Posted in movies | music on August 21, 2012

City Gardens flyer from 1988
City Gardens flyer

City Gardens was larger than a club (it held almost 1,100 people) and smaller than most theaters. During its time it hosted a multitude of live events that traversed the entertainment spectrum; everything from the comedy of Henny Youngman and Sam Kinison to the raging chaos of bands like The Butthole Surfers and The Exploited. Punk, Hardcore, New Wave, Heavy Metal, Hip-Hop, Ska, Reggae, Oi!, Industrial, Alternative, Funk, Goth... all these influences converged perfectly under the uncanny direction of Randy Now to form a perfect storm of seminal, historic moments. Over the course of a decade-and-a-half, City Gardens played an active part in the rise of bands like Nirvana, Jane's Addiction, Sinead O'Connor, Green Day, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Faith No More, The Beastie Boys, Nine Inch Nails, Joan Jett and dozens of others who went on to international success while, at the same time, providing a home for the music that never made it to commercial radio. The list of performers who graced the City Gardens stage is long and varied, and includes legends like The Ramones, Iggy Pop, Agnostic Front, The Circle Jerks, Cro-Mags, UK Subs, The Pogues, The Mentors, Joe Strummer, Fugazi, The Toasters, Dead Kennedys, Sham 69, Peter Murphy, Soundgarden, Slayer, Black Flag, The Bad Brains and literally hundreds more. These monumental shows are recalled by the people whose lives were indelibly touched and forever altered by the experience. The voice is given to the people: the bouncers, the stage managers, the sound techs, the bartenders (including former booze-slinger and current host of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart); the roadies and, most importantly, the fans.
The documentary Riot on The Dance Floor examines City Gardens and booker Randy Now, who hosted some of the most legendary bands of the era at the Trenton, NJ club. Funded via Kickstarter, look for the film to surface in 2013. Until then, check out some clips and a trailer for the film below.

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The Descendents Goo Goo Dolls Bad Brains Riot on the Dance Floor Film Trailer

The Daily Show Jon Stewart, Fugazi & Bad Brains Riot on the Dance Floor Film Trailer

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Comments (55)

essentially the best venue to grace the east coast in it's day

Posted by Anonymous | August 21, 2012 4:01 PM

they always had good shows but Randy was a dickhead and the bouncers were assholes ,, i was in a band called Breakdown and we were about to beatdown the security about a money issue (like give us $50 when promised $500 )and like pussies they called the state police who just showed up and arrested a member of the band ..

Posted by Anonymous | August 21, 2012 4:04 PM

I loved City Gardens! I got to see some many amazing bands like Fugazi, Snapcase, Helmet etc. Such a great time!

Posted by Anonymous | August 21, 2012 4:08 PM

i like how the Ramones are on there as if it's no big deal.

Posted by Anonymous | August 21, 2012 4:10 PM

This looks amazing!

Posted by Anonymous | August 21, 2012 4:20 PM

I was there once to see Primus..the show was totally empty..
That place was way to far for someone from NY to travel to see a show
But the show was epic

Posted by Anonymous | August 21, 2012 4:25 PM

Saw Black Flag & Venom , DKs & Flipper among others. Randy booking shows in his space in Bordentown now......

Posted by Anonymous | August 21, 2012 4:33 PM

The schedule on that poster looks awesome. Screaming Blue Messiahs, Peter Murphy, the Ramones, Underworld..if I could go back in time...

Posted by Anonymous | August 21, 2012 4:57 PM

I saw Inside Out there in 90 and Beastie Boys in 92. fuck I'm old...

Posted by Anonymous | August 21, 2012 5:14 PM

holy shit! that flyer is amazing

Posted by adam | August 21, 2012 5:18 PM

Ah, Goo Goo Dolls. Remember when they were a good band? Originally signed to Metal Blade I believe.

Looking at that flyer makes me want to listen to Prong. Haven't heard them in yearsssssss.

Posted by Anonymous | August 21, 2012 5:22 PM

I read the flyer and promptly fainted. Amazing.

Posted by Anonymous | August 21, 2012 7:01 PM

Who?

Posted by Anonymous | August 21, 2012 7:41 PM

yeah, i went to the shitty gardens and it certainly was not on par with cbgb's. this place had the fucking scariest parking lot action i've ever seen.

a dump of a club in a dumpy part of town in a dump of a state.

