No Slam Dancing, No Stage Diving, No Spikes: An Oral History of the Legendary City Gardens

by Amy Yates Wuelfing, Steven DiLodovico, Eric Baker and James Wasserman

 

Everyone thinks their scene was special, but that specialness doesn’t always extend beyond the boundaries of its location.  In No Slam Dancing, No Stage Diving, No Spikes: An Oral History of the Legendary City Gardens the authors make their case for the importance of the scene at the City Gardens nightclub of Trenton, New Jersey. Having grown up outside of Philadelphia, City Gardens was a place I’d certainly heard of, but had never been to, so it’s hard for me to say how well it was known beyond the locals and the bands who’d had a chance to play on its hot and stinky (according to the book) stage.

 

If the authors made this book just the history of a club, it would be of little interest to anyone who hadn’t been there, even when armed with the trivia that Jon Stewart was once the venue’s bartender.  Instead, they strive to give an interesting sense of the musical history of the time, and how certain bands/genres rose and fell in popularity.  This story is told in-between tidbits of history on the evolution of the club, by a chronological listing of shows held at the club, along with anecdotes from regulars, employees, and the musicians themselves.  This storytelling device ends up being both a success and a weak point.  On one hand these anecdotes represent some truly great stories, but sometimes… there’s just nothing to be said.

 

Nonetheless, I did find myself swept up as these stories led me to remember my own: like how I’d seen the same band at a different point in the tour discussed, or when that one short-lived Philadelphia radio station seemed to change everything.  Nostalgic web searches ensued.

 

For anyone who had a chance to go to City Gardens, this book is probably a must read. But for the rest of us, it’s a gateway to good memories of whatever cool club it was that you spent so much time at back in the day.