catch with a baseball. One of the guys missed it and the ball rolled over to me, so I picked it up, and, when I went to give it back to him, I realized it was [ALL’s] Karl [Alvarez] and Scott [Reynolds] playing catch. Karl said, “You wanna take over for a second?” and he gave me his glove. I played catch with Scott Reynolds for ten minutes while Karl did something else.
Pat Baker (Mouthpiece/The Semibeings): This was my first time on that stage, and it is something I’ll never forget. To be able to play at the place I idolized was incredible. I think I was 16 years old, and that was odd in itself.
Tim McMahon (Mouthpiece, vocals): We had played with Insted in Reading at the Unisound, and somehow we got on the bill at City Gardens. Randy reached out and asked us if we wanted to open the show. We were floored. It all came full circle. You start thinking about the very first time you did a stage dive there, whether it was legal or not. You start thinking about all this stuff like, holy shit. I’m going to play City Gardens. I had only been going to shows there like three or four years, but it seemed like an eternity. 1987 shows seemed completely different from 1990 shows. Totally different crowd, totally different feeling… it could have been a whole different club. Those early shows I went to seemed so dark and heavy and punk. [Later], the scene looked different. You went from punk rockers to kids who were clean-cut looking. By 1990, it seemed my whole high school knew about City Gardens. Kids who weren’t into punk or hardcore were going to shows at City Gardens because it was close and because it was the place to go.
Jeff “Stress” Davis (Suburban Hoodz): I got jumped, and I got suckerpunched. My buddy, Jay Kilroy, was on the corner side, near the bathrooms, and I was walking toward him. Someone tapped me on the shoulder, but when I turned around, no one was there. I kept walking. Someone shoved me from behind, and when I turned around he fucking decked me. BLAM! He split my lip open. I was so dazed, but I put my hands up to go at it. The security guard came out of nowhere and completely fucked this dude up. It ended up being someone from Vision’s squad who jumped me. They said I went up to two of his girl pals and said, “What’s up?” and punched them in the face. I said, “What are you talking about?” That never happened! It was crazy. They stitched my lip up with no anesthesia, and the douchebag doctor shaved the left half of my mustache off and left the right side on! I think he did it on purpose.
Dave Franklin (Vision, vocals): Insted was out here on tour, and the only way that Randy would let them play was if Vision played with them. This is another funny one. After our bass player Ivo—who had been banned for life from City Gardens—was allowed back into the venue to play and see shows, there was a Circle Jerks show. There was a big pit in the front and a smaller pit in the back, by the bar. The place was packed. Some dude was at the edge of the second pit acting like a retard, running into people and not really dancing or anything. He ran into Ivo, who pushed him away, no problem. He runs into Ivo a second time, and Ivo again pushes him away. Third time he comes around, and Ivo drops him. I watched Ivo nail the dude. He was out cold, nose broken, the whole deal. Sure enough, Ivo was banned again. By that time we had turned Vision into a five-piece. We added an extra guitar player, and, because of that incident, Vin had to play bass. Ivo couldn’t play this show, but we already had it booked. We played a a four-piece that night.
Tim McMahon: I remember thinking, my God, this is it! We have reached our goal and this is the greatest thing ever! I’m up here and the giant City Gardens stage is ALL MINE! I had watched so many bands play on that stage, and I’d be thinking to myself while I’m watching, dude, why isn’t that singer jumping off of that drum riser? Now I’m the guy up there, and I’m going go off. In your mind, you kind of invent what the perfect show is going to be: the band is going crazy, the crowd is singing along, diving, and going crazy. You’ve seen videos of it happening and you want to see it happen while you’re there. I’m up on that stage and I’m thinking I’m just going to go fucking nuts. I’m gonna jump around every chance I get. I’m gonna run all over the place. I’m gonna dive off into the crowd… Oh, and I guess I’m gonna sing a little bit, too… There were no drugs that could make me feel any higher than I was going to feel on that day, on that stage, playing this place where I saw my first shows and where I saw so many great bands.
Dave Franklin: That one really stands out in my mind. I pulled up in the parking lot and saw Lou and Pete Koller from Sick of It All. I was really good friends with those guys, but I didn’t know they were coming to the show. They came all the way from Queens and I asked them what they were doing. I thought they came because Insted was in town. They didn’t even know those guys. They had actually come to see us!
