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The  following is an excerpt from
"No Slam Dancing, No Stage Diving, No Spikes"

Exploited/The Uprise/Vision/Pagan Babies– January 22, 1988

 Randy Now: I was the only person between Trenton and D.C. who would book the Exploited.  I was the only one doing Oi! and those types of bands. The Exploited had a bad rep anyway, starting fights and trashing stages. You always heard that from other promoters.

 Jamie Davis (City Gardens regular): I think Randy knew what the fuck he was doing. How could you not know there’s going to be a riot when you put The Uprise with the Exploited? That’s obvious right there. It’s a given.

Mike Judge (Judge, vocals): One of the greatest performances I ever saw. Even though I never really liked the Exploited, I was blown away by how punk they were and the balls they had. A bunch of us drove down when they played at City Gardens.

Tony Rettman (City Gardens regular/author): My brother Don was the DJ at City Gardens, so I always got there early with him, usually about an hour or so before the doors opened. Whenever we got there, Randy always locked the doors behind us. Me and my friend were standing there in that little lobby by the door, and all of the sudden there was this banging. There were six guys outside yelling in real heavy accents, "We're the barmy army!" and we were like, "What the hell?" They were the Exploited's roadies. They had been locked out and kept yelling "barmy army." We couldn't understand them through the accents and had no idea what it meant.

Tim McMahon (Mouthpiece, vocals): Randy came up to me and Tony and said, “Exploited doesn’t have a merch guy. Would you guys be able to sell their shirts for them?” We’re little kids. Of course we wanted to! I remember looking at Tony like, how the hell are we going to do this? We did it. I don’t know how we did it, but we pretended like this was something we had done before.

Dave Franklin (Vision, vocals): Randy Now called the house and asked, “Hey, I got a question. Would you guys like to play with the Exploited?” My bass player, Ivo, was banned from City Gardens for life for fighting. He was the lead guy in The Family.

Vision (L to R): Pete Tabbot, Matt Riga, Dave Franklin, Ivo. Photo by: Ken Salerno

Stephen Brown (member of The Family): Ivo! Ivo was tough as nails, man. He was fucking tough. He was in the parking lot one night when this real big, muscle-bound dude came out of the club like he’s gonna whoop everybody’s ass. We’re drinking beer and hanging out, and he walks up and he grabs a beer from Ivo. Well, that’s all she wrote. Ivo clocks him with one punch. Dude’s laid out on the ground. And the guy starts crying because Ivo broke his nose! I was like, “Hey, those muscles ain’t helping you out, man. You can’t fight!” We took his beer from him, poured it on his head, and told him to get out of the parking lot. It was funny as hell. One punch.

Dave Franklin: I’m freaking out because I’m showing up to play our first show at City Gardens with somebody who is banned for life! I’m like, “How am I gonna’ tell Randy that Ivo is my bass player? He’s gonna freak.” I get there and pull Randy aside, and I said, “Randy, I gotta talk to you. I have a little problem. The guy that plays bass, um, isn’t really… um… welcome here.” Randy was screaming in my face like he was my dad and I had just smashed the family china for no reason. He was spitting, screaming, cursing, pointing… I mean, literally, he was like, “You fucking asshole, you’re fucked! Fuck you! I don’t have an opening band. You can’t play here. There’s no way you’re playing here! Absolutely not!” Screaming at the top of his lungs.

Randy Now: They did keep it a secret from me until the very last minute, and Dave is right. I did lose my fucking mind when I found out. I had to act that way to show that I was serious because it was my job. Ivo had to be good and not start any trouble to play that show.

Todd Linn (City Gardens security): I used to wear my Uprise shirt all the time. On the front was a big American Eagle emblem, and on the back it said, “Uprise Skinheads: Fun, Friends & Fights.” I wore that shirt when I worked at City Gardens because, honest to God, I wanted everyone to know that I knew them.  So if a whole bunch of shit was going to come down on me, people knew they were going to have to pay the price.

