Monday, December 1, 2008

Mark Maxey on Justice League at City Gardens

Justice League at City Gardens, Trenton NJ, Summer 1987, Ryan Hoffman with what would become his patented jump by the time he was playing in Chain Of Strength, Photo: Ken Salerno

Ken Salerno floated us some really great City Gardens pics of Justice League from summer 1987. While these shots tell a great story, we figured we should get JL's own Mark Maxey to sum up some of his memories involving this show and that particular tour. Great band, great photos, great story...enjoy!
-Gordo DCXX

Wow, these pictures really bring back a flood of memories of that show and that tour in general. This was a version of Justice League that doesn't get talked about much these days, probably because I was fronting the band, and not Jon Roa or Casey Jones.

It was the spring of 1987, and we had finished recording the Reach Out 12" that was coming out on Positive Force Records. With the new record set for a July release, we started planning on another summer tour. Kevin Seconds offered to book it for us, which sounded a lot easier than doing it ourselves, so we said OK. A few weeks before we were set to go, we found out that Kevin hadn't booked anything but that he was going to add us on as the opening act for the 7 Seconds summer tour. That suited us just fine! It was around this time that Fred Mahintorabi decided he wanted out of the band. After seeing the toll that a summer tour took on Ryan's and Skip's relationships the prior year, Fred wasn't ready to leave his girlfriend (now his wife) for 7 weeks. It was also decided that I should concentrate on vocals, so we got our roadie John "Whitey" McKeown to play bass, who was better than I was anyway.

Marc and Ryan both fronting Justice League on this final tour, Photo: Ken Salerno

I sold some of my bass equipment and bought a guitar so I'd have something to do on the songs that Ryan sang. We still needed a lead guitarist though, since neither Ryan nor I were very adept in that department. After trying out a couple guys, we settled on Matt Baker, who was Chris's friend from school. Matt was only 17 at the time and headed to Boston for college in the fall, so he was never meant to be a permanent member. He's the guy with the curly blond hair whose face you can never see in all of these pictures. We had a lot of fun that tour telling everyone he was Brian Baker's younger brother. Dave Stein from NY flew out to LA to join us as our road manager / roadie / merchandise guy. We rented a U-Haul trailer (quite a luxury, compared to the last tour!) and the six of us piled in the van the morning of July 4th, 1987.

Four weeks into the tour we were pretty much on our game, with the exception of one really bad show at Maxwell's in New Jersey. On August 2 we played the biggest show of our tour at City Garden's in Trenton, NJ. 7 Seconds, Uniform Choice, Justice League, Token Entry, and Hogan's Heroes and what looked like about 1000 sweaty kids. Aside from a night almost 2 years earlier at the San Jose Convention Center with Social Distortion and The Vandals, this was the biggest show we'd ever play. We were amazed when we loaded in looking at the Uniform Choice merchandise table. They must have had 15 different shirts available, which was about 13 more than any other band I'd ever seen up to that point. I think they told us they were averaging over $1000 a night on merch, which blew us away. We were happy if we sold 5 shirts at $7 apiece! Screaming For Change had come out the prior year and was selling like mad, but by now they had all grown their hair out and were playing songs from their upcoming "rock" album. They did great this tour, but the next time around I heard they were miserable.

Chris Bratton with Justice League at City Gardens, Trenton NJ, Summer 1987, Photo: Ken Salerno

We weren't listening to much hardcore this tour, but we did have a copy of Age of Quarrel on cassette that we would put on before most shows to sort of get us in the right mood for a show. I don't remember much about our set that night, other than thinking it went really well. Looking at these pictures, I have to think we were pretty "on" that night. There was a guy there videotaping (you can see him in a couple of the pics) with some really professional equipment who promised to send us a tape but we never got it. If anybody out there has seen or knows the whereabouts of this video, please get in touch!

I see Nicole Straight Edge up front in a couple of the pictures. She and a couple of the Up Front guys were sort of following our tour around the east coast for a couple weeks. 

I remember after our set going out to the parking lot and being surprised to see Brian Baker there. I'm still not sure what the heck he was doing in New Jersey for that show, but we talked a bit, discussing Uniform Choice, and the new Scream LP, neither of which seemed to impress him much.

The City Gardens show, a CBGB Sunday matinee, and a 9:30 club show in D.C. were the definite highlights of the last Justice League tour. Reach Out ended up not coming out until October, well after we were home, and on our way to a rather unceremonious break up. The record didn't go over well with the hardcore crowd, as we were way more into Husker Du, The Smiths & REM than we were into Minor Threat by that point. Ryan and Chris then formed Chain of Strength a year later, and everyone pretty much knows their story.

Justice League rocking those Joe's monitors for all they are worth, Photo: Ken Salerno

Justice League with air and hair, Photo: Ken Salerno

Drum risers aren't only for drummers, Marc clearly discovered that with this one, Photo: Ken Salerno

Justice League, Reach Out Summer Tour 1987, Photo: Ken Salerno

1 comment:

Jon said...

Wow, this was a blast from the past for me too. We (the Up Front guys) followed 7 Seconds/Justice League around for 7 shows on the east coast that summer. My one clear memory of that City Gardens show was being in the front row for UC and thinking, man, Pat Dubar has a watch and big hairy arm like my Dad, these guys are OLD. Funny, b/c I bet they were about 20 years old, half my age now.

Thanks for this Tim & Gordo, it answers some questions we all had back then, like "who is the glam rock guy on guitar with the long blonde hair?" Those were some great shows, so much energy and emotion from Justice League, and it shows in these pics.

Marc, I still have some pictures to scan for you from the Bedford NY show. Someday I'll get them to you!