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 Ron Gregorio.
Venom/Black Flag – April 2, 1986
Jamie Davis (City Gardens Regular): That was my first show at City Gardens, and it was weird. I got a ride over with my parents. It was only five minutes from where I grew up. I know people who used to walk there from our town. I know a dude who walked there a bunch of times with a big Mohawk, right through Trenton. And Trenton was a little different back then. The world was a little different back then. To be honest, we didn’t know that much about Black Flag. We really went to see Venom.
Henry Rollins: Gimme an S! Gimme an A! Until I spelled out “Satan.” Oh, yeah, I did that. We put pentagrams on our palms, a la Richard Ramirez, and terrorized the members of Venom who were slouching around near their dressing rooms. We were just kinda being in the way. They chose the upstairs dressing room. We were lounging around, and they were being polite going, “Excuse me,” and we would hold up our hands and go, “Hail Satan!” Our roadie, Joe Cole, blocked their way as they were making a hasty exit after their set. They ran out of there. Joe lurched in front of them, almost falling on them, and did his “Hail Satan!” It was a great night.
Jonathan LeVine (City Gardens regular): I think the craziest show I ever saw was Black Flag playing with Overkill and Venom. All I remember about that show was the singer from Venom was a tall, skinny dude, and he was walking around with cherry-red Doc Martens that went up to his knees. I remember thinking, “This is a weird fucking show.”
Jamie Davis: I remember Henry Rollins making fun of Venom. When Black Flag came on, Henry came out in his little shorts and he had big pentagrams drawn on his hands. He kept saying, “Satan! Satan!”
Eerie Von (Samhain/Danzig bassist): I had gone down to City Gardens before with Glenn [Danzig] to see Black Flag. I didn’t have a driver’s license at the time, so they wouldn’t let me in. I’m friends with Henry Rollins, and I got Glenn Danzig into the show, but they still wouldn’t let me in! So, I sat in the car for the whole show. Glenn drove, and he’s gonna hang out after the show and everything, and I’m sitting in the car. There’s a picture of Glenn and Henry floating around somewhere from that gig.
Jamie Davis: Black Flag was cool. But it was later Black Flag. I guarantee you if it had been early Black Flag, it would have been a lot better.
Henry Rollins: It was a 45-minute set. The deal was either we had a night off or we could open for Venom… and City Gardens would rent our PA and pay us as the opening band. So, we said, “Yeah, we’ll play.” We loaded in, Overkill played, then us, then Venom.
Jamie Davis: They seemed to throw Overkill on all the metal bills. Overkill was Overkill. They were still good back then. That was the Feel the Fire days.
Henry Rollins: We made a little money, but the best part was getting to see Venom and walking away with that board tape, the original of which is sitting right on my shelf.
Eerie Von: I was really pissed I couldn’t get in to see the show and hang out. That would have been nice.
Henry Rollins: The between-song raps are the stuff of legend. We gave a copy of the tape to Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth who made a 7-inch single of all the between-song-raps, and it is beyond belief, it is so cool.
Venom reportedly laughed off Rollins’ comments, saying, “Henry didn’t have the balls to speak to us back then. He hid backstage, but now he mouths off behind our backs. His band was useless, and that’s why he writes books now. He even got the date of the show wrong. Go write some more books, and we’ll keep making music.”