Dave Franklin: The guys in the Uprise and the Pagan Babies guys come right over and they're like, "What's the matter?" and Randy threw his hands up and walked away disgusted. I told them they were not going to let us play, and they said, "Well, if Vision's not gonna play, then the Uprise aren't playing." And the Pagan Babies guys were like, "Dude, if you guys aren't playing, we're not playing." My head was in my hands, I was like, "Fuck, what am I gonna’ do?" and the next thing you know [Exploited lead singer] Wattie and his manger come walking over. I could barely understand what he said, but he said something like, "What seems to be the problem?" I told him what happened and Wattie goes, "Did you come from far away?" and I go, "Not as far as you," and Wattie asks, "Well, how far?" I said, "About forty minutes down the road," and he says, "That's far enough. What's the name of the band?" I told him it was Vision and he goes, "If Vision doesn't play, the Exploited don't play." I was stunned. Randy threw his hands up and was like, "Okay, fine. You guys play and then Ivo walks off the stage and right out of the club the second you're done." I told him, "No problem. Whatever you want." So that's exactly what we did. We played our set, Ivo immediately left, and he was totally cool about it.

Randy Now: As far as Wattie saying he wouldn’t play… I don’t think that’s true because I was his booking agent in New York back then. He wouldn’t have pulled that on me. They were nice guys.  I remember their manager at the time used to let Wattie babysit his kids! Wattie was a great guy. Of course, once they got on stage it was different story.

Mark Bless (City Gardens regular): Wattie was hanging out front and showing off his pierced cock to the ladies.

Eric Squadroni (Pagan Babies, guitarist): I was kind of confused about the whole skinhead scene. They would go in there and fuck with some of the bands if they didn’t like them. I always thought it was just a bunch of fucking rich kids with that rich-kid mentality.

Ray Meister (City Gardens regular): I was a 15-year-old skater kid. Thinking back on it, my parents must have been out of their minds. They would drop me and my friends off in the middle of the ‘hood any weekend there was a show, and The Exploited was definitely a show we wanted to see.

Alex Franklin (City Gardens regular): The Skins wanted to make it known that they did not appreciate the Exploited writing a song called “Fuck the U.S.A.

Bryan Kienlen (Bouncing Souls, bassist): It was an insane vibe that night. The skinheads had some issue with the Exploited because they were dissing the U.S.A. I think that’s what it boiled down to, some patriotic thing.

Randy Now: It’s weird, this whole “American” thing. When we opened the club, if I put “From England” on a Bauhaus flier, that made people come out to the show. But when I put the same thing on an Exploited flyer, people didn’t come because of the whole “American” thing.

Bruce Boyd (Pagan Babies, drummer): We knew there was trouble coming because the Exploited have that song “Fuck the U.S.A.” The skinheads back then—and I knew from all the punk shows I had seen from ‘83 on—were always very pro-American. They had all the American flag patches sewn on their green flight jackets. You knew that they were not going to be very nice to the Exploited.

Randy Now: They all loved The Clash song “I’m So Bored with the USA.”  What’s the difference? It doesn’t make any sense.

Mark Pingitore (Pagan Babies, bassist): We get in there and it’s the Exploited. These guys are punk-rock rock stars. Our drum kit couldn’t be on the riser with their drum kit, and we thought that was kind of funny because we were used to playing anywhere that would let us play. That was the first time we encountered that kind of attitude. It didn’t hurt our feelings or anything. We didn’t go out and hold a grudge against them. We were like, “Wow. So that’s the reality of it.”

Bruce Boyd: We’re loading in that night, and there were some dudes from the Uprise crew hanging out. Everyone was excited about the show, but in the back of my mind I’m thinking, “There’s gonna be fucking trouble.”

Tony Rettman: The Uprise played right before the Exploited. The Exploited had set up their gear and left it on the stage, like, "You're just going to have to work around this." I think that added even more fuel to the fire.

Phil Stilton (City Gardens regular): The reason the whole thing started was because of the drums. The Exploited’s drummer went up and kicked Rob’s drums over when he saw them set up on their riser. A couple of months before, The Uprise had played at City Gardens, and they were kind of a punk band. They came back later re-invented as a skinhead band. I think the Exploited show might have been their first show as The Uprise. Rob had set his stuff up, and the Exploited’s drummer came out and was setting up his gear. Rob was like, “Look man, we’re just gonna use a small part of the riser, you can set up behind me and it’ll be cool.” The Exploited guy was having none of it. He was like, “I’m not setting up behind you.” Then he kicks Rob’s stuff right off the riser. They looked like they were ready to throw down right there. I think that was really the start of everything.

The Uprise drummer and the flag that started it all... Photo by: Ken Salerno

 

Alex Franklin: The Uprise always had a reputation as far as the people they brought with them. They were definitely a wild bunch.

