MISFITS at SUMMIT MUSIC HALL | 10/9/11
There's a reason why people go to a Misfits show. It's the same reason at least half of those people spend the show in the moshpit. At this point, the number of former Misfits members could triple the roster of Arcade Fire, and the band has spent more than half of its 35-year tenure separated from its one-time raison d'etre, Glenn Danzig. In most instances, then, that reason is nostalgia. In some regards, it's to say you went to a Misfits show.
So now I've seen Misfits. Until the first song ended and the second one began, that was an experience for the ages. Within thirty seconds, the moshpit formed as if it were a permanent fixture of the venue, kidnapped every moderately rowdy member of the crowd (which, at Misfits, is quite a healthy percentage) and happily imploded in front of the band's current leader. Jerry Only, ironically referred to now as the band's "Only" remaining original remember, cued its mountain of sound with a "ONETWOTHREEFOUR!", and the show began an audible assault on its own legacy. But somewhere, amidst the leather and the metal spikes and the corpse paint and all the elbows flying always within an inch of your face, the effect was lost.
For what it's worth, the band's new album is somewhat to blame. Punk is not dead, never dead, but The Devil's Rain, released this month by the current line-up of Only, Dez Cadena and Eric "Chupacabra" Ace, is not helping the cause. Few members of the crowd army -- all in the band's uniform of goth glamour, visible tattoos, Misfits shirts (occasionally purchased and put on during the show) and blatant nonchalance -- were there to hear Only dedicate "Monkey's Paw" to his daughter. Although the band celebrated its 35 years of cultural cache aloud, that third of a century has taken its toll on both the guys and their fans.
That toll is a slight but unsubtle bloating of almost every aspect of the band's traditions. Even the point of gelled hair that comprises Only's devilock separates so far from the remainder of its receding hairline that the result is today a ponytail in the front. Augmented occasionally by the sound effects of a storm and fronted by skeletons wrapped around their mics, the now threesome blazed without pause through a set that included only rare concessions to its true heyday. ("So, you guys have our new album yet?" Only quizzed.) When the show ended, it was with Only, no longer accompanied by music, standing at attention, pumping his fist in the air and grinning while his soldiers fondled him in uniform.
Still, there's something both eerie and unmissable about watching the faces of the moshpit contort and those of the band take on a menacing cast under low, red lights while the sound -- there's just so much of it -- hits you in wave after merciless wave. This is where nostalgia comes in: You can still participate in the band's legacy even if you're worried about what's happened to it. As the set waged on, five towels were sacrificed to support the sweat that kind of sound leaves on its creators. Only's custom bass, topped by a cyclops skull, still lacks any knob capable of keeping him from creating that sound at anything but full blast.
The night's best musical moments, though rare, were devoted to tracks from Static Age, which, recorded in 1978 but not released in its entirety until 1997, is not the band's most fitting symbol. The blistering pace never changed, and the result was the night's best overall moments, spent in the torpor of bucket lists and memories and future boasts relegated to the aggressive nostalgia of the mosphit. Bands like Misfits and moments like this are, after all, the reason why Hot Topic exists. When the show closed with "Die, Die, My Darling" and its survivors split into camps of complaint and celebration, it was to search for their clothing. Somewhere, there was a pile of shirts and shoes and glasses and car keys calmly waiting for their owners to calm the hell down.
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Personal Bias: I legitimately assumed this show would be 100 percent awesome until halfway through the first song. By the Way: Witnessing someone's lip ring be unceremoniously pulled out in a moshpit is unsurprisingly unpleasant. Random Detail: Finding your way out of a Misfits show, for many, means first finding your shoes. For the rest of us, it involves cutting a path through all the orphaned Vans that have made their lonely way to the fringes of the crowd.