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. Photos by Ken Salerno and Ron Gregorio.
Descendents/Dead Milkmen – January 26, 1986
Milo Aukerman (Descendents, vocalist): When we first started playing, the crowds were tiny. It grew, but when I say that, it grew incrementally. By the time we took our long ’87 hiatus, we were playing to 500 people, which is still a lot better than playing to 50 or 10. The biggest crowds were in major cities, so in ’87 maybe we could hit 500 in New York. But when you’re in the middle of the country, you’re playing to the same 30 kids, so it took a while for punk rock to permeate. People look back at those early years, and I look back at them, and I feel like they were great salad days. For me it was a magical time, but not because we were the best thing since sliced bread or the most popular band. We weren’t very popular, but I enjoyed it, and it didn’t matter to me the size of the crowds we were playing to. If we could get people thinking and rock someone’s heart, that was the main thing. But there is this perception that we were huge back then, and we definitely weren’t. It was pre-Green Day, so mall punk didn’t exist. The people showing up at shows may have only been 30 people, but they were really committed. They were really hardcore, die-hard kids. And a place like City Gardens, where you could get a few hundred kids to show up, those were the die-hard kids. It had its positives and negatives. The positives being we felt like these kids were committed and they weren’t just going to a “punk rock show.” They were coming to see us.
We had this great show in Lincoln, Nebraska, which I wrote “Hürtin’ Crüe” about. We get there, no one’s there, the doors open, and still no one’s there. We come to the realization that the opening band, a heavy metal cover band, is going on stage and the room is empty. We decide that we’ll be their audience. We watched them play and cheered them on, and we keep thinking maybe people will show up, but no one ever showed up. When we go on, the heavy metal band was our audience. That was the way things worked. It was very sweet because we were supporting each other’s loser-dom. Of course, they yelled out for “Free Bird” during our set. True story.