Tim McMahon: The Uprise were definitely a skinhead band and it was kind of… questionable, as far as what they were into and what they were or weren’t.Ray Meister: The Uprise had nothing good to say about "The Limeys" coming to play in their country. Between songs they stopped for some quick hate speech against the Exploited, complaining about their drum set being so far forward on the stage and not on a riser because the Exploited’s gear was set up behind them. By the time The Uprise stopped playing, there was a feeling of menace, which kept building until the Exploited hit the stage.Alex Franklin: The Uprise played and the whole place went apeshit. All the skinheads went nuts. There were a lot of punks there that night, and there was a lot of tension between the skins and the punks. The Uprise did their thing and all the skinheads got worked up.

Carl Humenik: To this day, I still don’t get it. Talking to Scott, Matt [Andrews], and Rob from the Uprise… a couple of them worked at City Gardens. I knew them all. I knew them before they were The Uprise. When I first met them, they weren’t like that. I think it was an act, I really do.

Karl “Hard Karl” Hedgepath: Then you had the thing with the flag. The Uprise had put an American flag out on the stage, and the Exploited tried to take it down.

Dave Franklin: The Uprise were great. Scott and Matt were full-blown skins. They knew there were going to be a lot of skinheads, so they came out wearing wigs! I saw Scott up on stage with this huge blonde afro and I was like, “What the hell is this guy doing?” And all they were doing was just making fun of everybody.

Tony Rettman: The Uprise set up a big American Flag on the stage, and that didn't help either. I think The Uprise guys put on big Afro wigs, too. They were being real sarcastic and said things like, “Oh, don't worry about the people from this country, we're fine. You guys can come over here and set your shit up. We'll work around it. It's fine.”

Bruce Boyd: We had no trouble from the crowd. Vision had no trouble from the crowd. Everybody was moshing it up and loving it. Then I thought, “This is kind of weird to have the Exploited come out and headline this show.” This was just not the scene for the first three bands and then the Exploited.

 

Pagan Babies vocalist Mike McManus enjoying the crowd. Photo by: Ken Salerno

Tony Rettman: Then the Exploited came on. I just assumed that the skinheads would sort of like the Exploited. I mean, the skinheads wanted to be from England, the Exploited were from England... They all had that same meathead mentality.

Tim McMahon: When the Exploited went on, it was as if a storm had just come into the building. It seemed like the lights went out and it was just dark and creepy and scary. And I’m thinking, what the hell’s gonna’ happen in here?

Jamie Davis: From what I understand, the Exploited had this big security guard with them who was also [notorious “white power” band] Skrewdriver’s security. He had a big Oi! shirt. The Exploited had big ties with Skrewdriver, from what I’ve heard.

Alex Franklin: When the Exploited came on, I was in the back, and all the skins were gathering at the back of the club. At one point somebody said, "All skinheads in the back." It was pretty organized. Their whole thing was to disrupt the show. As soon as the Exploited hit the stage the American flag came out. The Exploited were harassed from the get-go. They were giving the band the finger, “sieg-heiling” them, and flaunting the American flag in their face.

Bruce Boyd: As the Exploited played, you could see all these gobs of spit raining down on Wattie. You could literally see the gobs of spit being launched at him. You could see the skins in the crowd hocking loogies, just firing away, and they were landing everywhere. But the Exploited just kept on going.

Carl Humenik (City Gardens security): I was on stage with the Exploited, and it was a freakin’ nightmare. I was covered in spit. I was trying to stop people from getting on stage, and one guy got up there and clubbed Wattie. Wattie just stood there like, “Okay, what do you got now?”

Mike Judge: The crowd seemed like they hated the band. They were spitting on Wattie.

Wattie vs The Skins January 22 1988. Photo by: Ken Salerno

Jamie Davis: The crowd wasn’t fucking with the rest of the band. They didn’t spit on any of them. Just Wattie.

Stephen Brown: The only reason we went after Wattie and the Exploited that night was because they got the skins all riled up. We had the American flags going and were having a great time, and the kick in the ass was that we were all American-ed up that night and The Exploited were like, “Fuck the U.S.A., fuck the U.S.A.!” So it kind of pissed everybody off.

Mike Judge: The skins all moved up to the front. They started by chanting, “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” Then they all gave the finger. Then they started spitting on Wattie, but he never backed down or anything. He was stood his ground. You could feel it in the air. Once all those skinheads began pushing their way up front, you just knew something was going to happen and that the Exploited were going to have a rough time of it.

