Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Mommy, Can I Go Out and REUNITE Tonight? / Misfits review

A reunited Misfits at Riot Fest. (All Chris Shary photos except where noted)

By Chris Shary

I’ve been to many Riot Fests over the past 5 years and I’m always impressed at who Mike Petryshyn (Riot Fest founder) manages to convince to reunite and play. Never have I been more impressed than this year’s triumph of managing to secure a Danzig, Only, Doyle reunion of the Misfits.  It has been whispered and dreamed of for many years, but when it was actually announced it just didn’t seem real. Knowing how volatile the relationship between Jerry and Glenn has been for a very long time, it was a crapshoot as to whether it would really happen or not, kind of “I’ll believe it when I see it”. If there was a chance that it was really gonna happen, then it was a forgone conclusion that I was gonna be there!

I’d like to take a quick moment to say for those of you who constantly complain that a band isn’t touring close to you, SHUT UP AND GO TO WHERE THE BAND IS PLAYING!!!!!! It has been said publicly that this is a 2-show-only gig (but who really knows). Having said that if they are indeed only playing 2 shows, why on Earth (AD) would you miss out? OK enough of my tirade, back to the review……

My show buddy Robert Taylor and I arrived in Denver (my old hometown) last Friday afternoon getting to the National Western Complex just in time to catch the always entertaining AQUABATS. The minute we got on site, the buzz from every band anticipating seeing the Misfits was palpable. It was almost like, “Yeah I know you’re watching us just to kill time until the Misfits play on Sunday”. The bands, the crowd, hell everyone it seemed were just waiting until Sunday night when the Misfits might play. Luckily there were some truly stunning bands who helped pass the time until Sunday in such a manner that at regular hour increments I sorta forgot what was coming…..sorta. I mean DESCENDENTS were so damn good Friday night that I could have left after they played and I would have been totally happy. Still, I wasn’t about to leave until the proverbial fat lady sang.

Saturday kinda breezed by with a double helping of the Lillingtons, the weirdly beautiful sore thumb that was the Meat Puppets and Against Me. Truthfully I wasn’t too stoked for making a full day of what Saturday had to offer. We cut out early to have dinner with my folks who still live in the Mile High city. I may have missed Sleater-Kinney, but I got to spend really quality time with my folks, so no complaint.

Sunday morning I woke positively giddy but equally anxious as the Misfits were not scheduled to play until 8:45 p.m. It was more hanging with the family and a quick trip to the recently opened Spirit Store to help get into the swing of things to come. We showed up at 6, in time to catch Bad Religion, who were on the same stage as the Misfits would soon be. Roughly half of the overall stage was made available to any band who was not the Misfits. The other half of the stage was the Misfits set. A huge black curtain separated the set from view of most of the audience. Being on stage during Bad Religion meant we could peer behind the curtain. In doing so, our excitement and anticipation soared!!!!

By now, you’ve probably seen images of the Misfits stage set up, but at 6 p.m. we had yet to see it. Feasting our eyes on the 15-foot giant pumpkins that were 3-D version of the ones Glenn Danzig drew on the cover of the Misfits “Halloween” 7-inch was pretty incredible. Among other things, I’m a set designer, and I gotta say, these things were legit and absolutely beautiful. I kept my eyes fixed into the black abyss that was adored with an endless array of Crimson Ghost faces, coffins and black speaker cabinets. It may have been be a little silly but come on, the Misfits have always been a little silly, that’s why I love them! Even still, seeing all of this equipment and props didn’t mean for sure that they were actually going to step on stage together and play a full set. It seemed pretty likely but not certain. Anyway as I watched a steady stream of musicians and record label folks take selfies in front of the wall of speaker cabinets, suddenly there was a movement from inside the inner most section of the stage set. There was a figure emerging from the shadows. It was a figure I recognized. It was Jerry Only. I locked eyes with Jerry, neither of us could contain our smiles, I gave him a questioning look and a thumbs up. He answered my inquiry with a nod and a returned thumbs up. It was as if he were saying, "Yeah it’s really happening and I can’t believe it either.”

Post Bad Religion, we managed to chat with a very lively London May (former Samhain drummer and frequent Danzig project bandmate). London seemed fairly certain things were progressing along well with the Misfits camp and it was happening…and soon! Turning from London I spied a Misfits set list already taped on a speaker cabinet. I didn’t want to look, I really didn’t. I wanted to wait until Christmas to see my presents, but the temptation was too strong. DAMMIT, I LOOKED!!! I couldn’t believe some of what they were going to play “Hybrid Moments”, “She”, “Bullet”, “NOTLD”, “Who Killed Marilyn”. I thought to myself, there was no way this was for real happening, and I was backstage!!!! Then the reality set in that they were certainly going to clear the entire backstage area, which meant Robert and I were going to be S.O.L. if we didn’t have a game plan of where to be at. I wasn’t going to be behind the stage or so far to the side or back that I couldn’t see well. We milled around trying to look busy and maybe catch a glimpse of the band, all the while trying to look cool and like we belonged in their entourage.

