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
Green Day/Shades Apart/Headstrong – January 17, 1993
Jim Testa (Jersey Beat publisher): City Gardens was quite a distance from me, so I didn’t get down there that often. I probably became aware of the place in the early ‘90s. The most distinct show I remember was Green Day. They played there twice: the last show of their last tour when they were on Lookout Records and at the beginning of the Dookie tour, after they were on [record label] Reprise. The reason I remember so distinctly is because I interviewed [Green Day bassist] Mike Dirnt right at the time they were putting Dookie together. It wasn’t out yet, and everyone in the punk scene was still talking about how Green Day had signed to a major label. No one knew, least of all Warner Bros [the parent company of Reprise], that they were going to sell eight million records. They were already selling 50,000 or 60,000 on Lookout, so everyone was guessing 100,000 or maybe 200,000. I interviewed Mike Dirnt, who I knew because he had recorded with Screeching Weasel… through that connection, and because I knew the people at Lookout. Once Dookie started selling 8 bazillion records, the band reflexively shut down. They stopped doing interviews unless you were Rolling Stone or MTV, because everybody in the world was trying to interview them. I already had this interview with Mike in the can, and it wound up getting re-printed in two national magazines. I was in the right place at the right time.
Jamie Davis (City Gardens regular): By this time, in ‘93, people were just… it was a different crowd. Me and Kyle, (Ed. - who’s black, which does have something to do with the story) were driving up there, and we see the people lined up. This is how you could tell it was a different crowd. Any other time we would line up and wrap around the building or to that back parking lot. This was the only show most of these people had been to, so the line went straight back, out into the street. They didn’t even know how to line up! We drive up, me and Kyle, and we cleared the line. We just drove right through it. There were girls and thirty-year-old emo kids diving to get out of the way!
Timmy Chunks (Token Entry/Headstrong, vocals): Headstrong actually opened that show. At the time I was singing for them. I was also working at City Gardens, and Randy asked if we wanted to open for Green Day. At that point I had only heard the name of the band. I had never heard them. When you’re in a band and someone asks you if you want to play a show, you play it. It doesn’t matter who it is. So, I told Randy, yeah, we definitely wanted to play it. We showed up, we went on and did our show. The place was packed. Afterwards, Mike Dirnt comes up and says, “Hey, great show guys!” and gives me a shirt. I thought it was really cool, and I said, “Thanks!”
Randy Now: Billy Joe said into the mic, “We’ve never played for so many people before!” He told me this was their first show ever with monitors! [Green Day drummer] Tre Cool kissed me on the cheek after they sold, like, $3000 in t-shirts. Up until then they did $400-$500 tops, and that was probably back home in California. These were five-dollar t-shirts!
Timmy Chunks: They go on stage, the place is packed, and my jaw dropped. I was like, “How come I haven’t heard these guys?!” I could not believe how amazing they were. I had no idea.
Alex Franklin (City Gardens regular): [City Gardens regular] Kung Fu Lou got into a whole thing with Green Day. Green Day played and we were a bunch of goons. We were hardcore kids and we wanted to go nuts. We were there to have a good time and watch some bands play, but we were also rowdy dudes. Towards the front of the club Lou was dancing. The people at the show really didn’t understand the way we danced. They thought we were assholes. Looking back on it, we probably were. It might not have been appropriate, but it is what it is. Everybody was dancing and doing their thing, and then a fight breaks out towards the front. You know how we were: if someone hits us, we’re going to hit them back. So that breaks out and Billie Joe stops playing. He points at Lou and says, “You! You! That’s bullshit! What you’re doing is fucked up!” All the hardcore kids took offense to it. It was just one of those misunderstandings; fights happen at shows. What do you expect? It turned into a yelling match between members of the crowd and Billie Joe. There were threats abounding that Billie Joe was going to get beat up. Nothing ever came of it.
Randy Now: And then the band appropriately, or inappropriately, trashed the dressing room. That’s when I knew they were going to be big, after they trashed the dressing room. The shit heads!
Mike Dirnt (Green Day, bassist): The night we sold out City Gardens, and we realized we could sell out a place that held over a thousand people. When we went back home to Berkeley, we seriously sat down and started talking about where do we go from here?
Jim Testa: That show woke them up to the fact that they weren’t this little band that played [San Francisco club] Gilman Street anymore. That’s why that always stood out in my memory.