Monthly Archives: November 2010

11/20/2010

This past weekend the crew got together just outside of Princeton NJ for a full day of shooting interviews. Me, Amy, Tozzi and Salerno met up early on a gray Saturday morning. On the itinerary for this shoot were a bunch of regulars, some of which had been at City Gardens on day one. The docket included various former DJ’s, bouncers, stagehands and general observers. These are the folks who watched a fledgling little faction of supporters grow steadily into tight-knit groups of friends and, eventually, a scene. Laughs were had, Gail brought some AMAZING pumpkin chocolate truffle creation that had us all salivating, and every time you turned around Salerno was there with that damn camera of his taking those “candid” shots (which really means taking pictures when you’re not looking and unprepared and in the worst possible grimace or chuckle in which to be photographed…). As an added bonus, Randy Now even joined us for the day.

As I sat and listened to people speak I noticed certain details that had been coming up throughout the shoot; a few common threads run invariably throughout all these stories. Constant themes of friendship worked their ways through these narratives of cognizant recognition of this thing called music. To a person each one basically told a similar story: that of people dissatisfied with the world (and particularly) the music around them and how they actively sought something different, something with substance. Even if, at first, they had no idea what they were searching for. Each told tales of rebirth in a music scene that meant more to them than anything else at the time. Their lives, minds, and passions were all inspired by the various forms of music they discovered and all were lead down a similar path they met. Most likely, at City Gardens. What comes through most pointedly is the sense of community that was had back then. There’s a reason why most of these people are still close friends some twenty-five years later.

Most riveting were the tales of the bouncers. Thinking back, especially, to all those Hardcore shows… man they were fucking wild. Often times they got pretty out of hand. To hear what it was like from the guys who saw (and dealt with) it every night was amazing. These guys were their own separate faction. While they loved the music and were there for the music, they had a job to do. They saw A LOT. Bouncers are a breed apart, that is for sure, and their insight is both unique and invaluable. There is a definite sense of weird juxtaposition when hearing them describe shows I saw with my own eyes. Stuff that, as a fan and a patron, I never knew was going on was brought to light in vivid detail. For me, I spent the majority of the shows watching the stage. These folks, for the most part, were looking in the opposite direction. They were part of the energy coming off the bands reflected and directed back at us. They were a big part of the synergy between us and the bands; like conductors and conduits. Even the mundane seemed transformed into the magical. For example: being tapped by Randy to help the Ramones load in might seem like a chore to someone who has loaded in hundreds of bands before. To a kid who was 14 at the time it would have been nothing short of miraculous to be able to do such a thing. Many of us, maybe most of us, were just fans. The closest we ever got to our heroes was perhaps and after-show handshake, or a minute at the merch stand. Maybe we got a night out for pizza with them, or, if we were lucky enough, found some kind of party to fall into. Most of us, though, just went home and dreamed about how cool it would be to be in our own band, playing our own shows… These guys had a hand in the reality of it. These bouncers, DJs, light and sound people etc; these guys saw the trivial be elevated to the holy and saw daily examples of artistic purity.

For me, the deeper I get into hearing people’s stories the more I see, remember and re-live my own. This is the entirety of beauty in what we are trying to capture. Behind each story is an air of humanity; a detailed account of how the music so forcefully touched all of our lives. With each one I am transported back to an energetic, optimistic time in my life, one I have since lost and am constantly looking for. You can see it in their eyes as their stories unfold; each one of them gleaming with a fraction of the joy they so vividly remember. To be entrusted with the care of these stories; these living things, is to hold a legacy in physical form in your hands. It is gentle and yet strong… vital. To hear and remember those days told in a language of youthful enthusiasm and pride is to feel validated (and, in some ways, vindicated) and brings you close to people who share something very reverent with you.

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DC

This past Friday our crew took to the road and headed down to Washington DC for a day of filming. The first stop was the legendary Dischord house and a sit-down with Ian MacKaye. This was one I’d been looking forward to since we first began this odyssey. We were met with gracious hospitality, Ian happily showed us around the house and its history. He offered us tea.

