October 29th, 1983
Greystone Hall, Detroit, Michigan
After The Misfits’ fill-in drummer became too drunk to play, and another drummer took over, the chaos became the final straw in a long series of disagreements and turmoil for the band. Glenn Danzig announced to the Halloween crowd that this would be their final show.
The next 32 years and 11 months would be filled with punk lore, legend, and rumor. The legacy of The Misfits would prove to be the birth of an entire sub-genre of music, and countless bands and styles that attribute everything they are to Jerry Only and Glenn Danzig. The Misfits also became a marketing, money-making machine – which, of course, aggravated everyone in the punk rock world. T-shirts, posters, key-chains, and re-release after re-release of a new arrangement of the same old songs distilled their legendary status as a true basement punk band. But, whether or not you were a disgusted member of the punk rock underworld, you were guaranteed to own every version of every collection that Plan 9 released.
It was announced around the spring of 2016 that, for the first time, after countless lawsuits, public arguments, and trash-talk interviews, the original two Misfits, Only and Danzig, would perform at Riot Fest for a show in Denver and one in Chicago. The world at large was immediately aflutter with unanswerable questions: Would they make it to September? Would they disappoint? Can they even still play that well? Was it simply going to end with a nice bit of nostalgia, but no real substance?
After the Denver show, the answer was undeniable: they were ready. They left no one wanting.
September 18th, 2016
Riot Fest, Douglas Park, Chicago, Illinois
Whatever small problems that were present in Denver were clearly ironed out completely for the show in Chicago. I was simultaneously filled with cautious optimism and skeptical dread. I figured that, at best, it was going to be album-quality nostalgia. At worst, it was going to be a complete disaster. Either they were going to be clearly past their prime, but having a good time, or they weren’t going to make it to the show in Chicago; the bad blood would come to the surface and they would cancel. Which, in all honesty, wouldn’t be that disappointing, because we’d then be a part of punk lore, too – we would’ve been present for that show that The Misfits didn’t make it to.
Well, I can state, unequivocally, that I was wrong on every possible front. Not only did they make it to the show, they got along. Not only did they get along, they played well. They were incredible. They blew us all away. They played with a ferocity that no one could’ve seen coming. They were having fun. They were all smiles. They fed off of each other and off of us. Every song had the energy of 33 years of anticipation.
I’ve only been genuinely afraid in three pits in my life: Motorhead, Slayer, and now The Misfits. I could feel the adrenaline in the thin, hot air. There was no getting out. There was no way to go but forward. And, that’s where we went, whether we wanted to or not. The force of 40,000 people behind us pushing forward to be closer to punk-rock history. Circle pits opening up all around us. Tribal rage. But by the time they played the third song, “I Turned Into A Martian,” the crowd mellowed out to a level of manageable chaos. After a huge percentage of people left the pit to either freak out in peace, or just to get some fresh air, there was almost enough room to move. The energy dissipated enough to smile, scream, and thrash. The songs kept coming. One punch after the next. “20 Eyes,” “Teenagers From Mars,” “Mommy,” “Hybrid Moments”…every one of them bringing mildly embarrassing emotions to the surface for me.
I woke up this morning in a fog. I’m a grown man, with grown man responsibilities. But, for one night, I was 13 again. I was that troubled kid with my Evillive poster on my door. I was alive again. Maybe that seems like an overstatement; for me, The Misfits were everything. They made me who I am. They molded my taste in music, for better or worse, from my mini love affairs with Death Metal, Black Metal and Horror Rock, to my decades-long lustful obsession with punk rock. All stemmed from Glenn Danzig, Jerry Only and Doyle – all three of whom I got to see on stage at the same time. And, although there were 40,000 plus people packed into Douglas Park, I felt like I was the only kid there.
By Ryan Gorman