Because we’re from New Jersey and aren’t kids, we got to experience some shows at legendary Trenton NJ shithole City Gardens. The Faith No More/Soundgarden/Voivod tour (with FNM and Soundgarden opening!) was epic, as was seeing Nine Inch Nails on the Pretty Hate Machine tour. Sadly, the club closed for good in 1994, but a with an oral history of it coming out next month and a documentary wrapping up production, its legacy will continue to live on. Among the people that worked at the club were LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy and bartender (at the time) Jon Stewart. The Daily Show leader caught up with New York Magazine‘s blog Vulture to chat about his time there. He tells stories of mopping up Stiv Bators’ vomit and wrestling a gun away from someone at an X show. One thing he liked about the club was the diversity of the shows there.
Anybody from Joan Jett to Agnostic Front and GBH and GWAR. You know, Black Flag and Bad Brains. Bad Brains was like the house band, they were there like every six weeks. They were amazing. The Chili Peppers. It was just an incredible and vibrant scene and there was nothing else like it.
Stewart drops GWAR’s name again when chatting about the venue, which he bartended at from 1984 to 1987.
You know, whether it was “90 Cent Dance Night,” where people would just dance by themselves to The Smiths, or the all-ages hardcore shows, where you’d see Dead Milkmen or GBH or Agnostic Front or those bands. Or you know, GWAR or Ween or Bad Religion … All different kinds. It was an oasis.
Um, one of those things doesn’t fit, but we’ll let you decide which one. The interviewer brings up the wall of death, which yes, existed before Lamb of God. Stewart remembers.
It was a Gardens thing. It was the type of thing that was a fad at hardcore shows. That’s why the hardcore shows were rough, man, because people would just get bloodied. That’s why being behind the bar was kind of nice. You could hear the music and you could do your thing. But you rarely had a body fly back there … There were these incredible explosions of violence on the dance floor, but I can also remember showing up for work and there was this beautiful girl sitting at the bar and reading like, Salinger, and I was like, who the fuck is this?And it was Natalie Merchant from 10,000 Maniacs. It wasn’t all about anger and catharsis. It was really eclectic.
We wish we got to see more shows there, but are psyched to read the book and/or see the documentary. Thanks Jon Stewart, for proving that New Jersey is more than just a punchline.