Without a doubt, the Misfits — the first incarnation, at least — crafted some of the most essential punk music ever made, earning a place in the canon alongside most influential American groups, such as the Ramones and Suicide. Founding members Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only wedded catchy, buzzsaw tunes to images of the ugly debris of American culture: a bloated, dead Marilyn Monroe, JFK’s bullet-shattered skull, Patty Hearst, Hollywood Babylon and the flickering menace of B-movie horror villains.
Though largely steeped in Halloween camp, there was a core of undeniable malevolence to the band’s music. After the Misfits broke up in 1983, Danzig continued to mine the evil side with his bands Samhain and Danzig, while Only went on to form the barbarian sci-fi-themed Christian group Kryst the Conqueror. Yes, really.
The Misfits’ legacy seemed to be cemented until 1995, when, after the resolution of years of legal wrangling between members, the group was resurrected, with Only the only original Misfit. The camp horror tropes were certainly still there, but in Danzig’s absence, the evil had become cartoonish.
Not that anyone at the Village cared about that last night.
After several post-Danzig albums, Only has perfected his approach to serving the group’s audience. The current lineup could be considered an old-school punk supergroup. He reconnected with Robo, née Roberto Valverde, who played drums with the Misfits on 1983’s “Earth A.D.” and with punk legends Black Flag. Also on board with the current incarnation is Dez Cadena, former vocalist and guitar player for Black Flag.
Only walked onto the stage, all black leather and spikes, sporting a Devilock — the Misfits’ signature coiffure. He high-fived some folks in the super enthused crowd for a few moments, then the band ripped into breakneck takes on a dozen or so classic tunes. “Horror Business,” “Astro Zombies,” “Skulls,” “I Turned into a Martian,” “20 Eyes” and others were all played at double-time. The tempo slowed down a bit for some of the more recent numbers, which included two new songs dedicated to zombie auteur George A. Romero. They also worked a few Black Flag songs into the set, including “Thirsty and Miserable,” “Jealous Again” and “Rise Above.”
The crowd moshed and cheered and sang along. After an encore, Only stuck around to sign autographs and chat with the fans, a good number of whom were probably just toddlers when the Misfits first got back together 12 years ago. For a band that’s more than 30 years old to have a crowd that young in 2009 is a testament to the appeal and timelessness of its shtick.