For those who don’t know: City Gardens was the club, Trenton New Jersey was the place and No Slam Dancing is the story of it all. And now, finally, the story is being brought to you by the people who lived it.
During the ‘80s and into the mid-‘90s, City Gardens was a haven for the underground. Music, art, and a general sense of creative collectivism drove the imaginations of its patrons and performers alike, and the resulting memories have been captured and molded into a narrative that, while reminiscent of a larger history, is still uniquely Jersey.
The doors of 1701 Calhoun St. closed some 20 years back, but in the minds of many, the “House That Randy Built” still casts its long shadow of influence. Whether you grew up there or you were just visiting, chances are City Gardens had some impact on you, and that impact probably informs and instructs the person you are today. Some of those stories are here; some of those stories still reek of pit-sweat and still glow with the exuberance of youth colored by nostalgia. In the pages of this book are war stories and friendship stories and the inspirational stories of lives realized and identities met. It is a story of life; the imperfect, often messy and sometimes brilliant moments of life. Its cast is as diverse as its moments, yet still uniform in one similar goal: the search for something different. Almost each and every person who participated in the world of City Gardens will echo, in some combination of description and passion, the desire to reject what was handed to them and, instead, find their own path. The universal sentiment is one of belonging; of a visceral impulse to connect to something larger and to find a safety in similarity. To find home.
Know that when you read these stories that have been curated with great care; with almost a kind of religious reverence. They have been handled with loving, gloved hands; as one would handle a brittle old photo of a long-lost loved one. They have been chosen to represent the lives of so many people. Regardless of where you were from or how you came to City Gardens, your story is as valuable as any we’ve recorded. The sheer volume of lives intersecting with lives and history piled on top of history may have hindered the inclusion of all stories, but, hopefully, if you lived the life and you felt the joy and the strength of the music we all celebrate, you’ll recognize yourself in some of these words.
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