MUSIC REVIEW: Misfits Reunion @ Riot Fest 2016

Misfits 9/18/2016
Photo credit: riotfest.org

Throughout life, we all have the need to see a band that made us who we are today. Music comes to us, and speaks to something deep inside every person. No matter whom it is or what kind of music it is, music speaks to us and, I dare say, is a necessity of life in order to survive.

Some of the bands we go through in our lives stick to our souls and yet there is no chance of seeing a live performance, bands like Queen with a front man as inspirational, charismatic and amazing as Freddie Mercury. Some of us never had the pleasure and honor to see him perform with a band that changed the standard of music. That's just one example of thousands, and most of us who can bounce between genres, we also have home where we go to.

For me, home is Horror Punk and although some would say it pales in comparison to bands that can't be classified like Queen. It is still where my heart and soul have been for many years. This genre was made famous by a small little band we now know as the MISFITS, a band that has a legacy that has been undeniable for decades. So when I got the email from the Riotfest.org mailing list that was nothing more than a picture of the iconic Crimson Ghost that stated ORIGINAL MISFITS LINE UP, I may have felt my heart sink. Tears flooded my eyes, and I literally screamed. Laugh if you must, but I totally did scream in the middle of a grocery store. Looked at the email on my phone and emotion flooded me. It was like finally having a dream come true - a phrase that is often used but rarely true. We have all been hearing for over 30 years "It will never happen!" Well, it was happening, and the skeptics came out in droves to instantly try to disprove this and call it a hoax. There was not a care in the world on my end of it, I logged on right way and dropped a healthy chunk of money to purchase tickets.

One thing I know is the music industry, not the lives of the people but the industry itself, so I figured of course there had to have been a solid contract in place. So I wasn't worried like many others were, stating their past beef ruining the reunion. Now, enough of that, let's break down the show.

It was a long three days of Riot Fest in Chicago. I spent the months prior awaiting the three day festival. Of course, being into punk and metal, I attended the whole three day event, eagerly anticipating Sunday and the opportunity to witness a band that created a genre that had influenced some of the biggest names in the music world.

The energy was intense with 50,000+ people in attendance. For us into the underground music scene, most shows have maybe 500 people tops. This was the most intense experience, the stage garnished with two giant sized jack-o-lanterns from the Halloween EP cover in and, of course, numerous crimson ghosts all over the place. So once the band took stage, the audience erupted into cheers and applause and other audience noises that nearly broke the sound barrier! Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein on guitar, Acey Slade (Murderdolls, Dope, Trashlight Vision and more) on second guitar, Jerry Only on bass, Dave Lombardo (Slayer, Fantomas, Suicidal Tendencies, and more) on drums and of course the almighty Glenn Danzig on vocals.

Opening up the show with "Death Comes Ripping" - a powerful way to start off the set in my opinion, the earth shook once that first beat from Mr. Lombardo's drum intro hit. And I'm not exaggerating. The ground literally was shaking, and it was pure amazement. There was a lot going on, from the stage with the lights and screens to the crowd moving like waves; it was the time we all were waiting for and damn did it hit hard.

Some have said that Glenn sounds great, but you couldn't hear him over everyone else singing along to every single song, so I don't know what they could have been hearing honestly. The performance as a whole was very energetic and very unexpected, with all of them running about like they were 17 again and taking over the stage like kids on a play ground. This was unexpected only because the Misfits original members are a bit aged. There had been a lot of speculation from super elite fans that the performance was going to lack. However, just look at the shape they are in; there was no way it was going to be what was predicted all over the Internet. And I'm sure the energy from the insane amount of people in attendance really fueled the energy they put off. Their overall performance really was like seeing a band of younger cats doing what needs to be done to put on the best show. I have seen HUNDREDS of concerts in my time, and I can confidently say that the way they owned the stage was right up there with the hype and energy of bands like Suicidal Tendencies, AFI, Terror and other high energy bands.

