The following is an excerpt from the book No Slam Dancing, No Stage Diving, No Spikes: An Oral History of the Legendary City Gardens by Amy Yates Wuelfing and Steven DiLodovico. All photos by Ken Salerno.
Chain of Strength/Vision/Killing Time – March 25, 1990
Carl Porcaro (Killing Time, guitar): I knew of City Gardens mostly from hearing the older punk bands like Black Flag talk about it in interviews. I had never been there until we started playing shows. I knew it as one of the long-standing, legendary punk clubs.
Dave Franklin (Vision, vocals): I remember this show because we were real close with Killing Time. For at least two years, I spent every weekend in New York City at [Killing Time member] Anthony’s house. Me, him, and Arthur from Gorilla Biscuits would go out on the town. At that particular show, there was a big deal between some of Sick of It All’s road crew and the Chain of Strength kids. I don’t remember [the details]. I just remember there was some kind of beef.
Carl Porcaro: I remember there was a beef going on at the time. It was typical hardcore shit. If I remember correctly, the story goes something like: Sick of It All, or maybe one of the other New York hardcore bands, was out in California, and one of the guys in Chain of Strength and one of the guys on tour with Sick of It All got into a little thing with one of the guys out in California.
Jim Norton (City Gardens stage manager): When Chain of Strength played City Gardens, they were absolutely, without a doubt, the most concerned with the way they looked of any band I’ve ever come across. Especially for a hardcore band. I’m talking about, “Dude, it’s a pair of vans and some skateboard shorts and a Vision Streetwear shirt. Why are you deciding which Vision Streetwear shirt is most…‘rad’? Just fucking pick one!” They were doing their hair just right; they had their tips all bleached out with just the right shade of dark underneath… They took forever.
Carl Porcaro: So we were going to play with Chain of Strength, first in New York. And the hardcore scene being how it was, we decided we weren’t going to like these guys, even before we had met them, because they had shit with one of our buddies. They were coming all the way from California, one of their first gigs on the east coast, and we made them play last. Most of the crowd left before they went on.
Jim Norton: It was an early hardcore show, and Chain of Strength were supposed to be on the stage at 9… 9:15 at the latest. City Gardens had a hard curfew of ten o’clock on Sundays. The opening bands get on stage on time, and get off stage on time. It was a point of pride for me. If a band was late getting on stage, they were only late by, like, three minutes. It wasn’t this thing where they’d drag it on and on or any of that nonsense. They got on in time, but more importantly, they got off on time.
Dave Franklin: Killing Time wanted us to headline, but Chain of Strength wanted to go on between Killing Time and Vision, and we were like, “No way.” So we had them go on last, and more than half the place had already left. That was a great show, though. Any time Killing Time and Vision played together was a good time.
Jeremy Weiss (City Gardens regular): The rules of the game back then were: if you’re from the furthest point away, you have to headline. I remember how scared they were. They thought everyone would leave because they were on the east coast and all these huge, epic east coast bands played before them.
Jim Norton: The previous band gets off by 8:45, 8:50. All of Chain of Strength’s stuff is up on stage, but the band is nowhere to be found. Nine o’clock comes and goes, so at five after nine I go to the dressing room and said, “Hey guys… time to go on stage.” And they’re literally huddled around a mirror, meticulously combing their hair. I kept telling them it was time and they kept saying, “Yeah, yeah, we’ll be right there.” I tell them about the ten o’clock curfew again. “Yeah, whatever. We’ll be right down.” Ten after nine… nothing. Now people are starting to get pissed off. So I go back up. They finally came down at twenty minutes to ten. It was almost an hour between bands! I’m pointing at my watch going, “Five minutes! Five minutes!” This guy on stage left shoots me this look like, “Yeah, right dude. Whatever. We’re Chain of Strength, bro...”
Carl Porcaro: I think that could have possibly been Uppercut’s last show, too. At least until they got back together in 2006. I remember [Uppercut’s] Steve Murphy diving out of that little window in the backstage area onto the stage for their set.
Jim Norton: So, Chain of Strength do one song. They finish the song and I shoot them the sign, “One more. Only time for one more song and that’s it.” They played that song, whatever it was. Then the singer starts with, “This next song is called…” I looked down at the set of [electrical] breakers off the stage, and I shut off the power and turned on the fluorescent lights. Before they could even get to clicking off the song, I pulled the plug. It hit them, instantly: “Oh, we look like assholes.” The crowd had just sat through an hour-long set change for a fucking hardcore band at a club where the audience is used to a fifteen-minute set change. The crowd knows that something’s up. It’s one thing to be watching a band and be like, “I’m supposed to be home by 10:30. I’m not going to make it, but the rock is right in front of me, man! The hardcore is right in front of me! I’m in the pit now!” It’s another thing to be standing around listening to Don Rettman spin records. You’re like, “This is beat. This isn’t hardcore. What’s going on? Let’s get a burrito…” It fits in nicely with the idea that they’re sitting upstairs making sure that their hair pointed up perfectly, like a Gotti son. And remember: City Gardens had a pretty open stage. The crowd had to have seen me on the side going, “Five minutes, five minutes.” They decide that they are going to play the song with no amps, just drums and vocals. Then the PA is shut off. It’s just them, with their perfect hair, onstage with drums under fluorescent lights. They were so pissed off. Yep, I’m the guy who pulled the plug on Chain of Strength and made them look like idiots under fluorescent lights with no guitars and no vocals. And frosted hair. They looked great...