Alex Franklin: The whole time they played Wattie was getting spit on. There was spit all over him. They were calling him a faggot, they were calling him a commie, and he was calling them wankers and spitting right back at them. Wattie had his Mohawk up and you could see one giant glob of spit got stuck in his Mohawk.

Jamie Davis: Wattie is the punkest motherfucker. He just kept playing. He had spit hanging from everywhere.

Mike Judge: I was like, “Damn, I don’t know if I’ll ever be a frontman who could pull that off.”

Randy Now: Spitting started back in England… it was a way of showing appreciation.  It didn’t mean the same thing over there as over here.  The Exploited were used to it, so it didn’t really bother them.

Ray Meister: The typical [skinhead] “wall of death” was crashing again and again on the crowd.

Randy Now:  The “wall of death” was when skinheads would link arms forming a giant steamroller. They would run full steam at the stage… and over anyone in the way.

Ray Meister: Any kids trying to start a mosh pit quickly had it squashed by skinheads, who seemed to outnumber everyone. They decided that no one was having any fun if they weren't going to take part in their bullshit. They tried to disrupt the show any way possible, pulling a few microphones out into the crowd. One roadie tried to stop this and ended up losing a tug-of-war that resulted in him being dragged into the crowd, roughed up, and thrown back onto the stage.

Bruce Boyd: I decided that was the time to go and meet some chicks or whatever. I mean, that’s the reason I’m in a band in the first place: To get chicks.

Michael McManus (Pagan Babies, vocalist): From where I was standing, I saw that Wattie had an issue with some skinheads in the front. At one point somebody jumped on the stage and tried to swing at him.

Jamie Davis: Wattie hit some kid in the face. He tried to hit one of the skins that hit him, and he busted some other kid’s face wide open with the microphone stand. Somebody from The Uprise jumped up to swing at Wattie and missed him. And Wattie kept right on playing. He played a whole entire set. It was awesome.

Randy Now: I went to the center of the pit, and I was 35 years old at the time and not a big guy.  All these skinheads were huge, football-player types, and I went up to one I knew and said, “You can spit all you want, spit all night, but don’t touch them!” And they didn’t. 

Ray Meister: Wattie’s face and mohawk were completely disgusting, covered with spit, but he didn't stop. He played a full show, cursing them out between every song, which made me wonder if this was just a typical night for him. What a madhouse.

Stephen Brown: And Wattie’s screaming, “The skins are me mates! The skins are me mates!” And we’re like, “Fuck you!” We’re spitting on them and shit. It was just us being us, that’s all. When the shit went down, he probably thought it was all the skins against him, but it wasn’t. He pissed us off because we were all American-ed up that night. Any other night, it probably wouldn’t have mattered. We were doing chicken rides, we had the American flags flying… it was a great night.

Tony Rettman: And that was it. After that, it was chaos.

Wattie and The Exploited. Just another night at City Gardens... Photo by: Ken Salerno

 

Michael McManus: Halfway through Exploited’s set, I was out in the parking lot doing an interview with a fanzine. We were in the van bullshitting. The Exploited had a camper they traveled around in, which was odd anyway because most bands traveled in vans. It wasn’t as big as a Winnebago, but it was pretty big. I don’t think they were even done playing and the parking lot started filling up. I saw people swinging stuff at this camper. The guy who was interviewing me asked me, “What do you think of what is happening to the Exploited’s van?”  They blew out every window in that camper. They flattened every tire; they completely fucked that van up while we were sitting there.

Tony Rettman: I was outside interviewing the Pagan Babies in their van for Jersey Beat and it was like conducting an interview in Kuwait. There was noise everywhere, shit flying through the air. We saw through the window that people were throwing bottles. It was utter chaos.

Karl “Hard Karl” Hedgepath: I remember when they flipped over the U-Haul outside. It got really fucking ugly.

Randy Now: It only takes ten guys rocking an empty U-Haul trailer for couple minutes to tip over. It was empty because all the equipment was onstage! It was just a trailer, not the whole van.

Dave Franklin: They tipped their van over and chased them right out of Trenton. It was insane.

Mark Pingitore: I saw the aftermath of what went on outside the club. I walked out and saw the bus. It was really fucking funny. I saw the bus being rocked and went, “Wow.” I had nothing else to say but, “Wow.” I didn’t expect it to go that far. I don’t think anybody expected it to go that far. I stood back and watched, like, “What the fuck?” That was probably one of the craziest things I think I’ve ever seen.