The band slid effortlessly from song to song, each one an obvious classic. The vibe never drowned, and endless flashing designs played on the screen on the back of the stage. You couldn't even tell it was 10:00 PM and pitch black outside. Many have speculated what the origins are behind the songs. As fans we don't really know what the songs are truly about, so hearing straight from Danzig's mouth what "I Turned Into a Martian" was really about or how the infamous "Bullet" JFK art was created was truly a gift to any true fan.

Seeing this live took me back to the first time I heard the MISFITS as a kid, and how it was different from other punk bands. If you're not familiar with the Misfits, well you've been under a coffin far too long. They mixed the two things I love most: horror and music. This took me back to a time when everything was okay with the world and listening to your favorite band made you feel like you could do anything. Seeing them perform together live - something that will probably never happen again - made it all the more of a positive experience.

Overall, this was an amazing and a once in a lifetime event that I am very fortunate to have attended. Anyone that was there know exactly how heavy and intense it was. Everyone who had the means to make it but did not really missed out. This is your own problem. All who did not have the means, I am truly sorry that you could not make it to this historic event.

So, until next time, keep your ears to the streets. There is more horror music out there, and if you haven't heard about it yet, you will hear about it real soon.

Keep it Creepy,

Posted by Schock

I'm an artist, specializing in illustration both digitally and traditionally. I also write short stories as well as for HouseofTorturedSouls.com. On top of all this I make music. Punk rock/Hardcore mostly and now dipping into thrash and death metal. I have a kid, I'm diabetic, I'm straight edge.. That's pretty much it for who I am and what I do.