Tim McMahon: I think we had a pretty good show. At the end of the set, our drummer kicked his kit over. We knocked over the guitars, threw them down, and let them feedback. My thing was, at the end of the shows, I would always dive into the crowd. The guitars are ringing, the drums are knocked over, and I’m gonna do a flip into the crowd. The one security guy, Judd, was standing there yelling, “Man, you fucking guys are never playing here again!” I remember hearing that as I’m up on top of the crowd, and I’m just like, “Fuck yeah! We just did it! We just played City Gardens!” That’s how we ended our set. The crowd put me down on the floor and I just walked up, went back up to the dressing room, and that was it.
Dave Franklin: So, when we played, the place went so crazy that Lou and Pete were up on the stage to keep people from smashing up the gear. By that time, Randy had given in and was letting people get on stage. In fact—and I don’t remember if it was this particular show or not— but at one show we cut our set short for some reason, and everybody was like “You gotta’ finish!” We hadn’t played “Falling Apart” yet, and the place was going nuts, chanting for us and everything. So, we start playing it and everybody piles on the stage. Randy was so pissed he came up on stage and pulled the cords out of our amplifiers. He unplugged everybody so it was just the drummer playing the song. It didn’t matter, everybody in the crowd sang along until the song was done! We pissed Randy off many times.
MAY 3 1987 THE BUTTHOLE SURFERS COM TO TRENTON
This is the story that started it all, the first story Amy completed for "No Slam Dancing." Here it is in it's entirety with photos by Ken Salerno.
Randy Now (City Gardens promoter): This Butthole Surfers show is one of those shows that 5,000 people claim to have been at, but only 500 tickets were sold.
I loved the band, I really did. The Buttholes played three shows for me before this one. The first was an all-ages show at a little place called New York South. The second time I booked them was at City Gardens with The Replacements. That weird bill happened because the Buttholes pretty much lived on the road. They would call up and ask for a gig, and then you wouldn’t hear from them again until the day of the show. You just had to believe they would show up. The Replacements wanted to play the same day, and we hadn’t heard back from the Buttholes, so I thought, why not just book The Replacements too? We left them both on the advertising. I’m not sure who opened for who. I guess the Replacements opened.
Gibby Haynes (Butthole Surfers, lead singer): My strongest memory of City Gardens is arriving to play a show on one of our first tours. We didn’t confirm the gig in advance, so, when we got to the club, the marquee out front said, “Tonight: The Replacements.” I thought it was ironic that we got replaced by The Replacements.
Randy Now: The third time was a great show. They were getting more popular and the audience loved them. They had three or four encores, and the crowd couldn’t get enough.
Tony Rettman (City Gardens regular): I was really young. My older brother Don used to take me to shows, but the Butthole Surfers’ music was totally over my head. It just sounded like a jet landing… forever. A blur of noise. I remember one show where they had swear words written all over their bodies, including “shit” and “fuck” on their faces. And it wasn’t something they did just for the show, because they drove up and were hanging out the whole night before they played with cuss words all over their faces. And I thought, that’s pretty badass.
Tim Hinely (City Gardens regular): It’s hard to describe exactly what a Butthole Surfers gig was like. When kids these days tell me how wild or crazy their favorite band is, like Slipknot or Marilyn Manson, I utter three words to them: The Butthole Surfers. For starters, they were total freaks. Drummer King Koffey and his “sister” Theresa played the double drums like they were from another planet; the bassist Jeff had a backwards Mohawk and looked like he was having trouble staying awake; and guitarist Paul Leary was cross-eyed on purpose; and last, but certainly not least, was seven-foot-tall singer Gibby Haynes. No shirt, gut hanging out, long greasy hair, yelling at everyone. The guy was fucking scary.
Mickey Ween (Ween, guitarist): That was the band we would sit around and listen to when we were getting high. You get these pictures in your head: “What are the guys who make this shit really like?!” It was so insane. And then you find out the truth… and they’re even worse, even more insane, than you imagined.
Tim Hinely: Some of the bands that played the club were really polarizing. A skinhead band would play and the skinheads would be into it, but no one else would be, or a non-skinhead band would play and the skinheads would flip them off. But when the Buttholes played, everyone was into it. The skater kids, the hardcores, the skinheads, the punk geeks… everyone was into it. There was so much insanity that all genres were put aside.
Randy Now: They were pretty big at this point and starting to break through. They had just released “Hurdy Gurdy Man,” which got airplay on MTV, and they had a lot of their own sound and light equipment. They had a projection screen showing films with nude scenes and Ohio State Trooper accident films and stuff like that.