Randy Now: They only tipped over the U-Haul trailer! It would have national news if they tipped over a whole van. That simply did not happen. Those kids are full of shit. And I don’t remember any windows being smashed, maybe one or two got broken. That’s it.

Eric Squadroni: I remember feeling so bad for the guys in the Exploited.  Maybe I was wrong, maybe they were staying at some hotel down the road, maybe everything was good and they had a place to stay in the States. But, in my mind, these guys came all the way from England, they got this crappy fucking van and that’s their home. Where the fuck are they going go now? Of course I’m thinking: punk rock—they ain’t getting paid. I imagine the Exploited didn’t make a whole lot of money that night, probably not enough to put themselves up in a hotel. I just assumed they were fucked because of that. Fucked beyond any 17-year-old kid’s understanding. Now we can look back on it, being older, and just imagine being on a road trip and then getting stuck in the middle of nowhere. I can’t even imagine what it would be like if you’re stuck in another country and all your passports and shit get trampled or ripped off.

Randy Now: The band really didn’t care. It was good paying gig for them. And all those kids who came to the show and didn’t like them and spit on them? They all bought t-shirts! The Exploited sold a shitload of merchandise. They would sell $2,000-3,000 worth of stuff a night. And the van? It couldn’t have been anything that bad because they were able to drive it to the next gig. Maybe they had some duct tape over the windows. Maybe they called U-Haul and got a new van and trailer the next day, but they drove away in the van.

Tony Rettman: I got out of there before they kicked over the U-Haul and spray-painted all the racist graffiti on it. I wondered if they had to go to a U-Haul place to get another trailer or if they had to drive around with all kinds of white power graffiti painted on the side of the one that got trashed.

Ray Meister: At this point I realized my parents were probably in the parking lot and that I should get to them before they either thought I was part of this mob or in danger. Me and my friends piled into the car, and my mom asked me what was going on. I didn’t want them to refuse to bring me to shows, so I told them the band was packing they're gear into the van and people were just crowding around to see them. I don’t think they bought it though.

Eric Squadroni: They busted up the trailer… who knows if one of those dudes busted inside and went through all their personal shit. It had to be a big hassle for them, a big pain in the ass, and for what? For some song? It was punk rock. They could sing about whatever the fuck they wanted!

Stephen Brown: A couple nights later one of the guys from The Uprise got stabbed in the parking lot. Some Philly guy stuck him right underneath his armpit as payback for some other shit that went down that night. So me and Sam Psycho found the guy, and we beat the hell out of him. We’re tried to break his leg. We dragged him over to the curb and we jumped up and down on him, trying to get his leg to break, but it wouldn’t break! He’s all wobbly and stretchy, and we just couldn’t get it to break. So we wound up peeing on him. That was the night Adams—this fat, pudgy guy who always had a Mohawk—stopped coming around because we were “too violent.” See, when you’re drunk all the time, it all kind of meshes together. There were a lot of great nights there, but all those crazy fights stand out. I miss those days. Now that I’m married with kids, I don’t do shit anymore.

 

Eric Squadroni: That’s the kind of shit that drove me away from punk rock and got me listening to jazz. It really was ugly to the point where it died. It fucking died, man. You couldn’t fucking go see bands anymore because of that skinhead crap. It was such bullshit. Then all the bands were the same guys doing that shit, and the music sucked because it reflected that same kind of jock mentality. It got boring.

 

Carl Humenik: The funny thing is that I’ve read interviews with Wattie, and he said, “It was just another night for us. Whatever.” 

 

After it all happened, I was hanging out and people told me what happened. The Exploited’s guitar player was right behind me and he said, “These are the only clothes I got for the rest of the tour.” I gave him my hoodie. It was the only thing I had on me. They lost everything. 

 

Mike Judge: Once I got into my own band and started going on tour and playing those small, little towns where people aren’t so tolerant of you—especially if they think you come in with this big “New York attitude”—and the local tough guy wants to show up the singer of the New York band or whatever… Every time I had to go play in front a hostile crowd, I would always think of that show. I would always think of Wattie standing up to a whole crowd of people who were very vocal that they didn’t like him. Just the balls that they had to stand out there and play through that. That’s the performance I think of. It was impressive. 


