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
Henry Rollins/Don Bajema (spoken word) – February 17th, 1993
Steven DiLodovico (author/City Gardens regular): This was easily one of my favorite nights at City Gardens. I rode to Trenton with a friend of mine. By this time I had seen Rollins do his spoken word several times over and was a big fan. There was a HUGE turnout, especially for a spoken word gig. Rollins was at the height of his popularity by then, so a lot of kids came to check him out. Then this Don Bajema guy comes out. I wasn’t really paying attention, until he starts to read excerpts from his book Boy in the Air, which Rollins had released on his 2.13.61 Publications. He started reading this piece entitled, “Blacktop,” and it fucking blew me away. It was really powerful. Everything Bajema read or wrote sucked me in, and as I learned more about his life, I was more drawn in. This guy was the real deal, and a fantastic writer. To this day he is still one of my favorite authors.
Don Bajema (author): Henry was never anything but a gentleman. Always eager to learn… curious, deeply appreciative, and a great talent. A very shamanistic type of man. The show was in the winter, and it was really, really cold. Henry and I had dinner at a diner down the road, at a place I believe he always ate when he was there. When we got to City Gardens, it was dark and rainy, and there was a line of shivering kids—to me, kids. Most of them were my oldest daughter’s age at the time—a long line of these hipsters lined against a concrete bunker off the highway. I remarked to Henry about it, and he said, “They’re tough as hell out here.” As usual for Henry, we got there very early. We had quite a while before we were to go on, and the hall was empty. As the minutes turned to an hour, I asked the guy at the venue if we could let them in a little early. And they did. Everyone in winter gear, home-invasion hats, and boots, and they were such great people. Really warm and friendly. But Henry also said, “If they start fighting, break out, Don. It gets wild in here.” When I told Henry they should open the doors early, he smiled and said, “This is the toughest audience in the world. They’re fine but confine them too long they’ll go crazy.” I could see that from the squint in their eyes and the take-no-shit-or prisoners looks on their faces, but beneath it, they were the nicest, coolest kids. I’ve thought about that show many times.
Steven DiLodovico: After Bajema read, everyone was waiting for Rollins. The place filled up fast, and soon we were all squashed in, like it was a hardcore show or something. Rollins came out, and he was real low-key. He invited a bunch of us to sit up on the stage next to him so we could make some room for everyone else. Before the words were even out of his mouth, I was scrambling up the stage. I sat less than two feet from him. I had worn a Morrissey shirt, and he ragged on me all night.