Gibby Haynes: Those were real 16mm films. To find them I had to do research at University of Texas, looking in reference books and tracking things down. Back then you had to be pretty imaginative to get those kinds of films. The people who had penis-reconstruction films were very sensitive about distribution. You had to call up and pretend you were a doctor. We would have stuff mailed to our house outside of town that was addressed to The Pathology Wing, at So-and-So Hospital, Dr. Gibson Haynes.
Tim Hinely: Right before this show, they played at The Court Tavern in New Brunswick, NJ, and it was a wild affair to be sure. The band that played prior to them, The Serial Killers, had thrown cans of dog food out into the crowd, so it was smeared all over the floor and made everything slippery. The place was packed to the gills, steaming hot, and there was dog food all over the place. I haven’t even mentioned the naked lady dancer—with a beard, who had not bathed in a year—the smoke machine, strobe lights, and the films playing behind them of gory car crashes from the 1960s.
Gibby Haynes: I was in charge of the show. I thought, if I couldn’t really sing, then I might as well put on a show. So at first it was smoke and strobes. And then it was lots of smoke and lots of strobes. Completely fill the club with smoke until you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face, with a pulsing, bright-as-shit light that would make you vomit and convulse. We would make effigies from newspaper and then tear them up in the strobe light, which was cool because it looked like you were tearing a human apart. We would dress up the dummies the same way we were dressed, and then jump behind an amp, throw out the dummy, and rip it up.
Randy Now: The show was booked, and I kept hearing from all across the country that they brought a nude dancer onstage. When they showed up that day I asked Gibby to not have the girl dancing nude, because it was an all-ages show and there would be kids in attendance. And he said, “Okay.” Which really meant, “Fuck you.”
Mickey Ween: There were four bands. We were first, then Cleft Palate, and then a punk-rock accordion player named Malcolm Tent. There were three bands with no drums opening for a band with two drummers. I had seen Buttholes before, and they were my favorite band at the time, but Aaron [a.k.a. Gene Ween] hadn’t seen them yet. It was our first real club gig, and it was total luck that we were opening for our favorite band. We watched them do a soundcheck and it all seemed pretty normal, just a regular band setup. Aaron was like, “What’s the big deal?” because I had told him all these stories about the mayhem at their shows. But when they went onstage, it was a whole different thing.
Randy Now: The dancer takes her top off the very first song, but it was hard to see her because she was behind the two drummers and the film projections were reflecting off the drums. But she was topless, and I knew when Tut [the owner of City Gardens] saw her, he was going to go berserk, because it was his ass on the line if some little kid goes home and tells mommy there was a naked lady on stage. It was a huge crowd, too.
Mickey Ween: Her name was Tah-Da: The Shit Lady. Like, “Ta-Da!” She had taken a vow of silence and didn’t talk.
Gibby Haynes: That was the first tour with Kathleen as our dancer. Usually, she was totally naked. She was from Atlanta and part of the crazy Atlanta music scene. Lady Claire, RuPaul, and Frank Floyd Felicia… that whole group from Atlanta. We used to play a club there with a little bitty stage, and we saw a band with two women. Kathleen played drums and Cabbage danced, but we got them mixed up. When our drummer, Theresa, quit, we wanted another girl drummer, but we were so loaded we got it backwards. We said, let’s get Cabbage, thinking she was the drummer. And she sucked. Really bad. When Theresa [Nervosa, drummer] came back, Kathleen became our dancer, though she was actually the drummer we wanted but didn’t get.
Tom Hinely: Guys started elbowing each other, and some of the punks were yelling lewd stuff at her, not that she noticed. Parents were screaming at Randy… parents who took their kids to the show and were maybe going to hang out in the back but were now freaking out. There was the naked woman onstage, and then Paul Leary, the guitarist from the Buttholes, pulled his pants down and started flipping his dick around. I remember turning around and seeing some moms and dads totally losing it.
Tony Rettman: I was 12 years old, and I see this topless woman on stage, so I’m like, “Wow! Boobs!” It was the first time I saw naked boobs in person that didn’t belong to a family member. And the band looked green, but I didn’t know if they painted themselves or if they just had scurvy. I remember Gibby saying all this weird stuff like, “Don’t you hate it when your dad walks in and you have a wine bottle up your ass?”
Mark Pesetsky (City Gardens security): I was onstage acting as general security. When the crowd first saw the naked woman, they went crazy, but then it wore off and became old hat. After that they focused on the band.
Tim Hinely: Something seemed a bit weirder about this gig… I mean, all was going smashingly. They played “Cherub,” “BBQ Pope,” “The Shah Sleeps in Lee Harvey’s Grave,” and, of course, their hit single, “Lady Sniff.” Complete with all the farting noises one can stand.
