Numerous mentions of Trenton's infamous punk dive City Gardens have been made on this blog in the past. For anyone who grew up in the 80s in the suburban badlands between NYC and Philly and maintained even a peripheral interest in unpopular music, the storied bills the club regularly featured are today the stuff of legend. Located in a warehouse-like space in a stereotypically dicey neighborhood, City Gardens was a massive space where touring bands as varied as Black Flag, The Pogues, Flipper, Joan Jett, Venom, the Swans, Smithereens, Tackhead, Toots & the Maytalls, Kreator, and Ice T could make stops and draw hundreds of kids from across suburban Jersey and Pennsylvania. Anyone who had an interest in what was being played on Central Jersey's many great college radio stations at that time (but who lacked the ability to get to the major cities to the north and south) found godhead at 1701 Calhoun St.
City Gardens had its share of problems. People bitched incessantly about the door prices, and for a while, the threat from the local skinhead population was palpable. On the upside, the clubhouse-like environs fostered by its proximity to the suburbs exposed a lot of very young people to a pretty radical range of sounds and ideas. I've always felt that, in turn, this helped foster the huge aggregation of great local bands (the Scornflakes, Sticks & Stones, Cleft Palate, Ween) and fanzines (Stranjer, This Zine Sucks, Skin Trade, Alive & Direct) that gave this particular scene its unique, if sometimes dubious reputation...
Although City Gardens closed down in the early 1990s, the club's promoter (as much a legend as the space itself), has recently updated his website with a boatload of archival material that spans the years 1984-1990. Special attention is worth paying to the "punk card" archive, where you can troll through some choice reprints of flyers touting the huge, the not so huge, and the now comically unbelievable way in which they were paired off on a nightly basis. Recall, or imagine for the first time: The Mentors opening for the Cro-Mags? Living Colour with the Swans? L7 and the Dayglo Abortions! Psychic TV and Frightwig! There are also some MP3s, and a small archive of live band shots (including a few scenes of classic, teenage moshpit slaughter.) Enjoy.