Riot Fest: Danzig Legacy

by Anthony Kuzminski

(Congress Theater – Chicago, IL - October 7, 2011) Glen Danzig is one of the most significant musicians of the last thirty years in the punk and hard rock realm of music. While he has fronted his own band named after himself for nearly a quarter of a century, it's a little gruff horror punk band that has often elevated his legacy; the Misfits. Despite the unyielding influence on several genres of rock, Glen Danzig doesn't often acknowledge the band or their legacy instead forging ahead with his own music, rarely looking back on the past. However, at 2011 draws to a close, Danzig will revisit the world of the Misfits four times as part of the Danzig Legacy. Encompassing Danzig's whole career, the sets will include solo material, Samhain and climaxing with a Misfits set. The Danzig Legacy performance was the most anticipated one of the entire Riot Fest. It was Danzig's first career spanning set and despite scheduling similar performances in other cities, Chicago was first out of the gate.

Walking out to the stage with his arms in the air, Danzig and his three piece backing band soon commended the show with a flurry of fists and fury as the band performed without a breath being taken. The first several songs sped by without even blinking. Johnny Kelly's bare knuckle drumming was urgent while Steve Zing's bass locked in with Kelly in a perfect marriage of concentrated rhythm. Guitarist Tommy Victor gave his all as he harnessed the band's force being the sole guitar player. Certain songs worked better than others with the muddy acoustic of the Congress affecting the performance and yet the dual force of Devils's Plaything and Dirty Black Summer were stinging with the latter finding the band beginning the song in a whispered performance before a primal scream took over. Glen Danzig still works the stage like a pro, singing from his chest like a man haunted. It's Coming Down brought the Danzig portion of the show to a close after a brisk forty-minutes.

The Samhain set was sweltering yet far too short at a mere twenty-five minutes. Horror Biz was remarkable with the crowd singing along to every last word of the death rock classic. After the songs conclusion, an odd series of events occurred as Danzig demanded a knife onstage; a wish no roadies wanted to fulfill. They looked upon one another with eye brows raised and the crowd looked just as baffled. Horrow Biz" houses a lyric I'll stick a knife right in you and I'm not entirely sure if Danzig was playing it up for the crowd or if he witnessed something that set him off. If anything, he threw himself even further into the next few songs. Unholy Passion and ‘Let the Day Begin were lethal in their delivery. Despite potential reservations of a show dipped in nostalgia, he didn't disappoint during the Samhain segment.

Despite the rather great Samhain set, nothing could have prepared the crowd for when the backdrop became the Misfits Crimson Ghost logo. The volume in the theater heightened, the temperature rose and a swirling and sweaty mosh pit commenced. The Misfits third guitarist, Doyle, joined the band where they proceeded to tear through eight songs in less than twenty minutes. The Misfits made a career of songs lasting less than two-minutes and yet they filled each one with the same power of a ten-minute thrash classic. Opening with Death Comes Ripping pushed the crowd into overdrive. Age did not matter for these twenty minutes as the range of fans stretched from teens to those in their fifties. All flung their fists to the air, spun in circles and reveled in a performance that appeared to come out of a dream it was so surreal.

Vampira and Bullet hark back to the early Ramones but taken to a much more severe and turbocharged level. I Turned Into A Martian and Night of the Living Dead were bolstered by the back-to-back strength and Doyle's raging guitar. If I can throw one criticism out of the set it's that Doyle should have been the sole guitarist on the stage. Whereas some of the Danzig material early in the show would have benefitted from a second guitarist who would have beefed up the band's sound, the Misfits records were ranging and raw and would have improved from a voluble performance. The show kicked up another notch with Halloween, Astro Zombies and the set closing Last Caress. Finding middle ground between punk and metal, the Misfits went on to influence a wide ranging group of artists and it's startling to realize that many in the room that evening most likely were exposed to the Misfits through Metallica's The $5.98 E.P.: Garage Days Re-Revisited . The song was the highlight of possibly the entire Riot Fest as Danzig found his inner Misfit voice, the crowd raged and the band and their fans were completely in sync with one another. I would suggest going to one of the Danzig Legacy performances just to witness the radiant rage on display for Last Caress.

As Danzig, Doyle and the rest of the band left the stage the crowd roared in appreciation. The band should have returned and delivered an extended encore of Misfits material. However, something peculiar happened. The Crimson Ghost background came down and the Danzig logo reappeared. When Danzig came back to the stage, he performed a trio of Danzig songs, Bringer of Death, Not of This World and the tear-the-walls-down Mother. One can't disparage Danzig for lack of drive, but to fill these Legacy shows with so much Danzig material is a bit heartbreaking. The crowd grew restless during the encore and many had exited the building before Mother riveted the crowd just as the Misfits set had. It would have been more powerful as the sole encore or as a precursor to further Misfits songs. It appeared the evening was over and many rushed for the exits and it was a shock of sorts to see the Misfits backdrop return along with Doyle for a fierce Skulls. I wish Danzig had shortened his solo set expanded the Misfits one and had not lost momentum in the encore, but regardless, it was a evening no one will forget any time soon. Riot Fest delivered by securing this one-of-a-kind performance for Chicago and no matter what they do in 2012, this will be a tough act to follow. Even to those who felt the Misfits set deserved more, for twenty-two minutes history was made and I am glad I was there to witness it.

Anthony Kuzminski is a Chicago based writer and Special Features Editor for the antiMusic Network. His daily writings can be read at The Screen Door. He can be contacted at thescreendoor AT gmail DOT com and can be followed on Twitter

Riot Fest: Danzig Legacy

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