Editor’s Note: Today we have a guest contributor coming at us from Frontier Psychiatrist, a site devoted to “urban life, music, food, drink, and culture.” Peter Lillis is on their staff, covering music. Peter and I go back to days debating and talking indie and punk music in Marquette’s radio station, almost always interrupted by one of us remembering we had class minutes later somewhere else on campus. I’m more than thrilled to have his talented insight stop by today, especially after Peter’s recent move back to the Midwest. Check out FrontPsych for more of his work!
At 56, Glenn Danzig is old enough to be a father to many of us. Despite never being an actual father (as far as we know), Danzig culturally fathered entire generations into darkness and punk. Danzig, most notably with Misfits, opened the pop-culture world to themes of horror, gore and sex in ways they have never seen before. Without Danzig’s pop-pioneering through the most decayed sections of his conscience, Halloween soundtracks would be a lot less fun, AMC wouldn’t be hyping The Walking Dead’s return and OFWGKTA members would probably be in jail, not revered. So, yes, Danzig is a highly revered member of the punk community, no doubt. But, remember, he’s 56.
If there is any real takeaway from last weekend’s sold-out Riot Fest event at Chicago’s decrepit Congress Theatre, is that things have certainly changed. Not just for Howlin’ Glenn, but for Misfits fans, the overall punk community and myself. Danzig’s three set (Danzig, Samhain, Misfits), 100-minute performance was spirited but empty, lively and undead.
In a perfect world, this would have been a Misfits only show, rather than “Danzig Legacy.” Also, it wouldn’t have been at the Congress, but I digress. My girlfriend and I took seats in the upper ring, an action my teenage self would have scoffed at. As the clocked ticked to more than 20 minutes passed planned start time, Glenn and the Danzig band trudged to their instruments and began to belt out rushed, metal-ish cacophony. Not to say it wasn’t exciting, Danzig did a great job riling up the crowd, but Samhain and Danzig are much less inspired than anything he made with the Misfits. Highlights from this hour-plus segment are few and far between, but a reworked version of “Horror Business” and “Her Black Wings” hit on the right level.
The Misfits set, featuring original guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein, contributed heavily to drawing the sold-out crowd, based on the screams and howls emitted when the lights dropped a third time. A scorching set of eight classics, including “Bullet,” Halloween” and “Last Caress” was at times intelligible, yet still exploding with energy. Unfortunately, this set burned much quicker than the previous two, and the crowd exited as quickly as they were aroused. Unfortunately, an uninformed light and soundman shined the house fixtures and blared stock music, the universal sign for the end of the show. Only, the show wasn’t over; thousands of us missed out on the encore of “Skulls,” an ultimate classic.
Despite Friday’s lackluster performance, Glenn deserves much credit for kicking out the jams harder than any AARP cardholder ever should. His commitment to being a badass was very consistent throughout, with sporadic, dated statements about being anti-political correctness and his glaring dislike for Tom Petty (who is only 4 years Danzig’s senior, mind you). His age and lack of currency aside, Danzig knows exactly who he is, what he’s good at and why people pay over $40 to see him. So, while he’s not the Evil Elvis of my nightmares, it is still inspiring to see a grown man stay true to his younger self.
This dedication to one’s past self is something we all can learn from. Naturally, tastes and interests shift as we age, but it’s the way we embrace our past that defines our future. I never really understood how people could step away from something that previously defined them, be it punk rock or necrophilia. Sure, it’s important to get better with age, but denouncement of former interests seems counterproductive and disingenuous. While none of us could (or should) ever be as influential or enigmatic as Glenn Danzig, his reluctance to give up on himself is something we can all take to heart. Not to mention, he’s a badass.