Sunday, July 6, 2014

NXNE 2014 Film Review - Riot on the Dance Floor

When thinking of influential live music venues in the U.S. two spots come quickly to mind New York's CBGB and Los Angeles' The Troubadour.  The first boasted initial and early performances of the Ramones, Blondie, Patti Smith, The Police and the Talking Heads while the latter's roster included Linda Ronstadt, the Eagles, Elton John, The Byrds and James Taylor.

Riot on the Dance Floor points out that there was a third, City Gardens in Trenton New Jersey. Led by Promoter and former D.J. Randy Ellis (Now) City Gardens had its own share of iconic acts grace its stage along with future politics commentator Jon Stewart who worked as a bartender in the club.
The club had three simple rule printed in large lettering at the entrance NO SLAM DANCING , NO STAGE DIVING, NO SPIKES. The production is unclear on the third but judging from the pictures, footage and comments of the regulars and the bands the first two rules were broken on a regular basis

Director Steve Tozzi interviews key figures from the bands that played the venue but the main narrative comes from Randy Now the locations heart and sole. Now tells several stories of struggles to keep the audience in line, battles to get the bands on stage and several violent confrontations between the bands and the audience. Tozzi gives a history of Trenton as a point of context to the developing punk scene in the city and photographic, first hand account and video of the former car dealership turned 1,100 capacity punk rock must attend spot between New York and Philadelphia.

Among the interviewees for the piece are Henry Rollins, Dave Brokie and Bog Gorman from Gwar, HR from Bad Brains , Jon Stewart , Jello Biafra, Robby Takac from the Goo Goo Dolls and Jack Irons.

However, behind the glamor and insanity of the club was the underlining sacrifice of Randy Now to keep the music coming. He worked tirelessly to bring in many acts from overseas such as the Thompson Twins and Sinead O'Conner for their first U.S. shows.  He was often at the club past 4 AM then having to rise for his day job as a local postman the next morning, The hours of the former led him to give up the latter which significantly effected his income later in life.

City Gardens' stage boasted R.E.M., Joan Jett, The Blasters, Ministry, Dead Kennedy's, Fugazi, Husker Du, Danzig, A Flock of Seagulls, The Ramones, Joe Strummer and Sound Gardening pictures taken by Ken Salerno. A key piece to capture the performance in the film is the sharp and seemingly moving. Another useful item used through out the piece are the posters featuring the shows for that week or month featuring the headlining and opening acts for each evening.  Director Steve Tazzi has produced a documentary on an important punk and hardcore venue that may not have had the spotlight of a big American city but has an alumni that can match any in it's 15 year run.

*** out of 4

Riot on the Dance Floor| Steve Tozzi | 2013| U.S.A. | 114 Minutes.

Tags; Punk Rock, Hardcore, Trenton, New Jersey, New Wave, 80's, 90's , British Bands.

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