1 comment

Daniel Penland

12:32, Monday, Sept. 19, 2016, above Midway Airport, Chicago, IL
Give me a moment…
Some hours ago (as of this writing), Chicago Tribune reporter Greg Kot let loose a review of The Misfits’ show at Chicago’s Riot Fest as “not all that historic,” in which, he took not-so-subtle shots at, quite literally, everything to do with the performance. He slighted the band’s appearance, the stage set, their choices of fill-in musicians (“ringers” he called them), Doyle’s stage name, the subject matter of songs that he’s taken no other notice of in the nearly 40 years since they were written, Glenn’s stage banter during frequent breaks to catch his breath, and how a couple of more recent artists who played earlier in the day had “spruced things up a bit Sunday.” We get it; you’re not a fan. The article was clearly a reporter’s response to the build-up and hype surrounding the reunion. Everyone has a job to do, and he did his. He didn’t like it. That’s fine. The Misfits are not everyone’s cup of tea. I get that. I have friends who hate them. And I mean hate them. That’s fine. But they didn’t go last night, because they probably wouldn’t have liked it either. In that regard, I appreciate the fact that Kot experienced this spectacle from “a football field away,” giving at least one more fan who was there with an emotional attachment to something rather than for the sheer curiosity of it, the chance to be a few feet closer to something they had waited a lifetime to see and will likely never get to see again.
I’m not going to skirt around the fact that I’m a fan, its why I was there. I am a huge Misfits fan, a Samhain fan, a Danzig fan, a Kryst the Conqueror fan, a reformed Misfits fan, an M25 fan, a Project 1950 fan, a Gorgeous Frankenstein fan, a Doyle fan, I never picked sides, I don’t hate Jerry, I don’t hate Glenn, neither walk on water, I have no issues at all with Graves or Chud and am a fan of theirs too. I could go on and on and on about my complete lack of interest in Misfits drama. I drank the kool-aid and tried every subsequent flavor. It’s not all great, it’s not even all good, but the gems… there are a lot of gems. Having seen Danzig 3 times, the Graves-era Misfits 3 times, and the post-Graves revolving door Misfits 3 times, I’ve got some thing to compare what I witnessed last night to. I was lucky enough to catch the Long Way Back From Hell tour in a small theater, which I would argue was Glenn’s performing peak. It was flawless. I was also lucky enough to catch the newly reformed Misfits prior the release of American Psycho in a club not not much bigger than last night’s sound booth, with Jerry and Doyle at their closest, and in top shape. It was insanity at its finest. Reading the announcement of the two reunion shows gave me chills and extremely mixed feelings. On the one hand, it’s something that I never even dreamed would happen; I thought that maybe I’d get to catch a Danzig show where he finally did some of the old stuff, or that I would once again check out Jerry’s band rip through a ton of songs that I could enjoy with just about anyone singing them. But seeing THE Misfits? It was never even a pipe dream.
Then the announcement came, completely out of the blue. This is actually happening. Reading it, I felt like I was in 7th grade again, relishing in the discovery of something new, 4 years after it had ended. My wife and I put in for a couple days vacation on the spot, bought tickets, booked airfare and a room. We spent more money than we had any reasonable right for our young family to do. Supported throughout our youth (hell, throughout our lives) by punk rock, and being true lovers of all types of live music, we rationalized it by looking at the 3 days of Riot Fest as a true bucket list of bands that we had missed every previous chance to see, and as a 4 day, kid-less vacation, which we both needed and deserved. It decimated our live music budget, but for us, it was worth every penny. I even sold 2 guitars and some other gear so we would have cash for the weekend (Jim, I guess I really do owe you for your half of that black Kramer now).
Then the wondering. Would they make it past the first show? Would the whole thing implode before Chicago? Will they even acknowledge each other on stage? God, is this going to suck? I’ll freely admit that each subsequent time I’ve seen Danzig, I thought the performance he gave was less impressive than the one before. That’s not a complaint, nor am I saying that he or his band weren’t good, nothing could be further from the truth. That 1990 show was just really that good. He always gives his all, putting on an unforgettable show, and I’d go see him again tomorrow, knowing full well that I’d more than get my money’s worth. I’ll also freely admit that each time that I’ve seen the “new” Misfits since Michale Graves left, my expectations have not been met, but those expectations were extraordinarily high. Jerry and all the bands that he assembles put on a great show, and I cough up my hard-earned money to see them anytime I can. The passion that Jerry Only has for the music, his love for the Misfits’ fans and the individual attention he makes a concerted effort to give them, and his consciousness of the amount of joy he brings to them by keeping the mere idea of the Misfits alive and those songs on a stage more than make up for what I personally perceive as his shortcomings as a singer.
And then came Denver. I had told myself that I would spend the two intervening weeks until Chicago avoiding subpar cell phone videos with terrible sound so as not to taint my expectations. Then some Reddit user posted a picture of the Denver setlist on a Riot Fest thread. I saw that it included Hybrid Moments and I just couldn’t help myself. Then the comments began about long breaks and Glenn being out of breath, the pacing being slow, and how Glenn’s stage banter was stupid, and the cheesy giant pumpkins, and COME ON ALREADY!! I got the impression that people were expecting them to relive Evilive (the only official live document of the original misfits), which, if we’re being honest, sounds truly awful, and was recorded at the height of the era all of these so-called fans profess a desire to relive. Glenn was 26 (not 61), Jerry was 22 (not 57), and Doyle was 17 (not 52) and guess what? The break you hear on that 13 minute record is long, Glenn is out of breath, the stage banter is stupid, and the pacing of those 7 songs (oh, sorry, you got he 12 track version?), I mean of those 12 songs is all over the place. But the energy on those few recordings is infectious. That’s what those guys gave us last night. Everything that they have of those 26, 22, and 17 year old hearts, along with the knowledge of what those songs mean to so many people, was in every single note they played. So Glenn had to take a few breathers. Big deal. So the sound was a little questionable for the first third or so of the set. Who cares. When they were playing, they were on. We got more last night than Evilive ever gave us.
Having played in bands, you always want to sound your best. You always want everything to work. You always want every little thing to fall into place. The fact is, that, rarely, if ever, does that happen. Especially when you’re at breakneck speed. Last night was not about perfection. It was about an experience. I read an interview Glenn did after the two reunion shows were announced and he spoke about the recent losses of Prince and David Bowie and how it made him think about their fans who never had the chance to see them. If it’s true, I’d like to thank Prince (who I did get to see) and Bowie (who I did not), not only for what they gave the world, but for any hand that they might have had in what I got to experience last night. It was not perfect. What it was was everything that the 12 year old me could have ever imagined it could be, plus there were giant pumpkins. So I guess the Chicago Tribune got one thing right, it was “not all that historic.” It was fucking epic, like a dry desert soaking up rain, soaking up sun.

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