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
Minutemen/Sorry/Sic Kidz (2 Shows, All Ages & 21+) – January 4, 1985
Ron Gregorio (Editor, Hard Times magazine): The Minutemen were a great band live. Lots of energy. [Frontman] D. Boon really kept your attention because he was just a great performer.
Amy Yates Wuelfing (author): They played two shows, one for all ages and then a bar show for 21 and up. The all-ages shows were in the early afternoon, and afterward the club would kick everyone out, set up all the equipment again, and then let in the bar crowd. The good thing was, if you loved that band, you could see them twice in one day if you were over 21 or had a fake ID. Ron and I were set to interview the Minutemen that day before the all-ages show, but when we got there, the road manager said that the band had gone “across the street.” I had no idea what that meant since across the street was a housing project. He said, “No, they are in the grocery store.” The Fine Fair grocery store looked abandoned. In fact, up until that day I thought it was.
Randy Now: It was a weird little place. We’d go over there and get fish and chips for, like, three dollars. It was probably the worst, greasiest stuff in the world, but it was good at the same time. We went in there all the time for random stuff like ketchup. When you’re in a place long enough, you get used to the surroundings. Everybody used their parking lot, too. When the club first opened, I would go over there and clean up all the trash in their parking lot after shows.
Mike Watt (Minutemen bassist): We did chow there. Fuck, man… Like sub sandwiches and real big helpings of potato salad. D.’s favorite was macaroni salad. He loved that shit. When I first met him, when we were boys, he loved macaroni salad.
Amy Yates Wuelfing: We go over and, sure enough, D. Boon is standing at the deli counter with a big heaping helping of fried fish in each hand. The fish was in those red and white checkered, cardboard bowls that places usually use for French fries. I thought, “Wait, you’re actually going to eat that?” But before I could ask, D. said, “I got all of this for $6! This place is awesome!” He carried it back to City Gardens, sat down in the dressing room, and ate it all. During the shows—we stayed for both—D. jumped up and down like crazy person, and me and Ron looked at each other like, he’s going to go through the stage. You could see the floorboards bending beneath him.
Mike Watt: That stage wasn’t the strongest. I remember one time, I think it was in Portland, he went right through the stage and kept playing. He put everything he had into a gig. In some ways, working with Iggy Pop reminds me of D. You play like it might be your last gig. D. Boone always went like that. I wasn’t a born entertainer, and it was very scary for me. I got into music to be with my friends. But when you had a guy like D. next to you, how could you be afraid? He was incredibly inspiring. Our teen years were in the ‘70s, and all we knew was arena rock. We didn’t know about clubs until punk. He became the antithesis to all of the caricatured rock clichés we had lived through. Many times, D. would be pulled off the stage by bouncers who thought he was just some guy trying to get up there. It happened to me a few times too, but it happened to him a lot. I don’t know what other people saw in punk, but for me it was this great, weird revenge against all the fucking poofery that we thought held us back from playing gigs. A lot of that was our own fault, but some of it was the culture of the ‘70s and why punk came about. Punk was the perfect thing for people like me and D. For us it was not a style of music, it was a way of getting to do gigs and write our own songs. Seeing these other cats go for it was infectious. That’s why I call it a movement. It wasn’t so hierarchal. We were all in it together, trying to find our own way to express ourselves, but still be influenced by each other. From bands in England that we never saw, to guys who were in the boat with you, like Black Flag, Meat Puppets, or Hüsker Dü… we never would have made Double Nickels on the Dime if Hüsker hadn’t have done Zen Arcade about the same time. We all had different sounds. The worst thing we thought you could do was copy your brother, so it’s hard to say how we were connected, but I know we were.
Amy Yates Wuelfing: I remember feeling bad because City Gardens was so huge. It was hard to make the place look full. And that day—both shows—it was empty.
Mike Watt: We felt, since we came from working people, you owed the audience something. These people work all week to get the money up to go to the gig, so you can’t take them for granted. You gotta give them something. It’s hard to define exactly, but they don’t want to feel like they’ve been fucking pissed on or used and abused. At the same time, you want to challenge them and try to trip them out somehow. And, then there are the guys [in the band] who are coming to do this with you… you owe them too. I wouldn’t put big value judgments on City Gardens. People called it a shithole. I used to hear a lot of bad things about the sound, the acoustics. A lot of bands did great gigs there, but people start nitpicking. But as I see it, every gig you play is an “o” word—opportunity. Not the “b” word, which is “burden.”