There was a time where I had kind of given up going to shows. I still collected punk records, tracked down different albums and still listened to hardcore daily, but because of laziness, friends "growing up" and a list of other lame excuses, going to see a bunch of bands in a warehouse or garage began slipping in the priorities list. I'd like to say all that changed in some dramatic, Hollywoodesque epiphany, but it was really like that. Instead, I was dragged out to Sea Isle City one night with my wife and some of our friends for a night on the town and headed to one of the local establishments to hang out and take in the sights. Hanging out with friends equals a good time, but going out in Sea Isle in the summer, not so much. If you know anything about Sea Isle, you know that it a collection of bigger bars, some with stages for bands to play, or should I say stages for bands to cover a healthy mix of lame classics and current radio tracks to get the crowd dancing, stumbling and attempting to sing along. The bar we were at was no different on this night.
It stands out in my mind because I am standing there, sans beer, as the crowd is slugging back drinks and watching the band on stage butcher a Springsteen song and reacting to them as if it really was Bruce and his band, I couldn't help but think, "This is so fucking lame". The crowd was loving it, but to me, it was missing the aggression and more importantly, the honesty that the shows I was used to attending always had. No bullshit, just rage. Since that time, I realized there was a reason I liked going to garages, warehouses and other less than legit venues to see the bands that I do. It's not easy going to shows solo, driving two, sometimes three hours to see bands at a place where you're not even sure where it is, but in the end I like seeing a band put 100% into it knowing they may not be getting paid well, they aren't going to make a killing selling overpriced shirts or aren't getting laid by a bunch of groupies at the end of the night.
Which brings me to Danzig.
Some friends and I went to catch his show last night at the Troc in Philly, and to be honest, I knew it was going to be a little weird. I have the usual Danzig resume that most hardcore kids have: listened to the Misfits religiously, discovered Samhain and dig the early Danzig albums. Typical stuff. So when we found out he was playing, we seemed to agree that it would be a good idea to see him, particularly since Doyle was opening which meant that there was the possibility of Misfits tunes. Waiting in line to get into the show, the bouncers were explaining to everyone that there was absolutely no photography, turn off your cell phones, etc. That was probably the first time a confused look crossed my face that night and it wouldn't be the last. I mean, I get it. Danzig is no spring chicken and the jokes about his hairline, waistline and his height are heard about as often as a good crack about his run-in with Danny NSK. But, c'mon, you're going to boot people out of the show for taking a picture with their iphone? Whatever.
We headed up front just a couple minutes before Doyle's band, Gorgeous Frankenstein hit the stage. Next thing we knew, the lights went down, green smoke filled the stage and GF hit the stage. It was pretty clear that they were trying to be as close to the Misfits in aesthetics as possible, right down to the Frankenstein logo, which was eerily (no pun intended) close to the good ol' Crismon Ghost. The lead singer seemed to mimic early Danzig, including hair physique, stage comments, etc. Musically, GF was all over the place: some heavy riffs, mixed with some Misfits-styled feedback, some double bass pedal and even a little NY hardcore. The songs went on forever and their set was super short. No, seriously, they played like four songs. I can honestly say that my favorite part of their set was the entrance and a guy in the crowd who looked like a taller version of Choke from Slapshot, who was pretty much hate moshing the entire unsuspecting crowd.
There was a looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong wait time between sets. The Troc was hot as hell and the crowd definitely got restless. One guy seemed convinced that if he shouted comments to the empty stage loud enough, Danzig would hear him. He looked so satisfied when the lights went down after one of his comments. With the lights low, Danzig hit the stage and it was pretty much what you'd expect in a lot of ways, song-wise. Opened with "Skincarver", all the favorites from I-III and a couple of new tracks. The crowd responded with, at first abandon slamming wildy, and later cautiously, exhaustedly going through the motions more than anything else. Even Danzig commented that the last time he was at the Troc the place was destroyed and later remarked that he can't believe that he tired the crowd out. The setlist was outstanding and everything sounded tight, including Danzig's voice. The music was great, but again, the weirdness was creeping in. For starters, the guitarist behavior was something out of a Flavor Flav handbook, interacting with the crowd and trying to get them stirred up for his boss. It really didn't seem necessary and came off really-kind of cockrockish in my book. After Danzig's hair was fully wet, he would sneak off, stage left in between songs to do god knows what. Again, don't really care what it was, but just weird. He came out like a house on fire, but by the end was making facial expressions that were down right cartoonish and making the super slayer horns with his hands. Weeeeeird. Of course, you can guess what they closed with, and then did the hilarious, leave the stage, comeback thirty seconds later for the encore and did two more songs, "Dirty Black Summer" and "Am I Demon". Both were awesome. The crowd poured out exhausted, sweaty and tired.
Was it a good show? Sure. It just seemed that everything straddled the line between sincere and absurd and a lot of the aesthetics were more campy than evil. I could never tell whether this was intentional or I was just being a jaded asshole. Two bands for a thirty dollar ticket and merch that was ridiculously priced on one hand, but a great hour of music on the other leaves me kind of torn as to how to feel. Danzig's punk roots make the theatrics of a big-time arena rock show seem kind of silly to me, but at the same time, maybe that's what he wants, but it was all very confusing to me. Who knows. But I will take the sincerity of a show over a big time concert anyday.