Exploited City Gardens Riot

January 22nd, 1988 - The Exploited Riot

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.

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.

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, The Uprise take the stage ahead of The Exploited. 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.

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 Uprie 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.

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.

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 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.

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 to 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-yearold 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 their 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.

After years of trying to track him down, author Steve DiLodovico finally sits with Wattie from the Exploited to discuss City Gardens, punk rock riots, and the infamous night of January 22 1988. Subtitles unavailable. Recorded 7/26/15


 Exploited footage by Jim Altieri





Back to blog