Finally the moment I knew would come came. A very polite security guy asked us to clear and when I asked him where he would recommend we go. The security suggested making our way through the crowd to the VIP are on the opposite side stage. Of course between us and this mythical VIP area was a sea of thousands of drunk and impatient punkers, metal heads freaks, stoners and regular families. There was no way we were going to make that trek and more importantly we didn’t want to. It was becoming more and more clear we had to move. Security opened the gate that lead to the massive sea of festival goers. We stepped out into the crowd one step, and just stopped. Any way we could go would be worse than where we were, right on the side of the stage by what was to be Doyle’s side.  We planted ourselves, bared the brief groans from the now pissy people who had been standing were we were now standing, for hours, and we assimilated. Countdown 20 minutes til Misfits….hopefully.

The crowd was oddly quiet and well behaved as we waited for the Misfits to take to the stage. I saw legendary music producer Ed Stasium pacing in the barricade area commenting to the effect that Glenn was quite nervous, and then the black curtain came down. Guitars that sounded just like the Misfits began humming and growling, and suddenly a monster-type voice proclaims, "I will eat you.” Yeah that’d be the Misfits, and they were now on stage, for real! The next thing you knew they began tearing into “Death Comes Ripping”. It seemed a very aggressive start to their just over an hour set. I was kind of shocking, like being pushed into a cold lake in the middle of winter. I don’t really think I was ready for it after all. Ready or not, they were playing and it was mind blowing!

 Glenn has been playing to primarily metal audiences quite regularly these past 33 years, and it shows. Glenn Danzig knows how to work a huge audience, and this audience was the biggest by far all weekend. Glenn seems very at home with the mindless banter and the "I can’t hear you” sorta remarks, but I think it’s what people wanted to hear. To the crowd's delight, he rarely stopped moving or posing. He belted out song after song and gave them the life they have been denied for so long.  He was indeed resurrecting some very old friends (or should I say fiends?) some that harked back to 1977. It was pretty rad to hear the variety of songs Danzig chose to perform. Rumor has it Glenn was fully in charge of putting together the set list and I gotta say it was a fantastic selection.

So let’s get right down to it. Nearly everyone I know who wasn’t there has asked me, “How was it REALLY?”. Really? It was great. Really. Can I be critical? Sure. To be critical, I think the drums were fantastic but muddy in the mix. Dave Lombardo allowed for the band to have a better framework than they ever had on record, without overplaying or overcomplicating songs. I think it was hard to distinguish between Doyle and second guitarist Acey Slade’s parts. I think the bass was a little low in the mix. I think they could have used DESCENDENTS sound guy Andrew Schornack to give their sound more bite. I think it would have been great if they didn’t stop between every song for Glenn to address the audience and catch his breath, but that’s just me being picky. These are minor issues, and in no way detracted from my overall impression.

Overall, the Misfits exceeded my expectations. I was cautiously optimistic, but I was half expecting some sort of Spinal Tap-type situation, where Glenn was stuck in one of the pumpkins, or Jerry got tangled up in his vest and fell over, but none of that happened. The 3 main dudes were lively and most surprising of all, happy and smiling most of the set. Doyle and Jerry traded sides constantly and Glenn made sure to give folks snapping pictures, plenty of great opportunities to capture some neat moments. All the show aside, the music was great. The songs have stood the test of time and seem very timeless, fresh even. Each player seemed at the top of their game, perhaps not totally gelling and locking up as a band who’s hot off the heels of a monthlong tour, but the same could be said for most every other band on the fest. They certainly didn’t seem rusty at all or out of touch with the songs. Jerry, as we expected, stayed pretty far from the mic, but did at one point fairly quietly say,”It’s good to be back.” He’s right, too, it was good to have them back.

Honestly, I’m still in disbelief that it actually happened, but I was there and while it was happening it was great. I was not wanting it to end, but sadly there was a firm 10 p.m. curfew that they had to stick to. The curfew meant that “Attitude” was cut from the encore, but it didn’t seem like a monumental loss at all. I heard almost everything I was hoping to hear, and seeing as they appeared to be so excited to be on stage together, it gives me hope that I’ll have the chance to see them again at some point. If you sat at home being critical of the band reuniting, perhaps you need to reconsider your stance on reunions. Great music is always great music and the Misfits made some really great music then and now. I would like nothing more than for them to record some new music together and to tour the globe, so others can have the sort of fun I had last Sunday. If that doesn’t happen, at least I know I was able to witness something Glenn referred to as “historic”, and I feel like that’s a fair word to describe it.

Robert Taylor with the stacks.

The list. (Robert Taylor photo, plus below)

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