Starting the New Year Off with a Bang

Steven DiLodovico (patron): It was easy to tell that it was going to be one of “those nights” where the locals were looking to really hurt some people. So I stayed clear of the pit.

Nancy DeSimone (patron): Out of curiosity I came out of the back and went up to the DJ booth just to see what was going on. I could see there was just this wall of dudes and they were blocking off the entire floor just because they could, I guess.

Randy Now (promoter): Every skinhead was like Mr. America Musclehead.  They were all 6’7” – it was like the front line of the Philadelphia Eagles coming at you.

Keith Morris (vocals, Circle Jerks): So they line up at the back bar and lock arms. The Circle Jerks are performing and I’m watching what’s going on and all these kids are aware of what’s going on around them, they’re not just these stupid statues. They notice that something serious, something heavy, is getting ready to go down. Some kind of wild-assed crazy stuff is getting ready to take place. So all of a sudden I realize that I can see the floor in front of the stage. I remember the floor there was black and white checkerboard. It was like the parting of the Red Sea. I’m wondering what the hell is going on here? Why is it that I can see the floor when, just a second ago there was a mass of people covering it?

Steven DiLodovico (patron): And it just kept coming: wave after wave of meaty, sweaty dudes running full speed at the stage.

Keith Morris (vocals, Circle Jerks): I look to the back and I see that there’s 15 or 20 of these skinheads and they’re all locked arm-in-arm. It looked like a bullfight was about to happen. You know; you have the bullfighter and the red cape, or whatever he’s using, and the bull is huffing and puffing and it’s getting ready to charge. And I’m looking down on this floor and I see that there might be, oh, maybe 30 people in front of the stage. I put one and one together and get two. I realize that these guys mean some kind of harm; that they want to hurt some people. And that’s not what the Circle Jerks are about. That’s not on the Circle Jerks’ list of “let people do at our show today.”

Alex Franklin (patron): Keith took it as if we were beating up on people and we really weren’t. It wasn’t a malicious “let’s hurt people” kind of thing. That’s how we danced and everybody knew that. As a “regular” you just know at some point that’s going to happen. It was like having chicken fights: you weren’t trying to hurt people; you were just having fun in the pit being jackasses.

Steven DiLodovico (patron): I was watching the band. I couldn’t believe how fucking great the Circle Jerks were. They ran through the classics, the newer shit sounded great and the whole time you could tell that Keith was getting pissed.

Keith Morris (vocals, Circle Jerks): So I see them slowly charge towards the stage and I jump off the front of the stage and I go running at them. And it’s me against 20 or 25 Skinheads. I said, “You’re not gonna’ do that here. If you wanna’ do that you can go out in the parking lot. All you guys can go out and play in the parking lot.” People were shaking their heads like, “This guy’s gonna’ get killed. These guys are gonna’ stomp him to death right here.”

Jim Norton (bouncer): Now, I had already had a run-in with Keith Morris once before. It was during the first Circle Jerks show I worked at City Gardens. Chris McGill, or Ivo as he was known, was fighting and he was one of the regulars; I knew him well and thrown him out many times before. So I went to throw him out and Keith Morris in his own, special way; was like, “We’re not gonna’ play. The bouncers are gorillas…” And I was a total fan of the band. He was like, “These guys are jocks and meatheads!” He went on this whole rant. “If you gorillas can’t figure out how to calm people down without hurting them we’re going to stop playing.” And I’m thinking, “Me hurt him? This is Ivo, are you kidding me?” When they finished that show I actually tried to get a word with him while he was walking back to the dressing room. And he was honestly a complete knob. He told me to take my “football player, cop mentality” somewhere else. And I was just like,“You’re a dick.” It really rubbed me the wrong way. And it actually has sort of colored the way I’ve looked at him in later times of encountering the band. It definitely spoiled my “fandom.” Now even when I look at him it’s like, “Oh, okay, he’s the dude who’s always right.” I guess there’s not a point where he can sit there and go, “Oh, it looked a little different from where I was, maybe I was wrong.”

Carl Humenik (bouncer): I worked many Circle Jerks shows before that.  I personally never had a problem with Keith Morris.  The whole band was pretty cool to me – I never had a problem.

Keith Morris (vocals, Circle Jerks): You would think the bouncers would want to put a stop to all that. You don’t want anyone getting hurt in your venue. Maybe I was going to be backed up by the bouncers. That’s happened quite a bit, believe it or not. Well, fortunately for me, the bouncers had been paying attention to all of this. They seemed like they were kind of wondering, “Okay, when do we get involved? Do we need to get involved? Do we just let these morons do whatever they’re gonna’ do?” Obviously they’d seen it happen a few times because I guess it was a regular occurrence at a lot of these shows. I had never seen it before.

Steven Dilodovico (patron): There was also the usual contingent of white power skins there that night and they were all doing the usual bullshit: the seig-heiling and all that.

Keith Morris (vocals, Circle Jerks): So these skins actually formed an island in the slam pit and were seig-heil-ing. We would play “Killing for Jesus” or “Making the Bomb” and they didn’t understand the sarcasm and the humor behind those songs. They thought that we really meant that stuff. They didn’t understand that the make-up of the band is one and a half Jews; at one point we were two and a half Jews. I’m a half-Jew; Greg Hetson is a half-Jew, Zander is, I believe, a half-Jew, so it was like they just weren’t smart enough to get the joke. We’re here to have a good time. Yes, granted, we’re singing songs with lyrical content that occasionally deals with some serious shit, but we’re here to have a party. We’re here to have a good time. If you think you’re going to get away with that; you’re not. We will just stop playing.

Nancy DeSimone (patron): They stopped playing at one point and tried to get everybody to stop, but they were ignoring the band and standing their ground. Keith started getting antagonistic and said something along the lines of: “Why don’t you all do us a favor and just bend forward and smash your heads into the front of the stage…” And that got them all really pissed off. I heard him say that and I was like “Oh, fuck…”

Amy Yates Wuelfing has been a music journalist since 1985 when she helped publish the punk ‘zine Hard Times. Since that time she has written for other music publications including B-Side and HITS. She is a graduate of Temple University and is currently Vice President of Marketing at business consulting firm. Steven DiLodovico spent his formative years going to punk and heavy metal shows, as well as booking show, in Philadelphia and New Jersey, and is an experienced music journalist who grew up in the underground scene of the 1980s. Steven has worked for several indie and major labels in various positions and has been a freelance writer for 15 years writing liner notes and bios for groups such as Jedi Mind Tricks. He has freelanced for CMJ, Subversive and Elemental, among others. More from this author →