Posted by Anonymous | August 22, 2012 12:13 AM

@Dude from Breakdown: Yes, clearly it was the club, promoter, and bouncers who were assholes; not shitty, third-tier NYHC bands who thought that just because they got in their uncle's plumbing van in Yonkers and drove for two hours that made them worth $500.

I was pretty damn close to Randy for a few years in the late 80's/early 90's, and I have a really hard time believing that your band was ever promised $500. I *do* believe that whatever half-witted mook handled your business figured that you could roll up and start making silly demands because you thought three slots a month down the bill on CB's matinees somehow gave you worldwide cred. But your band's comically mistaken self-importance means nothing outside of your mom's basement.

(Incidentally, nice Wikipedia page - Glad that you cleared up any confusion whatsoever about who was in the seminal "demo era lineup." I'll be sure to make the appropriate changes to the life-size Breakdown mural I painted in my 7 year old daughter's bedroom.)

And now, approximately 25 years later - when you're probably fat and bald, and have chronic lower back pain, doesn't your line about how the bouncers were "pussies" because when you were about to administer a "beatdown" they called the police make you even a little embarrassed? For crying out loud, you're a grown-ass man; I'm not saying you had no reason to be upset over a money dispute, but think about all the money you've pissed away since then. What is all this posturing and continuing to talk like a 20 year old wannabe thug getting you? I'm sorry that we didn't adhere to the strict code of Yonkers Street Justice™, but if any of your story is true, whoever called the police probably did the smart thing. Would you rather that club security had some weird standing order to just start fighting people as a means fo business negotiation? That's just stupid.

(Oh, and you're really flattering yourself with that State Police thing, by the way. If you really had anyone that scared, they would have just called Trenton PD, who were always within a quarter of a mile from the club. Ewing PD if you were in the side parking lot. I don't even know where the closest State Police barracks was. Calling the State Police would be only slightly less preposterous than calling the National Guard.)

I eagerly await your reply. I'm sure it won't be at all ridiculous and sad, coming from a middle-aged man.

Posted by Former A-hole Bouncer | August 22, 2012 12:49 AM

re: 12:49

Your response to that Breakdown pussy was literally the most enjoyable and accurate rebuttal I've ever read on BV. I applaud you and wish others could write with a fraction of your beauty.
Thank you.

Posted by Anonymous | August 22, 2012 1:59 AM

Voivod headlining, Soundgarden middle band, Faith No More was the opener. The greatest show of my sexual life!

Posted by Anonymous | August 22, 2012 2:11 AM

$10 says 12:49 is fat and bald. probably listens to our gang and guru guru.

Posted by | August 22, 2012 3:26 AM

"Looks like we're going to pass on The Fall."

FIGURES.

Posted by Crosseyed Sniper | August 22, 2012 3:50 AM

1249 -- best post I've read in a long time. The mural part was comic gold.

Posted by Anonymous | August 22, 2012 6:40 AM

It's the little details like the trademark sign in "Yonkers Street Justice™" that push this comment over the comic gold edge.

Posted by Anonymous | August 22, 2012 10:22 AM

12:49 goes into BV history as the best beatdown ever. The fact that it was directed to Beatdown pushes it over the top.

Posted by Anonymous | August 22, 2012 11:00 AM

^ oops. Breakdown. i just ruined this thread with my own stupidity. damn.

Posted by Anonymous | August 22, 2012 11:01 AM

I saw one show there, Rollins Band. I was 14. It was scary and awesome.

Posted by Anonymous | August 22, 2012 11:14 AM

4:04PM vs. 12:49AM

It's a tie. Both are morons.

Posted by Anonymous | August 22, 2012 12:02 PM

Been there once...Jawbox and Shutter To Think in the early 90's...

Posted by Anonymous | August 22, 2012 12:25 PM

Don't know how you read 12:49's post and call him a moron. Unless you were in Breakdown.

Posted by Anonymous | August 22, 2012 2:03 PM

"Don't know how you read 12:49's post and call him a moron."

He was defending a club that not only cheated a band, but called the cops on them. Granted, the guy from Breakdown needs to let it go after all these years, but the club also fucked up and it should not be condoned.

Posted by Anonymous | August 22, 2012 2:17 PM

^ You've got to be kidding. The only people who got 'cheated' were those who spent money on Breakdown merch.

Posted by Anonymous | August 22, 2012 2:43 PM

Wow, I'm famous! My mom's gonna be so proud when I tell her.

I know I don't have a life; I'm a middle aged dude who needs reassurance so badly he came back to see if anyone replied to his silly comment. What's everybody else's excuse?

@2:17pm: I didn't so much defend the club as I questioned much of what the guy from Breakdown wrote. Randy was a promoter, and it is very common for bands to assume the promoter is ripping them off. But no promoter who rips bands off to the tune of 90% lasts very long. Word gets around, trust me.

Look at the people who agreed to talk on camera about the club and Randy, then ask yourself if they would waste their time 20 years later if it was a place where bands were ripped off.

As to the calling the cops thing, I stand by what I said earlier. If the band was really looking to put a "beatdown" on security, then calling the cops is the smart move. If you want to live out some prepubescent fantasy you've had since you saw The Warriors when you were 11, then have at it. I think emergency rooms suck, and they're really expensive.

@3:26am: Hold on to your sawbuck. I am fat, but not bald. When you say Our Gang I think of Spanky and Alfalfa. I have not the slightest clue who Guru Guru is. Because I'm old. But I do know that as bad as I look, I earned every bit of it. I have more awesome stories than you have facebook friends. It's amazing what you can get up to when you're not spending your entire 20's commenting on blogs or posing for two dozen cell phone pictures a night with your same five friends. Do something exciting with your youth, because in 20 years somebody's going to want to make a movie about it.

Posted by Former A-hole Bouncer | August 22, 2012 2:58 PM

"Do something exciting with your youth, because in 20 years somebody's going to want to make a movie about it."

You had nothing to do with the club. You were only a bouncer.

Posted by Anonymous | August 22, 2012 4:06 PM

^ not the guy from Brokedown, but just a bad troll.

Posted by Anonymous | August 22, 2012 4:15 PM

hey 4:06 he wasn't only a bouncer. if he's who I think he is he's cooler than you.

Posted by Anonymous | August 22, 2012 5:33 PM

Oh it is the late night talk show guy right?

Posted by Anonymous | August 22, 2012 5:41 PM

Uh, Guru Guru is from 40 years ago, Mr A-Hole Bouncer guy. So stop wasting your old age trolling the interweb and take care of your kids before they start smoking bath salts and try to eat your shrinking brain while you sleep tonight.

(I secretly hope you are Gentlemen Jim from Crucial Youth). POSI MACHINE

Posted by Anonymous | August 22, 2012 11:14 PM

KING Tut's City Gardens ... Central NJ's ONLY new wave club ... was the old radio promo. This place was incredible for a southern NJ person who could not get to NY to see these bands. I could see these bands usually for less than $10 ($1 off if you got your punk card punched) from 5 feet away while Jon Stewart served the beers. I used to feel sorry for people living in the midwest who could never get to see these bands live.

Posted by smith | August 22, 2012 11:47 PM

Smith 11:47 - No offence but rest assured a lot of those bands did come through cities in the midwest like Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, etc. In fact, some of those bands came from there.

Posted by Anonymous | August 23, 2012 12:47 AM

I remember driving Rte. 611 and stopping in New Hope, PA then proceeding onto City Gardens. Good times!

Posted by Anonymous | August 23, 2012 6:51 AM

Whatta club. Saw the B*hole Surfers (back in the day that's how they had to print it in the Philadelphia Inquirer) and the Replacements (Tim tour).

Anyone else recall Emerald City in NJ? Late '70s - early '80s former disco/nightclub started booking 'new wave' acts from all over. Over two summers I saw Talking Heads (Remain in Light tour), B-52s, the Jam, Squeeze; Gang of Four headlining a triple bill with Bunnydrums and REM.

Posted by Amnesiac | August 23, 2012 10:40 AM

Randy Now booked the shows at Emerald City before and then moved to CG after it closed. I was under age and missed most of the Emerald City shows.

