Hub City Stompers‘ vocalist Reverend T. Sinister has written up a brief reflection on his introduction to ska, punk, and underground music in general, and how he got into the NJ/NY scene. Check out the full write-up below!
The first actual “underground sounds” I remember hearing started droning out of my older brother’s room around
1981 and 1982 while he would blast them brooding in his adolescence. Bands like The Clash, The Sex Pistols, The
English Beat, Madness, The Replacements, The Ramones, and Husker Du, blared from there pretty regularly.
It appealed to me immediately and occasionally when he was out I’d sneak into his room and check out what tapes
were laying around so I could try to figure out what the hell I was hearing. My favorite band at that time was The
Rolling Stones (my mom even took me to catch the “Tattoo You” tour when it hit Philly in ’81), but the distinction of
the music my brother would listen to really struck a chord with me. And then, despite this being generally
underground and punk related music, when MTV first came out they would play videos by a good number of these
artists; The Clash, The Specials, The Ramones, Madness…So on weekends at my dad’s I was glued to the TV
getting to see videos of this stuff as well. It was a catch-it- when-I- can thing at that time and I wasn’t necessarily
seeking out records or anything. But when my brother introduced me to Black Flag in ’83, as I myself was coming
into my adolescent angst, underground music became an obsession and I was on the hunt. I collected tapes and
records and, along with some local, close junior high & high school friends of mine, listened to local college radio
stations such as WTSR in Trenton and WPRB in Princeton to catch any punk, alternative, and reggae I could.
As into and obsessed with the music and scene as I was, I actually did not start going to actual shows until 1987, my
first being Fishbone at City Gardens, followed shortly after by a Circle Jerks show there as well. And that was that.
Going to shows was my official preoccupation. Finding a universe of people who shared the same passion for the
music and lifestyle, for a lot of the same reasons you did, at that time was an indescribable thing. And City Gardens
was a mere 2 miles from my dad’s house in Trenton, so it made for a quick drive or a nice (and dangerous) hike.
Hardcore was my main musical focus but I loved, followed, and attended live music of all different underground
genres such as punk, oi!, ska, reggae, industrial, alternative, and hip hop. I’d scene hop the corridor between NYC
(CBGBs) and Trenton (City Gardens), meaning New Brunswick was of course a frequent stop in between. But City
Gardens is really where I came up, musically. I’d say three quarters of the shows I attended up through 1994…when
I was banned from the venue, were there. My live show life of course didn’t end when I was banned from City
Gardens. However as I had just become a member of the New Jersey Ska band Inspecter 7 a few months prior my
presence became more and more on the other side of the stage. And, well, that became a whole other story…