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.
Fear – January 24, 1993
Travis Nelson (Inspecter 7, vocals): I guess it was around ’92 or so when the Nazis stopped coming around. Except for what I like to call their “last stand” show, when they came to see Fear.
Rich O’Brien: That was the most violent show I can remember. Fear would always bring a large amount of skinheads to their shows. All these Atlantic City skinheads showed up. They called themselves the AC Skins, but they were from all over. I swear there were at least 100 people fighting at that show. And so we, the bouncers, fought too. When I was searching people at the door, I confiscated more weapons than at any other show. Brass knuckles, knives, a lot of spikes, box cutters, people with rolls of quarters in their pockets that they said they were going to pay the cover [entry fee] with.
Travis Nelson: We hadn’t seen the AC Skins in a year or two. They stopped coming because every time they would come, they’d get fucked up. So, Fear is playing, and it’s me, Jamie Davis, Kyle, and a bunch of Philly guys. Some of the newer skins in Trenton were there, and some of the newer punks. The Nazis must have networked and coordinated, because everyone was there. All the AC Skins and a whole lot of eastern Pennsylvania skins… they came out in force. I’m looking around, and there were plenty of guys who, if shit went down, would fight. But they had numbers. It was mostly a bunch of punk kids, but still… there were a lot of [skinheads].
Jamie Davis (City Gardens regular): The Nazis did fuck with Kyle, who is black. Then a bunch of people got into a fight with them.
Tony Rettman (author/City Gardens regular): I thought that whole white-power skinhead thing had faded away by the ‘90s, and it was replaced by this thugish urban-wannabe vibe of hardcore. That had come in with the baggy pants and the kickboxing moves. When all those AC guys walked in, I was like, “Skinheads? Do they still make those?” It was like guys walking in with fucking powdered wigs on or something. They showed up and started sieg-heiling, and I thought “Has anyone told these guys that this whole thing is over? Do they live in a time capsule in Atlantic City?” I was mesmerized.
Travis Nelson: I know Randy was nervous. He was saying stuff like, “I wonder if I give them their money back if they would leave?” And I’m like, “Um, I doubt it!”
Rich O’Brien: There was black kid named Lester at the show. There were also about 75 to 100 skinheads, and some of them started picking on Lester, who was skinny and never hurt anybody. Real thin. The skinheads jumped Lester in the pit, and all the regulars turned on the AC Skins. The regulars weren’t going to put up with this crap… someone from outside picking on one of them. All the regulars knew the security guys, and they would help us out. They usually had our backs and we had theirs. A couple times I got sucker punched at a show, and some of the regular patrons jumped in and beat the crap out the guy who punched me.
Travis Nelson: Everything was generally cool at first. When me and Kyle were in the pit we would feel “sneaks,” these little sucker punches to our backs and shit. I think it was after the set when it finally broke out. I don’t even know how it started. I remember thinking, “Oh wow, we got through the show and nothing happened. And there’s a fucking army of Nazis here.” That’s when all hell broke loose. I mean it broke loose.
Rich O’Brien: It was almost like a gang war. It was unequivocally the biggest fight at the club. It was outside skinheads on one side, and the regulars and security on the other. There were chairs flying, there were tables flying, and the band’s playing. Everyone who was there everyone— was rolling around fighting. It was nasty. The police wouldn’t come, so we didn’t even bother to call.
Travis Nelson: Everyone seemed to be fighting everyone. I mean, there were motherfuckers there who weren’t skinheads. They were straight-up white supremacists. Usually the Nazis were heavily outnumbered, but for some reason, this night, there was a shitload of them. The bouncers were throwing out people who were fighting, but then they realized there was still a shitload of Nazis inside. They weren’t going to be able to control this fucking situation by themselves.
Rich O’Brien: There was easily 100 people fighting, and it took a while to break it up. The band stopped playing, and Fear was up on stage watching the action.
Jamie Davis: We actually got thrown out, but then they let us back in. That was the only time the bouncers at City Gardens had ever said, “We want you back in there because we don’t know what to do!”
Tony Rettman: I watched an explosion of bodies come tumbling out that side door, people fighting and punching. There was one kid—I guess he was trying to look cool—he picked up one of those plastic chairs that were sitting around. They were like those old plastic chairs you had in your high school cafeteria. He picked it up like he was going to hurl it or something, but he brought it outside instead. I thought to myself, “He’s probably going to sit down in that chair and watch the fight.”
Rich O’Brien: The lights went up, and we pushed out the AC Skins that were fighting. Once they got thrown out, they didn’t have the numbers to be a force anymore, so they just left on their own. Then Fear just finished their set.
Photo by Cody McCarthy