Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Book Review - No Slam Dancing, No Stage Diving, No Spikes: An Oral History of The Legendary City Gardens by Amy Yates Wuelfing & Steven DiLodovico

My reading consists of music books.  I can't get enough of them.  Especially oral histories about the punk and new wave era.  I've read Punk Rock: an Oral History by John Robb about the start of the British Punk scene through Post Punk and Goth. I've read We've Got The Neutron Bomb about the LA Punk scene and also Please Kill Me about the start of the NY Punk Scene.  I love these books.  They are first hand accounts of scenes I loved even thought I was not a part of them.

I was not a part of those scenes.

That phrase is the key.  A scene that I was a part of was City Gardens.  City Gardens was the Mecca for misfit youths in the bad part of a bad city.  The club was the homing beacon for any punk, new wave, indie, ska, and numerous other genre's that played the underground circuit traveling between Philadelphia and New York.  It made Trenton a destination, regardless of how dangerous it was to travel there, because once you were inside its doors you were home.  Punker, Skinhead, Goth, New Waver, it did not matter.  You were accepted.

The club, whose shows were booked by promoter Randy Now, created a scene in an area that had not existed.  In an era before smart phones and the internet you needed to have personal contact to make that musical discovery.  Sometimes you got to finally see a band you had only heard about her saw a band that you had never heard of.  In the meantime you make friends, became part of a brotherhood, or let it inspire you to create music yourself.  Patrons and Employees included Jon Stewart of The Daily Show, James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, Mickey Ween of Ween, and Ben Kenney of The Roots and Incubus.

The authors kept the DIY spirit alive by making this a book from successful Kickstarter campaign.  They do a fantastic job of taking us through the history of City Gardens.   The interviews are an amazing time capsule of musical knowledge.  It points out the struggles of the bands who traveled relentlessly.  There was no social media marketing.  It was word of mouth, trial and error, fans and fanzines.  They came to our house and they blew our minds. You can relive the the fights, the backstage shenanigans, the fires, the craziness, and most importantly, the shows themselves. Band like The Misfits, Green Day, Nirvana, Black Flag, The Ramones, R.E.M. The Replacements, and The Beastie Boys all graced the stage of this legendary venue.

At the time we all knew we were part of something special.  This is a labor of love for Amy Yates Wuelfing & Steven DiLodovico who will financially probably never recoup the years of research and hard work that they put into the making of this chronicle.  You can't put a dollar amount on memories.  I don't think anyone that was a part of this scene had gotten into it for the money.  It was for the love of it.  And it shows in this book.  It details not only the great bands that played this venue, but the great people that attended and the great local scene and the people that helped create it.  The wonderful photography of Ken Salerno and the author's interviews help paint such an accurate picture of this era it's almost as if you are still there.

I am proud to say that the words of my friends are in this book.  These were hard times.  I miss these times.  I miss City Gardens.  It was a part of my youth that I loved.  Fortunately, people like Randy Now still create a local buzz with stores like The Man Cave.  I have made new friends there who love the sames things.  We see shows together.  We interact.  We play songs for each other.  It is everything that made me fall in love with music in the first place.  May it never die. 

Get your copy of the book at www.infinitemerch.com along with other No Slam Dancing Merchandise.



  1. I love reading oral histories when it comes to music. You learn SO much from the people who were there, living it. Very cool read a book about a scene you were part of too - maybe someday I'll have one of those. :)

    Love "Please Kill Me", by the way. That was my oral history gateway book.


    1. If you liked 'Please Kill Me' definitely check this one out. I also loved 'We Got The Neutron Bomb'. It goes really in depth on the whole LA scene.

      I would like to give a plug to your site too!





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