Here's An Excerpt from "Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore" by Freddy Alva



Mackie HYPER Jayson is the original NYHC graffiti b-boy. He started out as a neighborhood tagger  in 1972, and by 1976 he would go on to bomb the city, becoming king of the Broadway #1 line by 1981. At a time when uptown was meeting downtown, and kids raised on hip-hop were encountering the burgeoning Lower East Side hardcore scene, Mackie was the crossover link that joined all these urban styles together. Graffiti, skateboarding, and hardcore punk music melded seamlessly with other subcultural aspects of the underground, and Mackie always seemed to be at the center of these fledgling movements. Mackie joined Frontline, the first hardcore band made up entirely of graffiti writers, and he helped cement their place as the originators of this synthesis. Mackie would go on to play drums on the Cro-Mags’ seminal Age Of Quarrel LP in 1986, as well as playing with other legendary outfits like The Icemen, Bad Brains, Shelter, and Madball. He has always remained humble about the huge impact he’s had on influencing both of these subcultures. As he once stated: ‘I don’t know about me influencing anyone. I liked Stax, Motown, and Bruce Lee!’

Mackie1980#1TrainFrank151_Large.jpg


Tell me where you grew up and when did you get into graffiti and hardcore?
I grew up in Manhattan, the birth place of NYC graffiti, and the Bad Brains got me into hardcore.

What were some of the first names you wrote?
The first name I wrote was FLY 1 and my partner back then was FLIP 131. I started writing in elementary school; in 5th grade.

Any neighborhood or all-city writers that stand out from those days?
CRAZY CROSS 136, JUNIOR 161, MOUSEY 89, TOPCAT 126, BLOOD TEA, JESTER TC, WASP 1, DERBY, RIFF 170, BILLY 167, NOC 167, SLAVE TF5, PART, KOOL 131. These are just some of the writers I respected during the years that I wrote. I was a toy compared to these writers and, as far as music goes, the Cro-Mags were a bunch of toys compared to the Bad Brains.

What crews did you get down with?
The first graffiti crew I was in was the Manhattan MOG (Masters Of Graffiti). It was made up of members of the gang The Pearls: TAB 2 aka PEARL 167, MP 1, MOT 1, MOE TP, GEE 1, EJ 1. All except MOE and MOT have passed. I got put down in graffiti crews SA, TC (The Crew), OTB (Out To Bomb), TNA (The Nasty Artists), TNT, RTW (Rolling Thunder Writers), TVS (The Vandal Squad), and CIA (Criminals In Action).

When did you start writing the names you’re known for?
I started writing MACKIE around 1977 and then HYPER after that. Other names I had for piecing were HYPE, HARM, MACK, and CASPER. Around this time my main partners were SIE 1 and EN 005 (RIP).

Frontline was the first NYHC graffiti band, what did the other members write?
Frontline members wrote ME 62, RAGE, and HAON.

NYHC's first band made up of all graff writers:    Frontline

NYHC's first band made up of all graff writers: Frontline

You also played in ska outfit Urban Blight and they were all writers as well?
Urban Blight members were all graffiti writers from the 1970s and members of the crew Go Club. All their artwork was done by their singer and legendary writer TEAM.

Did you ever do any art for The Icemen, Bad Brains, or your current band Hazen St.?
The only band I did the album art for was Hazen St. The hardcore bands I’ve played with are Frontline, The Icemen, The Cro-Mags, Leeway, The Bad Brains, and Madball.

Have you done any art lately, either on paper, in the street, or in galleries?
I’ve only done three pieces in the past twenty-five years: one in NYC, one in Amsterdam, and one in L.A. I quit writing graffiti in 1981.

Mackie_1980_Entrance _No.1_train_Large.jpg

 

An excerpt from No Slam Dancing, No Stage Diving, No Spikes: An Oral History of the Legendary City Gardens by Amy Yates Wuelfing and Steven DiLodovico

May 3rd, 1987: How Did it Come to This?

The Butthole Surfers and fire was a scary mix…  Photo by  Ken Salerno

The Butthole Surfers and fire was a scary mix… Photo by Ken Salerno

ON THIS DATE IN CITY GARDENS HISTORY: MAY 3 1987 THE DAY THE BUTTHOLE SURFERS CAME TO TOWN

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.

May 3, 1987: The Day the Butthole Surfers Came to Town

Butthole Flyer.jpg

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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