Mickey Ween: They dropped pieces of confetti that had cockroaches on them. Little white pieces of paper the size of a matchbook with a cockroach picture on each side. I don’t know where they got this shit, but they had bags and bags of it. I remember playing at City Gardens six months later, and this confetti was still falling out of the lighting trusses. Up to a year later you would walk around the stage and find these little pieces of paper with cockroaches on them leftover from the Buttholes show.
Gibby Haynes: That stuff hung around. Three years ago, I coughed one up.
Randy Now: I knew Tut was going to go crazy when he saw this whole thing, so I kept him distracted in the back counting bottles of Jack Daniels or something. Their set was almost finished when he comes out, sees what’s going on, and tells me to go up on the stage and tell the dancer she has to put her top on. I’m up there doing hand signals and waving, but they ignored me. Of course, Tut wouldn’t get involved himself. He’s just standing in the back yelling at me to do something. We had this big on/off breaker switch that fed the power to the stage. It was gigantic. It looked like something out of a Frankenstein movie from the ‘30s it was so huge. He’s yelling, “Pull the plug! Pull the plug!” So we pulled it.
Tony Rettman: Gibby set his arm on fire and was waving it at people. I was too young to be scared. I didn’t know enough to know that things like that aren’t supposed to happen.
Tim Hinely: Everyone realized the plug got pulled and were pissed. People were yelling, “Bouncers suck!”
Mickey Ween: And that set off a whole series of events. The lights came on and the PA went out, and the whole place was filled with smoke, either from a smoke machine or Gibby’s burning arm. When the house lights went on, you could see everyone for the first time. The two drummers kept going, Gibby had the bullhorn, and it turned into this tribal hell. That’s what was so great about seeing the Buttholes. It was like you were in Hell, especially if you’re on drugs.
Randy Now: After we pulled the plug, they kept on playing and starting pouring rubbing alcohol onto the drum cymbals, setting it on fire and then hitting them so that the fire flew all over the place.
Mickey Ween: I was watching them from the dressing-room window, which was up over the stage. And they started doing the thing with the cymbal, pouring rubbing alcohol into it and letting it burn with a low, blue flame… until he hit it and the flames would shoot up. The flames were hitting the ceiling and then going horizontal, creeping along the roof. I don’t know if it actually caught on fire or was just smoldering, but it was clear it was all about to go up.
Mark Pesetsky: I see fire flying everywhere. Meanwhile the insulation from the ceiling is hanging down, and I’m thinking, that’s going to catch on fire any minute. So I started grabbing their beer and throwing it on the cymbals to douse the fire.
Randy Now: Fire was a sore subject to begin with, because before that we’d had Wendy O. Williams from The Plasmatics. She had a little cherry picker that she would use to go out over the crowd, and she set the ceiling on fire. A bouncer had to grab a fire extinguisher and put it out. Bands always wanted to do stuff with fire.
Mickey Ween: A security guard came onstage, and Gibby threw the alcohol on him. The dude just started backing away since it was clear that Gibby probably would set him on fire. And now, knowing Gibby like I do, it was definitely within the realm of possibility.
Mark Pesetsky: Gibby just gave me that psycho look with the Charles Manson eyes. He grabs a bottle of the rubbing alcohol, throws it on me, and then starts walking toward me with a lighter. At that point, John, the other bouncer, jumps offstage. It was every man for himself.
Gibby Haynes: Oh yeah, I do remember that. I mean, I’ve lit kids’ heads on fire and they were smiling! They were happy about it. If I was on fire, they figured they were safe too. When I say light their head on fire, I don’t engulf their head in flames. If you cover your hand in alcohol and light it on fire, for a quick moment you can touch the top of someone’s head and leave a handprint of flame on top of their head. And it’s really cool to look at. And people don’t even realize that their head’s been lit on fire, that’s how benign it is.
Mark Pesetsky: We turned around and went back to the stage, and we were both ready to hit him. I went up to Gibby and tapped him on the shoulder, and he turns around and sticks his hand out to shake my hand. So I shook his hand. But when they were loading out, I stole his guitar tuner.
Gibby Haynes: Alcohol burns at such a really low temperature. You can dump it on your hand and go “one-thousand one, one-thousand two, one-thousand three, whoa!!!” and that’s how long you have before you feel it. Gas, you want to put it out quicker, and it’s a lot harder to put out. The first time I ever lit my hand on fire, I used lighter fluid and the flame would not go out. You have to deprive it 100% of oxygen before it will relinquish its fiery grip, and it’s a bitch. It’s a bummer to put it out once it gets going. I learned all this through trial and error.
