Madison Square Garden has hosted countless concerts over the past decades, and this past weekend it featured a sold out punk rock show.
The Misfits held what is supposed to be the last of the shows billed as the “Original Misfits” even though only two original members are playing. The difference being original lead singer Glenn Danzig has returned to sing these old songs.
Few musical figures are as universally admired and detested by their own fans as Glenn Danzig. So much of what’s been publicized about him over the last few decades has painted him as an egotistical jackass. Shoving the singer of an opening band and deservedly getting knocked out for his trouble; going after photographers at shows, screwing over fans—take your pick of “Danzig is an Asshole” moments.
But no matter how much of a jerk Danzig may be, there is no denying the power and durability of Misfits songs. Only the Ramones harnessed more influence with three-chords. And while the Ramones helped launch the punk genre, the Misfits and Glenn Danzig’s subsequent bands have held tremendous sway over both punk and heavy metal. I had not seen the Misfits until this past weekend and I’ve played in Misfits cover bands for the past 15 years because the songs are great, easy to learn and very fun to play.
The “Original” Misfits held several shows throughout the U.S., including a sold-out show in Newark, New Jersey last year that required attendees to lock up their mobile phones during the show (plenty of photos and videos of the show made their way online).
Tickets to the Madison Square Garden show cost upwards of $250 in some instances. I managed to get a ticket the day of the show in an upper tier seating level for under $100 (listed as $61 on StubHub and came to $85 after fees). The bill also featured two very prominent punk rock bands: The Damned, one of the first-generation punk rock bands from the U.K., and Rancid, a very popular ska-punk band from California.
By the time we got into the Garden, The Damned were already playing. We went our separate ways as our tickets dictated and readied ourselves for an evening of punk rock.
The Damned were excellent and played all the songs people wanted to hear. Their set was tight and they were a lot of fun. They have been around, absent a few years hiatus, since the mid-1970s. “Not bad for a bunch of old cunts,” said lead singer Dave Vanian. “And we’re pretty good too!”
Rancid played next and ripped through a tight set of fan favorites. Tim Armstrong looks like the kind of Bowery drunk that never learned how to groom his beard, and lumbered around like he was about to fall flat on his face, but then he would play some sweet lead riffs and hit every note. Lars Frederiksen gave a nice shout out to some of his favorite New York hardcore bands, and watching Rancid’s bass player Matt Freeman play is almost worth the price of admission alone.
Punk rock wasn’t created in large venues. It was born from seedy clubs in New York and London at a time when the rock and roll featured in stadiums had become a bloated parody of itself. The kind of loud, in-your-face sound that punk perfected is difficult to reproduce in a venue as large as Madison Square Garden. The Misfits didn’t have the big sound I expected. The songs were tight enough (and much tighter than any old footage you find of them in the 1980s when they were generally sloppy live).
If I had not gone to see the Misfits, I would have regretted not making the effort. They played well enough that I left not feeling ripped off. We may not get a chance to see this lineup again, and the songs are as excellent now as they were when I first heard them.
Remember that almost every musician you see gloating onstage in a large venue has at some point hauled their own equipment into a shitty club to play for five people. Every aging rock star jackass in leather pants riding in a limousine at some point sat on the floor of a van for hours only to be stiffed by a shitty promoter in a city they didn’t know.
At some point the Misfits were nobodies from New Jersey playing loud and sloppy shows to few fans. No matter what lawsuit-driven stupidity brought us these Misfits shows, none of this would matter if the songs they created were not amazing.
All the skulls and spooky theatrics can’t carry you if your songs aren’t good, and Misfits songs are excellent and have stood the test of time. While the “Original” Misfits are an imperfect echo of a past time, Misfits songs are a loud jolt of energy and fun for a world that needs it.
Halloween season means a lot of things. It means that the coffee shops of Gotham are rancid with the odors of pumpkin spice. It means full-grown adults are planning to spend time and energy on Halloween costumes. It also means that horror punk fans can look forward to Misfits cover bands and tribute bands coming out of the woodwork to play shows.
For those not familiar, The Misfits pioneered the genre of horror punk in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Their songs are simple and fun and punk fans have enjoyed singing along to their “Whoa”- centric lyrics for many years. As such, punk musicians started forming Misfits cover bands and tribute bands so local fans can get their Misfits fix for Halloween.
Green Hell is the band that can bring a lot of fun and get a crowd to be drunker and louder than is necessary or normal Misfits songs led themselves to crowd participation. The annual Green Hell reunion became a favorite part of the fall season. The five of us would start messaging one another to try to schedule rehearsals and shows. We’ make time for fewer rehearsals than we thing we needed, spend a good portion of that rehearsal or rehearsals drinking and goofing around, and then play a few very fun shows anyway. Since we’ve been playing the songs for so long now, we do a pretty decent job despite ourselves, and are usually not as sloppy as the real Misfits.
Through over-commitment, habitual aggression, and a pure not-giving-a shit punk ethos, Green Hell became the vessel of pure, unadulterated fun that every band should aspire to. It was the highlight of the Halloween season for many of us.
Green Hell didn’t play last year. Our singer and drummer each moved out of town and too much other stuff has been going on. Two of us have kids now. It was the first year Green Hell didn’t play since the band’s inception in 2004. It made Halloween less fun.
But this year the two guys that moved out of town, singer Marc Sucks and drummer Joey Bones, made plans to get themselves to New York and wanted to play Green Hell shows again. Green Hell offers those of us less active in music now a chance to enjoy playing out again. And Green Hell is fun because it exists with no ambition other than to have a fun time with other people who like the same music. It’s not a complete reunion, unfortunately. Circumstances beyond my control have led one member to sit out this year for the sake of keeping the peace, but I am determined to have a full roster next time around. We wouldn’t be keeping with the spirit of the Misfits if some of us were pissed at each other about something.
We have two shows this weekend: this Friday at the Shillelagh Tavern in Astoria, Queens and Saturday night at Hank’s Saloon in Brooklyn. It’s been nearly two years since we’ve played these songs and we haven’t had a rehearsal yet. We have more shows than rehearsals scheduled and we wouldn’t be Green Hell if we didn’t.
Earlier this year, members of the Misfits reunited with original lead singer Glenn Danzig for two shows at Riot Fest concerts in Denver and Chicago for a reported $2 million. Green Hell will be happy to get a few drink tickets each. Our crowds will be a fraction of the size and we’ll be spending more money getting to the shows than we could ever hope to make, but I guarantee we will have as much fun playing on stage as you can have.