On Monday, October 6, we were invited to be guests on the Dan Reed show, broadcasting from one of Philadelphia’s most revered radio stations, WXPN 88.5. We were honored that Dan was digging the book enough to want to interview us, and to be able to sit in the XPN studios, where so many historical events had occurred, was really cool. XPN holds a special place in my heart, as well as in Amy’s. For myself, it was the station that first introduced me to a life-long love affair with The Smiths. XPN was the first place I had ever heard them (the song was I Don’t Owe You Anything). As an erstwhile 13 year old, I clearly remember a night spinning my radio dial all the way to the left trying to find some righteous heavy metal and, in doing so, I came across a sound that was like nothing I’d ever heard before. It would be a good 3 or 4 years before I really caught up to the Smiths, but hearing that Morrissey warble beneath a blanket of static was as shocking to me as the most abrasive punk that usually ruled the college airwaves of the ’80s. Needless to say, that stuck with me, and to be able to have our project featured on those same airways so many years later was like coming home. Thanks to Dan, and thanks to the entire XPN family for being so cool and having us on. We’ve uploaded the audio and added some old pictures and fliers for you to check out.
A huge thanks to our most gracious host, City Gardens alum Jon LeVine and the Jonathan LeVine Gallery for having us. Thanks to all our friends and family who come out to support us at these things, thanks to all the new friends we’ve met along the way! also, please notice the paintings in the background: we were lucky enough to be paired up with artist Dan Witz’s amazing “Moshpits” exhibit.
Hey folks! Steve here. Sorry I haven’t been able to update this here little blog, trying to stay on top of it as best as we can! Got lots to report, so here’s a quick rundown of what’s been going on with the No Slam Dancing crew.
Christ, I don’t even know where to begin. To say it’s been a hell of a few weeks would be grossly understating the immensity of all that has transpired since “No Slam Dancing” was released. I’ll skip the whirlwind clichés and get right to the meat of it.
The first, most obvious thing that needs to be expressed is the overwhelming gratitude we feel. The support we’ve garnered for this book is nothing short of amazing, and it’s something we never really expected. I mean, we knew all you City Gardens folk would be into the book, but in the last 19 days I’ve personally received so many nice words from people who never set foot in City Gardens, some who had never even heard of it! It really is incredible how intensely people are vibing on these stories; these memories. Just think: complete strangers from remote parts of the world are reading about our lives and connecting with our past on some deep, deep levels. Kids who’ve only known an internet existence are engrossed by old stories of booking tours on payphones and through writing actual letters! The thrill is beyond articulation and, personally, the lump of humility in my throat grows larger each time somebody takes the time to pass along a few kind words to us. The greatest thrill is knowing that Amy, me, all those who had stories in the book, all those who didn’t get their stories in the book but still keep City Gardens close to their heart… we are ALL responsible for getting people excited to read! That’s a pretty powerful thing when you think about it. So many people have posted through social media that they’ve read the book in a day or two; that they haven’t really sat and read a book since college. This is the highest praise I could ever think of, and hearing or reading stuff like that makes my toes tingle. Even the criticisms I’ve read have been constructive and fair. As authors, that’s the best we can ask for, and we are always grateful for the honesty.
So Amy and I have been on an amazing journey of meeting some of you wonderful people at our book signings. We’ve had tremendous turnouts and we are thankful for each and every person who takes the time to come out and see us. I’ve continually said that the best part about this whole experience has been the interestingly cool and unique people we’ve met along the way. Our book signings are like family reunions filled with warmth and hospitality and the sentimental syrup that makes us all feel good inside! We love hanging out and talking music biz and City Gardens memories and we love sharing this common bond with everyone.
The biggest stop on our journey was doing The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on March 25th. And I know you are all just DYING to hear the behind the scenes stuff from our day on TV. So here you go.
Our day started in Morrisville PA. Not leaving anything to chance or weather, we hit the road early. We rode up as a team: me, Amy, our spouses and a friend. The car was filled with an electric excitement that was fueled by caffeine and nervous energy. We knew were hitting “the big time” and none of us were trying to pretend we weren’t nervous as hell! Around 2pm we pulled over to the Joyce Kilmer rest stop on the Jersey Turnpike so Amy, Gibby and The Daily Show producer could do the pre-interview. It was short and sweet. Meanwhile, the show was on the phone with Riot on the Dance Floor director Steve Tozzi frantically trying to get clips from his documentary to go along with Amy and Gibby’s segment. And they needed a Salerno picture of the infamous Butthole Surfers show. They kept saying “something with fire in it.” Fire good.
This couldn’t have gone better: not only was “No Slam Dancing” getting a prominent feature on national TV, they were also going to include Riot! The entire world was now going to hear about two very powerful documents about the legend of Randy Now and City Gardens. More importantly we found a way to get our friends included in all the hoopla. Riot is getting ready to drop any minute now, and between the two projects City Gardens will be getting a very fitting tribute in the coming months. This was just the first shot in what will be an all-out attack!
We got to Manhattan early and met up with some wonderful friends for a little pre-game celebration. We toasted with something that was just like champagne but wasn’t champagne and smiled and laughed and again that warmth of love and friendship surrounded all of us and it was beautiful. It was a nice, quiet moment before all hell broke loose.
Time came for Amy to report to the green room.
We found Gibby and his lovely wife already settled into the green room. Both were cordial and super friendly. I had never met Gibby before. It was very cool. The first thing we noticed was that he had written “GWAR” on his arm in thick black marker and I knew right there that this was going to be one hell of a television appearance. We met the producers; everyone was so nice to us. We got some snapshots with Gibby and it was just a great vibe in that little room.
They called Amy into the makeup room, which was right next to the green room. I was hanging out in the long, narrow corridor, just taking in all the magic of TV, when Amy called me into the makeup room. The lady who was doing her makeup was a punker from back in the day. We’re talking the original CB’s and Max’s set. She showed us some amazing pictures. Amy told her to never mind the “natural look,” she (Amy) wanted CRAZY makeup: the lashes, the heavy eye makeup, the whole deal. As Amy said; “I’m from the ‘80s, when there was no such thing as too much makeup!” And they went to town on her!
There was a small commotion in the hallway and that’s when we were introduced to Dipper: Jon Stewart’s rescued pit bull. The poor guy only had three legs but he was just as happy as could be. They told us Jon always brought the dog to work. Dipper was great: friendly, playful, energetic. Everybody instantly fell in love with him. We tried to get pictures of him, but he just moved so darn fast you couldn’t get a good one!
And then I heard the voice. It was weird. I never met Jon and if he worked any of the hardcore shows I attended at City Gardens I never knew it. But there he was, right in front of me! And he was so gracious. Gave me a big old hello and a handshake and talked profusely about how much he had liked the book. Wow. I was floored. Soon the rest of the gang joined is in the hall. Amy and I presented him with a gift of two specially-made City Gardens pint glasses. We chatted for a long time about the club, about his fondness for it. He was just as funny and charming as you would expect! Sure, it was a bit disconcerting seeing the odd orange hue of television makeup caked on his face, but once you got past that you didn’t even notice. He made us laugh, put us at ease and told us over and over how great it was that we did this. Man, that was pretty heavy.
They started the show and we all went back into the green room. Amy was dressed and ready to go and she was gorgeous. If you’re wondering why yours truly wasn’t invited to sit with Amy and Gibby, well, think about what’s gonna’ sell more books: the rock star and the beautifully poised and radiantly gorgeous redhead or my dopey, bulbous head. It was an obvious choice, and we are talking about TV here, after all.
Well, you all saw what happened next: she absolutely KILLED it. I was so proud of her! We watched from the green room and were hooting and hollering the whole time. It was something else. Afterwards we had a brief moment with Jon to thank him profusely. And I even got him to sign the copy of “No Slam Dancing” I always carry with the intent of someday having every person who appeared on the book to etch their signature in it. Corny, yeah, but I sure don’t care.
After the taping we met with friends from City Gardens; people who were directly involved in helping this book come into being. My phone was already exploding with congratulatory texts from friends and family. I’ve never been successful at anything, and this was all very new to me. I was overwhelmed and I am not at all ashamed to admit that when I stood up and tried to toast Amy I completely lost it and broke down sobbing! It was a very emotional evening. And I am Italian, after all.
We raced back to Morrisville to catch the 11pm airing and made it just in time. I manned the social media and pumped it up into a frenzy. I could almost FEEL every single person I’ve ever known watching along with us. And by 11:30 pm our lives had changed drastically. By Wednesday noon Amazon was completely sold out of books. Our two distributors were calling for MORE BOOKS. Social media went NUTS and people were clamoring with questions on how to get the book. When all was said and done we hit #107 on some Amazon chart and we had pretty much sold out of ALL books. As of right now we are scrambling to get a second printing going and it’s a painfully slow process. Suddenly we had all kinds of friends we’d never knew we had before! Myself, I was getting notes from people who hadn’t had the inclination to speak to or even acknowledge me in 25 years. Strange…
But mostly everyone was just as excited as we were. This was a victory for ALL of us: for the generations of City Gardens folk this book represents and, really, for the glorious and beautiful music we’ve cherished all our lives.
So there you have it, our 15 minutes. Don’t worry; we’ll be here a LOT longer than 15 minutes. You can bet on that.
Hope to see you at our upcoming book signings.
April 5th Princeton Record Exchange Princeton NJ
Check our Facebook events for times and locations.
Things are starting to really ramp up here at DiWuelf Publishing. We are just under two weeks away from the official release date of No Slam dancing, No Stage Diving, No Spikes and things have gotten so crazy around this book! It’s the beginning of an amazing ride for all of us and I, for one, cannot wait to see where it takes us.
We have gotten some really strong early reviews from a number of sources; it seems as though (at least so far) the folks who’ve gotten ahold of preview copies are really getting into the City Gardens story. The best thing I’ve heard so far came from a friend; someone who is very involved with today’s hardcore scene who is known for booking amazing shows and keeping the true spirit of hardcore alive and well. He said (and I am paraphrasing) “it reads like I am sitting around a campfire hearing and telling show stories with old friends…” This coming from someone very respected; someone who has not only been there, but knows the inner workings of how a scene operates and what it takes to keep it sustainable. A higher compliment I cannot think of, and to hear (actually, read) this, really makes me feel good. I know it’s exactly what I set out to do: to make these stories really feel like you (the reader) were there, complete with exaggeration and embellishment. That’s the beauty of this oral history format: even eyewitness accounts (especially when viewed through a 30 year telescope) tend to vary and twist with each re-telling; with each different perspective. Is it truth? Is it accurate? Depends on how you saw it.
One of the best things I’ve gotten to do so far was the episode of the Black N Blue Takeover we did on East Village Radio. The Takeover is a purist’s hardcore show that celebrates the then and now of culture rich with history and tradition. It’s a great fucking show: high energy and, of course, amazing music. The Black N Blue guys are the ones responsible for bringing you the Black N Blue Bowl (formerly known as the Superbowl of Hardcore) every year, something that’s been running since the ‘80s. So, for me, and old hardcore kid, to be invited on to the show because of the book, was an honor. And what a memorable night it was!
Amy and I were joined by some real heavy-hitters: Howie Abrams (all-around good guy who’s been in the music biz for years and has seen some of the best in hardcore, hip hop and metal come and go), the inimitable Dave Vision (I just can’t say enough good things about Dave) and the legendary Mike Judge. Yeah, I was a little bit star-struck, and I am not ashamed to admit it! These were three guys who intimate knowledge of City Gardens and their stories (the ones that made it on-air) were priceless. If you weren’t into the hardcore scene at City Gardens you might not even be aware that Judge (the band) filmed their one and only music video there in 1990. If you were there that night you know what a crazy show that was. If you weren’t you can hear the story from Mike himself. At that time hardcore bands didn’t make videos. It just wasn’t done. Other than the legendary We Gotta’ Know video, or Agnostic Front’s classic Anthem, you just didn’t see professionally-made videos from hardcore bands, for a number of reasons. So, yeah, this night in 1990 was a pretty big deal for a scene that was just beginning to explode with popularity. And there is nothing like hearing the firsthand account from the guy who was at the center of it all. Mike expanded on the story that is told in No Slam Dancing, and to hear of this burly, anti-rockstar guy talk about lip-syncing the same song over and over again… It’s something else!
I won’t give away all the details of the show, but it was a lot of laughter and a lot of great stories (and a lot of cursing!). The energy that Dave Vision brings to anything he’s involved in is always infectious and every one of us in the studio felt it that night. Dave’s got tour (and war) stories for days, and he is not shy about sharing them. I am not exaggerating when I say that, at times, we laughed so hard it was difficult to breathe. To hear these grizzled vets tell these vivid, amazing stories is probably the best part of this whole experience, for me, at least.
Anyway, the show airs tonight (Tuesday, February 25th 8pm est) and I am excited to have people hear what fun we had. I am excited that a younger, worldwide audience will get to know the name City Gardens and (hopefully) get an idea of how important it was, not just to us, but to the history of underground music overall. I am excited that people who might never have heard of our City Gardens will take the time to find out what it meant to us and why it was so monumental.
One thing about hardcore: it’s always paid tribute to its rich history. It’s one of the first things you’re taught as you become a part of it. Those that came before you did so much for your benefit, so you better pay attention. And nowhere is that vibe more palpable than in New York’s L.E.S. We were steeped in history; surrounded by it (no matter how much the city tries to sanitize and Disnefy it, you can still feel it) and it was inspiring.
Thanks SO much to the whole Black N Blue Productions family for inviting us and treating us like family; what an amazing bunch of people! Thanks to Howie, Dave, Mike, Mike’s wife Karen, and everybody involved with the entire night. It was something I will never forget!
Check out the show tonight here
Watch Judge’s video for “Where It Went” (shot at City Gardens) here.