Randy Now: The insulation caught on fire—or at least it seemed like it was going to—and that’s when Tut ran on stage with the fire extinguisher. He didn’t say anything. He just walked up there like he was the maintenance man and putting out fires was part of his job. With me, he was panicking, cursing, and yelling, but when he ran up on stage he was calm. Meanwhile, the band had no reaction. They were laughing. It was so surreal that maybe they didn’t realize a battle was going on. There was a battle happening on that stage, and it was The Bouncers vs. Gibby.
Gibby Haynes: We tried to create chaos, but it was never mean-spirited. It was never exploitative in nature. I would never play nasty pranks on people. There was no real philosophy behind it.
Mickey Ween: I remember seeing Tut in the middle of all of it. The band was a really intimidating band to look at, and they’re not pussies. I know guys in bands who are all artsy-fartsy, playing tough music, but they are not tough people. Paul and Gibby, though, are pretty athletic. They aren’t people you’d want to fight. And I always assumed those guys were on LSD. Gibby’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. He can talk about anything, but you wouldn’t want to mess with him.
Randy Now: At one point I was up onstage, grabbing Gibby and shaking him. I also grabbed a towel and tried to put it on the dancer, but she ripped it off.
Mickey Ween: The drummers kept playing, Gibby is screaming into the megaphone, the staff opened the doors to kick people out, and that was it. The show was officially over. And it got scary when the audience realized the show was over. They started breaking stuff.
Randy Now: The soundman was trying to protect our equipment because we had no idea what was going on. But someone managed to steal that big 24-channel cable that I had just bought! I’m still pissed about it. How did they roll up a 100-foot cable and take it without anyone seeing? But the soundman is up there acting like nothing else is going on. He’s putting the mics into boxes. The fire didn’t bother him and the fire extinguisher didn’t bother him, and he was acting like nothing bizarre was going on. He was oblivious.
Tim Hinely: Everyone was milling around, yelling at the band, yelling at the bouncers, yelling at Randy. Finally, Randy came over the intercom and said, “Okay guys, it’s time to go.” And then people started leaving.
Mickey Ween: When the crowd got kicked out, they started taking rocks from the parking lot and throwing them. I remember someone throwing shit onto the cars and kicking out the headlights and grills of the cars parked along the front of the club. And that, to me, is what made it a certified riot. It was like, what the hell is going to happen here? I think Randy’s car got targeted.
Randy Now: Some of the people went out and started smashing cars. They were really charged up. We finally cleared the audience out, but the band refused to leave. We had to call the police to get them of the building. I told the cops, “This band refuses to leave the building.” The cops showed up and said, “Look, you guys gotta leave.”
Gibby Haynes: Was there police involvement? That’s because we wanted to get paid. We didn’t get paid! I want it known that’s why we didn’t leave. I remember talking to really absurdly dressed state police. Dudes who looked like they were wearing English riding pants.
Bart Mix (City Gardens bartender): When the police came in, they walked up to the bar and started looking at bands for upcoming shows. One of them goes, “What the hell is an Electric Love Muffin?!” They were angry over the name of a band.
Randy Now: When they agreed to leave, I paid Gibby the other 50% I owed them from the guarantee. I said, “You need to sign this before I give you the money.” I counted it out and held it in my hand and refused to give it over until he signed the receipt. Honestly, there was such a large crowd there, they probably could have gotten bonus money, but I wasn’t about to give them that. And now I’m glad, especially since they stole the cable! But I paid them their whole guarantee, which was $2,500.
After that, we could never book them again. We told their booking agent what happened: they started a riot onstage and tried to set a security guard on fire. I’m not sure if I told him about the naked woman. Their agent reamed me out and called me a bunch of dirty names. Somehow, when the story got back to him, I was to blame.
Tony Rettmen: When I look back on it, it was fucked up on so many levels. What was I doing in the middle of Trenton? Why was I seeing a naked woman? Why was I hearing this music? I was 12!
Mickey Ween: Sometimes I think people don’t believe me when I tell them what our first gig was like. I was never concerned for my safety. It’s still the best show I’ve ever seen, to this day.
“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.”
“I feel like writing this book has been the culmination of a lifelong love affair with ska music. It hasn’t always been easy, particularly when I first started, but once I found my footing it’s been one of the most satisfying creative experiences of my life. Getting to write about what I love and talk to people about our shared love for ska music has been amazing. Most of the time it hasn’t felt like work. I’ve felt blessed and grateful that I’ve been given the chance to do this. “
“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.”