For me, Dischord has always stood paramount as the model for integrity and independence. Which is pretty much the theme of this film. The idea of starting with nothing, building it into something, and still retaining some sense of autonomy while doing it is the reason why we’re all here and involved with this project. It’s the reason we rock the music we’ve been listening to for years, it’s how we live and how we conduct ourselves. It’s a defining passion that has guided us since we discovered music. Seeing the Dischord house, being inside of it is beyond description. To this day I am still a fan of both the music and the label and to step inside a world devoted solely to making music is both humbling and inspiring.

I have no problem admitting that I was kind of star-struck. That goes without saying. I am glad that Tozzi did the interview, I don’t think I could have gotten a question off without stuttering and flop-sweating. Tozzi did an amazing job, he intrepidly plowed through a series of questions that Ian has been asked a thousand times over. Interviewing Ian is no easy task for a variety of reasons. The first being the sheer intensity of the undertaking. It’s like a physical force that is overwhelming, you can hear the intensity and unabashed passion in his voice. He still carries that fire with him.

Interviewing Ian is something you need to be prepared for: at the turn of a phrase he can put a question right back on you. It can be very daunting. He demands a lot out of you with just a look; he is all about participation. Like at any of his shows: it is understood that this is an organic, back-and-forth exchange. A conversation. To be able to stand in with him you must be willing to to go all in and you must be willing to be challenged. Depending on the interviewer, this can be a dream or a nightmare. Ian is frank, bold, and unafraid.

What comes through most is his appreciation and his love for the music. He has a vivid mind and memory when it comes to the music. Not just his own, either. This is a man who has dedicated his entire life to the art; it’s what fuels him.

For me, just sitting on that porch was inspiring. Later on Ian showed me old pictures and the walls covered with all the Dischord records he’s put out over the years. He took us on a walking tour of the hallowed basement where all his bands played at one time or another. It still looks the same as it did in “Another State of Mind.”

A long time ago Ian wrote: “we’re not the first, I hope we’re not the last” and that line kind of sums it up. None of us were first; many have come before us and laid the groundwork. Hopefully we won’t be the last. We hope the generations after us find the unbridled spirit of underground music as exciting and vital as we do and carry on with tradition while forging new paths.


Disclaimers and Other Background Info

Welcome!

This is the new blog dedicated to chronicling the creative processes behind the upcoming (as-of-yet-untitled) documentary film about Randy Now and the club he spent many years running and promoting: City Gardens.

A little history: City Gardens was a (primarily) Punk club located in Trenton New Jersey that opened in 1980 and saw many, many legendary acts come through during its existence. For many of us who attended shows regularly, City Gardens held an almost-magical sway over us. Good friends, good music, adventures and history brought us all together and forged a bond that unites all of us in some small way.

Since the end of the Randy Now era in 1994, many people have wondered what the story behind City Gardens was. We here hope to present that story and do it justice.

THE PRINCIPLE PLAYERS:

Steve Tozzi: The director.

Ken Salerno: The eye, the historian, the guru.

Amy Yates Wuelfing: The producer and the one who got the ball rolling.

Steven DiLodovico: a producer.

THE DISCLAIMERS:

This blog will be one person’s accounts of the making of this film. Do not look for juicy bits of gossip, or for secret info about the film while it’s in progress. This is simply an impressionistic account of the amazing people I’ve personally encountered while working on this project. This also means that the opinions, viewpoints, etc. expressed in this blog are solely my own and do not represent the opinions of anyone else involved in this project.

Also, if you are looking for technical information about the process; if, for example, you are looking to find out what kind of camera Mr. Salerno uses, or the mics and lenses used while filming, you are in the wrong place! I don’t know shit about all that and wouldn’t even begin to pretend to. I’m a writer, dammit!

Anyway, feel free to post comments or to contact me or any of that good stuff.

Thanks for reading.

Steven DiLodovico


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