The Misfits played Toronto’s Opera House June 17.
“Have fun at Black Flag.”
This is what one of two guys said tongue-in-cheek, getting off the GO bus just before the Brampton station, where I make the transfer to get to Union. That’s after I ask if he and the friend sitting next to him are going to The Misfits. A simple “no” would have sufficed, but he was taking the piss.
These are people I went to high school with – friends of friends.
The guy who was sitting next to tongue-in-cheek guy tilted his head back and laughed. They were on the same wavelength, and it was the last jab they could get in before they were off and on to other things.
I have no illusions about today’s Misfits – now one part original member Jerry Only on bass and lead vocals, and two parts Black Flag with Dez Cadena on guitar and Roberto “Robo” Valverde on drums – they’re far from their original lineup. That said, I know well that the “Misfits are Black Flag” people aren’t right either.
I felt like stopping them in their tracks and mentioning how Robo played with the Misfits from 1982-1983 (a whole year in which original singer Glenn Danzig was still a member), or how it’s not even like he was an original Black Flag member – he was their third drummer. But it came down to a matter of time management since they’d already pressed the button to get off the bus and I just let them walk up the aisle, in my head thinking of things George Orwell said.
With the time the bus reached Brampton GO station, there was only a five-minute wait to make the transfer to get to Union. The rest of the ride meant passing through suburbs and past a McDonald’s, outside of which I saw a lone gull pecking at some trash. I remember thinking such mediocrity would be the best appetizer for preparing for an entrée of Misfits; it takes twice as long to get to the city from Georgetown to Toronto, but I recommend bus travel.
When I got off at Union, I had to get in contact with my editor to pick up my press pass for NXNE. The festival had already gotten underway, and the pass would get me into any of fifty venues for free, from then until Sunday (or far into Monday morning). We met up just before Queen and Spadina, talked briefly, and went our separate ways. By then it was about quarter to 9 p.m., and I was supposed to be at The Opera House for nine to interview The Misfits. I hailed the first empty cab I saw, and it was a long ride that felt as though it was being ever-perpetuated by streetcars breaking for passengers and hateful stoplights.
When I got to the venue it was nine o’clock on the nose. I gave them my name and affiliations, telling them I was supposed to interview the band, and they checked the guest list and sent me in.
The first opener was already on, playing poor covers of songs like the Dead Kennedys’s “Moon Over Marin,” and as if because of their novice, tall cans of Canadian seemed to float around the Opera House as though pulling their coddlers without direction, bringing individuals to stand awkwardly in front of people, only to snap back into reality and be towed by their brews to some unplanned destination, over and over again. In majority, it was a crowd of lone punks. I could tell that these people didn’t travel in packs—they were the few that left their respected groups for the evening to get a taste of iconography.
I went straight to the merch table, and made an inquiry as to where to go, and the merch-guy spoke – or yelled – of a van I was supposed to find out on the street. I headed back to the doors and asked about this, and the same person who I had told what I was there for said there was no reentry. I can understand this concept, but when media are involved, I am slightly baffled. I had told my editor I would do the interview and write this review, and I wasn’t about to take a chance that might deny me both of these options. I was also irked that they didn’t tell me this before I went in the doors, after I had told them why I was there. Broken and not in the position to gamble, I went back in the club and watched the rest of the bad covers the openers poured out.
When Bastard Child Death Cult came on, it averted the crowd’s attention from the tall cans, and within the first song they played, the horseshoe of boredom around the stage collapsed into a thrash pit of admirable size for an opener. They did their thing, got the crowd anxious and angsty, threw a shirt, and left the stage.
Thirsty punks ambled up to the bar to get more white bullets, and I was able to make my way up to the barrier in front of the stage to pick a nice patch of steel to get comfy with.
After a few bumper tracks, the man that made this iteration of the Misfits worth seeing himself poked out from stage left: arm straps, spiked leather vest, devilock, eye shadow and all. The crowd met this taunt with cheers, and the mass surrounding me took up a cheer that was like a punk rendition of the Jerry Springer chorus, with fans shouting “Jerry! Jerry!” ad nauseam, complete with intermittent hollers and screams. I could see Only cackle for a brief moment, and as if absorbing the energy, with knees bent he shook his fists while his arms were bent in some B movie or video game power up moment, wrists pointed to the ceiling and biceps bulging. He made himself known and hid away.
When the bumper music ended, the keys for the theme from Halloween dominated the club and there was a burst of cheering from all around. Stage monkeys made their way on stage and got to work at dissembling a cloaked scaffold. I wondered what kind of set up would be revealed when they were done, and in less than thirty seconds, I found out.
Like an anti-nativity, it was a scene strewn with jack-o-lanterns, gargoyles, numerous manifestations of the Misfits fiend skull, and mic stands complete with macabre vines of apparently rotting flesh snaking their way up to moldy skulls that were like the hives of doomed colonies which by some freak coincidence had managed to prevail throughout the test of time. Behind the drum kit hung the ominous image of a skull that was half the original fiend skull, half something else – something alive, or undead.
When Only came on stage, there was the shrunken head of a cyclops with a horn growing out of its forehead fitted to where the tuning pegs should be on his bass neck. I could only intuit that some demon was the maestro that had prepared his sound for the night.
When the Halloween theme ended, the Misfits detonated their own ode to October 31st: “Halloween” exploded, and so did the pit.
It was a presence as well executed as the set of a film made by George Romero. I was in Night of the Living Dead. I was in Creepshow.
Pressed against the barrier by the weight of ’Fits fans young and ancient, I thought how if any band could channel zest back into the unsettled perished and raise the undead, it could be the Misfits. In a moment of euphoria-induced fantasy I toyed with the idea of a zombie wake and the need for an escape plan. I thought of my slow cab ride to the Opera House and how running down Queen St. probably would have been faster; how far away Pearson International is. I wonder if I could make it to the docks and catch a ferry to Toronto Island and track down a pilot with the unlikely willingness to accept a bizarre horror story about a band that raised the dead – the movies have shown that zombies can swim, but I have my doubts about their flight capabilities.
I thought how the City of Toronto was prepping for the commencing of the G20 on Sunday, and how a Mars Attack or a zombie invasion a few days prior would throw off any security force in Toronto, or any protestor for that matter. But in the presence of this band, I felt at ease. I just sang along.
(Originally published by Truth Explosion Magazine on June 18, 2010)