New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media


This article is from our magazine. To view it in its original format, click here

Riot On The Dance Floor

By Gary Wien


Many people look back at the clubs they went to when they were young with something more than just nostalgia. These were the places they went to during a time when music somehow seemed a bit more important to them than it does now; places that allowed them to get out of their house and become part of a different world — a scene of their own. Steve Tozzi pays tribute to City Gardens, a legendary club in a beaten down part of Trenton, New Jersey that was one of those places. Booked by Randy Now, the club hosted shows from some of the biggest bands of the 80s and 90s while they were on their way up. Tozzi's film Riot on the Dance Floor: The Story of Randy Now and City Gardens takes a look at this influential venue with a story of musical champions, underdogs, and a bunch of misfit kids who found an unlikely home.

Over the course of a decade-and-a-half, City Gardens played an active part in the rise of bands like Nirvana, Jane's Addiction, Sinead O'Connor, Green Day, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Faith No More, The Beastie Boys, Nine Inch Nails, and dozens of others. Legendary artists such as The Ramones, Iggy Pop, The Pogues, Joe Strummer, Dead Kennedys, Soundgarden, Slayer, and Black Flag all took turns on stage. And a guy named Jon Stewart just happened to tend bar.

Steve Tozzi grew up in Old Bridge and was a bit young to see the entire history of the club unfold, but he did go to many shows there and he was always intrigued by the way Randy Now was literally the face of the club. The more he worked on the film, the more he realized just how important Randy was not just to the New Jersey music scene but the national scene as well.

"Band members from Henry Rollins to the Goo Goo Dolls said they really appreciated what he was doing because there weren't many people you could trust when you were out on the road for months and months," said Tozzi. "They said he was kind of an oasis for them. Randy even used to let them stay at his house."

People had approached Randy for years to do a film like this, but no one ever saw it through. When Tozzi asked Randy for his help, he was told, "I'll help you out all you like but don't walk away from it. Just actually do it."

City Gardens was a huge club that could hold over a thousand people. It was so big that the property probably would have been too expensive to be found anywhere else. In Trenton, the venue lived in isolation. It wasn't an old theatre that came with a long history, it was a rundown cinderblock building in an area of Trenton nobody would find unless they were going to the club or lived in the area. To say it was a destination place is an understatement.

"It was perfect because you could kind of go nuts there," said Tozzi. "It was tucked away in a place that no one was looking."

Tozzi interviewed over 100 people for the film. Three of his favorite subjects included Ian MacKaye of Fugazi, Henry Rollins, and Jello Biafra. He learned that all three could clearly remember the City Gardens days; they didn't get caught up in alcohol or drugs the way others from the period did and they could recall things other musicians simply couldn't remember. They all also spent a lot of time with Randy and were able to see things with a critical eye.

"When we started, I didn't know what the film was going to be," recalled Tozzi. "I knew Randy, but I didn't know that he would be instrumental as much as he was. It was more that he was the center of this all because that was the perception from the bands and what they dealt with. I wanted to open the curtain behind how to put on a show and how these shows sort of happened."

Around the time Tozzi was working on his film, Amy Yates Wuelfing and Steven DiLodovico were putting together the book No Slam Dancing, No Stage Diving, No Spikes. The two helped Tozzi with the initial groundwork of contacts and gave him a background on the history of the club. Ken Salerno, the club's photographer, lent photos that are used throughout the film as well.

The book and film combine to tell the story of City Gardens from two different perspectives and have helped spur interest in each other. Most of all, they help tell the story of the people who went to the shows and how the club and Randy Now changed their lives. One thing is for sure, Trenton hasn't been the same since and the club is certainly missed.



Saturday-January 31
Voorhees Hall #105
New Jersey Film Festival
New Brunswick, NJ


Friday, February 13 at 7:30pm
Trenton Film Society
Mill Hill Playhouse
205 East Front Street, Trenton





For more by this author, click here






Monmouth Arts Presents Sneak Peek Screening of “Never Look Away”
(RED BANK, NJ) -- See the movie before New York or Los Angeles! Monmouth Arts will provide another installation of its “Film Sneak Peek” series with Never Look Away, an epic tale of art and history spanning three turbulent decades of 20th-century Germany, on November 29 at Bow Tie Cinemas in Red Bank at 7:00pm. 
"The Brighton Bar - Home Of Original Music" Documentary To Be Screened In Long Branch
(LONG BRANCH, NJ) -- From the 1970s to today the Brighton Bar has been a live music venue and a staple of the New Jersey music scene.  On Wednesday, November 28th at 7:00pm, a free showing of The Brighton Bar - Home Of Original Music  - a documentary about the venue will be screened at The NJ Rep West End Arts Center.
Westfield IFF and James Ward Mansion Host Pop-Up Gin Joint with Movies at the Mansion
(WESTFIELD, NJ) -- Big Dreams & Silver Screens, the organization responsible for the Westfield International Film Festival, is happy to announce their end-of-year celebration and fundraiser, “Of All the Gin Joints” on December 6 at the James Ward Mansion. The evening is a Casablanca-inspired party that will feature a pop-up gin bar, light bites by Feast Catering, live music by Tony Mowatt, and a screening of Casablanca.  Westfield native, Francesca Rizzo will also be screening a complementary independent noir short film, Sullivan’s Last Call – “a sexy little film about celibacy.”
2018 International Film Festival Brings 4 Award Winning Foreign Films To Vineland
(VINELAND, NJ) -- Enjoy four highly-acclaimed award-winning recent foreign films representing diverse cultures at the 2018 International Film Festival, starting Monday, November 26, at the Levoy Theatre, 126-130 N. High St., Millville, NJ. The four films—A Fantastic Woman, The Interpreter, 1945, and Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me—will introduce the theatergoer to the universality of themes that are common to Jewish and other international themes. They are representative of the finest of today’s international cinematographic art.
NJSO presents Star Wars: A New Hope in concert on Thanksgiving weekend
(NEWARK, NJ) --The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra presents screenings of the complete film Star Wars: A New Hope with Oscar-winning composer John Williams’ musical scores performed live on Thanksgiving weekend, November 23–25. Performances take place in Red Bank, Newark, and New Brunswick.


REVIEW: "First Man"
The image that most defines the 20th century is that of a man standing on the surface of the moon. The man is astronaut Neil Armstrong, but we can’t see his face as he’s wearing a helmet, the glass of which reflects our collective achievement back at us. When he took a small step, we all took a giant leap with him, and Armstrong instantly became more than a mere man, a symbol. With First Man, director Damien Chazelle takes us inside the famous helmet, stripping away the symbol to tell the story of Armstrong the man.
REVIEW: "Halloween"
In 2013, John Carpenter’s Halloween received a 35th anniversary blu-ray release. The accompanying booklet credited the following line of dialogue to Jamie Lee Curtis’s babysitting heroine Laurie Strode: “Was it the boogeyman?” Of course, that’s a misquote. In the scene in question, Laurie admits to herself that “It WAS the boogeyman,” to which Donald Pleasence’s Doctor Loomis solemnly replies, “As a matter of fact, it was.”
REVIEW: "Cold War"
Back in 2006, German cinema scored something of a breakout global hit with Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Lives of Others, which followed the travails of a group of disgruntled, pro-western artists in communist era East Germany. At the time I couldn’t help viewing the protagonists of Von Donnersmarck’s drama as the sort of people who would be just as discontented with their lot if they found themselves living in the capitalist west. The grass is always greener on the other side.
Baba Babee Skazala
Among the many intriguing films being screened at New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018, one title immediately caught our eye — Baba Babee Skazala: Grandmother Told Grandmother.  
NJ Film Fest Preview: October 2018
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- The New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018 runs from September 14 to October 26 on the Rutgers University Campus in New Brunswick, NJ. Showcasing new international films, American independent features, animation, experimental and short subjects, and cutting-edge documentaries, the New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018 will feature over 30 film screenings.  






Event calendar
Monday, Nov 12, 2018


MUSIC

DAVID SANCIOUS & WILL CALHOUN @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:00pm

WHEN BROADWAY GOES DARK, VAN DYK GOES LIVE @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 7:00pm

Bickford Benefit All-Stars @ Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, Morristown - 7:30pm

In Dreams: Roy Orbison in Concert – The Hologram Tour @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 7:30pm

MUDDFEST 2019 @ Mainstage @ Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC), Rahway - 7:00pm


THEATRE

Elf The Musical @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 7:30pm

Auditions: Cinderella or the Story of Bigfoot @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 6:30pm







FILM

Free Solo @ The Newton Theatre, Newton - 7:00pm


LITERATURE


View all events
























New Jersey Stage © 2018 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 (732) 280-7625 | info@newjerseystage.com

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.