Yes, some bands did play or were from some of the big cities in the midwest. I used to read how people drove 6 hours to see a show plus they didn't get all the shows that CG got because it was close to NYC. If it wasn't for CG I never would have gotten to see many of those bands because NYC was too far and too expensive and Philly was 21 and over. One of the early CG promos says "Sheena doesn't have to go to NY any more to see great bands"

Posted by Smith | August 23, 2012 4:57 PM

^Same for me. NYC was too far and I was too young for the Philly shows. So many great memories at CG, Bad Religion, Fugazi, Shelter etc.

Posted by Anonymous | August 23, 2012 6:12 PM

nearest state police barracks is on river road under the rt95 Scudder's Falls bridge. it is the state police HQ, but they never came into trenton to deal with that shit. that's trenton pd. lived in trenton from 83-89. saw a lot of shows. saw randy now at the wtsr radio station. drove to new brunswick and neptune for shows (green parrot lounge)... cbgs had shows, too. but city gardens was epic.. i laugh myself silly when nyers say they shit their pants parking in the lot. and dierdre was the sexiest whackiest most awesome bouncer there... lol ... good times. and a big middle digit salute to the island slowly sinking across the hudson.

Posted by trentonpunk | October 12, 2012 10:03 PM

I have absolutely no recollection of this band Breakdown. Who did you open for / date ? Surely you should remember, because you opening for whoever here at CG's gave you your biggest crowd watching you in your career. Granted, after 18 years of booking there and with thousands of bands booked under my belt, somewhere there must be a band or two or three who wasn't paid properly for whatever reason (misunderstanding, an agent lying to you, you broke or stole a microphone perhaps, I'm not Jesus Christ, you know.

Posted by randy | October 25, 2012 8:56 PM

12:49 loser who needs a smack. Randy = unknown loser. Breakdown rules. The end.

Posted by Anonymous | November 22, 2012 2:32 PM

Asshole unknown bouncer dissing Breakdown. What a laugh. You're an insignificant person and always will be. Beakdown crushes idiots like you

Posted by Anonymous | December 3, 2012 8:08 PM

In order to alleviate the boredom of the long drive from Westchester to Trenton, the fellas in Breakdown would give each other handies. Good times.

Posted by Anonymous | December 3, 2012 9:03 PM

iPods

Posted by Anonymous | December 24, 2012 5:43 AM

I go way back, and remember East Side Club, Emerald City, CBGBs, The Ritz, L amours, and so many others. Trenton City Gardens was a great place and I saw Cramps, DKs, Gwar, Lush, Sonic Youth, Babes in Toyland,Black Flag before Henry, Fleshtones, Flipper and more.....Good times....

Posted by art | December 24, 2012 3:50 PM

i saw offspring there back in '92'

Posted by greg keenan | April 8, 2013 3:57 AM

city garden's rule.

Posted by jordon | July 23, 2013 2:58 PM

I wish i could have seen a show at this place

Posted by tonberry | September 12, 2013 1:56 PM

all we need now is one about The Melody Bar

Posted by Anonymous | October 5, 2013 7:45 AM

In July '82 I saw one of the best shows of my life at City Gardens. On a hot Friday night heading south on the Turnpike from Newark Airport I told my buddy that I wished I'd picked another weekend to visit home because my favorite band, X, was playing up in Boston that weekend. He said they were at CG later that night! They'd been there mid-week but were coming back; this doesn't agree with the published schedule so some other band must have cancelled. It was amazing! At the start of the show only a few dozen people were in the audience. Exene, John, Billy and DJ played their hearts out anyway! Over 30 years ago but I'll never forget: flannel shirt, gym shorts and a Heineken in my pocket dancing so close to the band that I could reach out and touch them. So few things for I fondly remember Trenton and CG is one of them. Thanks Randy!

Posted by County546 | February 2, 2014 6:27 PM

Some of my favorite shows were Devo (unplugged), Screaming Blue Messiahs, Nick Lowe, The Fleshtones and New Order. That was a terrific time to see bands locally. And I agree, how about one about the Melody Bar!

Posted by Kkins100 | May 10, 2014 6:14 PM

Hey Randy get over yourself. Your club basically piggybacked on NYC/CBGB/The Ritz and had the fortune of having a dead Philly which gave you most of the shows between NYC and DC.

Breakdown played to bigger and better crowds than your overrated shit in NYC.

Posted by D | June 28, 2014 5:42 PM

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