|see all photos from this
Monday September 5 2005
~ review & photos by Uncle
I'm here out of curiosity, really. I've
never been a particular fan of the Misfits, never seen them play live before,
and I think I've only heard a mere handful of Misfits tunes in my entire
life. But the name of the band is very familiar to me, as it must be to
anyone who's ever stuck their nose round the door of a deathrock club.
Sometimes, it seems like every third deathrocker I meet is wearing a Misfits
T-shirt, or Misfits badges, or a Misfits patch, or has the Misfits logo
painstakingly painted on the back of their jacket. 'Misfits' is obviously
the top fashion brand of the deathrock scene, a logo you've just got to
go with if you want any deathrock style-credibility.
All of which makes it very odd that there's
not one single deathrocker at the gig tonight. Not that this means we've
got an empty venue on our hands - far from it. The Underworld is sold out,
and there's a crowd of disappointed latecomers outside, desperately trying
to blag their way past the bouncers. On the street, the touts are asking
45 quid a ticket. The Misfits certainly have a big following - but it's
entirely drawn from the punk scene. Tonight, the London punk crowd is out
in force, while the deathrock contingent has very obviously stayed at home.
I look out for any familiar faces from the Dead & Buried club, but
they're nowhere to be seen. It's wall-to-wall 'ardcore punx in 'ere, mate.
Now, I know what you're going to say. The
present-day Misfits isn't the original band. It's a latter-day revival
outfit, put together by bassist Jerry Only, the sole survivor from the
classic early line-ups which existed between 1977 and 1983. That's why
the deathrock crowd - who hold the earlier versions of the Misfits in high
regard - haven't come along tonight. They're just not interested in the
modern band. But why should that be? After all, the deathrock scene is
happy to embrace revived old-skoolers like Voodoo Church and 45 Grave,
to name two more bands who have made recent comebacks with new line-ups
that bear scant resemblance to their classic incarnations. Why accept those
bands, but reject the Misfits? I think there's another reason for this
curious deathrock no-show. My guess is that many of today's deathrockers
don't even know that the Misfits exist. As far as they're concerned, the
M-word is just a trendy T-shirt logo. They know it as a fashion label,
but they've never heard of the band behind the brand. If that's the case,
then maybe this review will allow a little enlightenment to dawn.
It's time for action. Here come the support
bands. The Bleeders apparently come from New Zealand, and are all T-shirts
and tattoos, the essential visual cues for modern punk bands. They kick
some hefty riffs around the stage, holler foghorn vocals at the pit, encourage
the crowd to cheer for the Misfits (the crowd are happy to oblige) and
generally rip it up inna punk rock stylee. They don't do anything that
a thousand other boisterous punk bands aren't also doing, but they play
with enough gung-ho conviction to carry the day, and they even get a bunch
of teenage glam-girls dancing frenziedly in a circle down the front. Well,
that shows they must be doing something right.
October File look and sound more or less
similar. Their set is, therefore, by and large more of the same.
They get a bit of a bigger mosh (which proclaims their status as a more
established band) but with fewer teenage glam-girls (something to work
on there, lads). They, too, big-up the Misfits, to yet more cheers. I suppose
that yelling out the name of the headline band is an easy way to raise
a bit of enthusiasm, but it occurs to me that getting the audience to cheer
for October File would be a somewhat better result. The music is suitably
loud and brash, but in the punk scene everybody is doing 'loud and brash',
and to stand out from the crowd I think October File are going to need
to find their own mojo.
And now, the main event. Fearsome psychobilly
roadies emerge to set things up. One of them unfurls the world's longest
set list, from which we can deduce that Misfits songs are (a) short, (b)
fast, or (c) both.
There's no vocal mic centre stage, for this particular incarnation of the
band is a three-piece. At last, here they come. A guitarist who looks like
Alice Cooper's dad, plus a random and anonymous drummer - I don't know
who he is, but he's clearly not Marky Ramone, who's been drumming for the
Misfits of late. And, on bass and vocals, Jerry Only, the man who to all
intents and purposes is Mister Misfit these days. He cuts a dramatic figure
in his Mad Max-style cyberpunk gear and pointed quiff (a miracle of tonsorial
sculpture which seems to start somewhere round the back of his neck) and
the audience gives him a huge ovation, complete with chants of 'There's
only one Jerry Only!' The mosh is poised and ready; the band hit
the go button. Fire one, and the Misfits are away. What do they sound like?
They sound like this:
A pause, of no more than one second. Then:
A pause, of no more than one second. Then:
...well, you get the picture. The songs
are indeed short and fast, musical hand grenades lobbed unceremoniously
into the crowd. They detonate on contact and not one of 'em's a dud. BLAM!
BLAM! BLAM! It's immediately obvious that The Misfits do not deal in delicate
musical nuances of light and shade. They are not at home to Mr Subtlety
or Ms Finesse. They possess an inexhaustible supply of 100mph riffs, and
they don't let them drop from the start of the set to the finish. All the
songs contain rousing 'WOAH-OH!' choruses, and most of them seem to be
Hallowe'en anthems of one sort or another. It's a non-stop rampage of pummelling
punk, bursts of energy going off all over the place. Naturally, the mosh
But the Misfits' main advantage - their
roaring barrage of short, sharp, punkisms - is also their big drawback.
Because, frankly, all you need to hear is a mere handful of Misfits songs,
and you'll pretty much
have the band's entire modus operandi sussed. Once you've marvelled at
the pow-pow-power of their punk rock gunpowder, once you've thrown yourself
about in the mosh for a few numbers, once you've joined in on a 'WOAH-OH!'
chorus or two, you've by and large had the entire Misfits experience. There's
nowhere else to go, except away from the bombing zone and back to the bar.
That's why, round about 'American Psycho', I duck out of the down-the-front
crush, and retire to the rear to watch the rest of the set from a more
detached vantage point. There's no doubt that the Misfits are a well-drilled
and finely-honed punk machine. They deliver exactly what their fans want,
in brief, explosive, packages, and Jerry Only - a burly, genial ghoul -
has enough stage presence to make up for the fact that nobody seems to
have much idea who the other two musicians are. All of which is good, for
sure, but I can't help wishing that they'd ring the musical changes once
in a while. I'm sure the sky would not fall on their heads if they stretched
things a little beyond the Ramalamalama-BLAM! formula.
So, there we have the Misfits. Top deathrock
fashion brand, take-no-prisoners rampaging punk band. Enjoyable...within
limits. What's the final verdict? Put it this way: in the absence of the
Ramones, they'll do.
see all photos from this concert here
Misfits official site: http://www.misfits.com
A Misfits unofficial site (loads of info
on the band's umpteen line-up changes): http://www.misfitscentral.com
October File: http://www.octoberfile.com
The Bleeders: http://www.thebleeders.net
This gig was an in-house Underworld promotion: