Considering the proliferation of Misfits t-shirts that exist in outfits no matter where one is, it was a surprise to find tickets still available for sale at the door of the HiFi Bar only hours before the band were due on stage.
The HiFi Bar, Melbourne, December 3, 2011
Apparently the night’s support bands had been chosen via an online poll, and set times listed Bellusira, Hatchet Dawn and a group called Electrik Dynamite, playing in that order. I hadn’t heard of Electrik Dynamite, but the set times seemed a little confused, given the strong following Hatchet Dawn have in Melbourne, and that they seem a perfect match for the headliner. That said, Electrik Dynamite quickly won my affection immediately by unashamedly wearing their own merchandise and by having a dedicated keyboard axe player. They played a catchy 80s-style hard rock that would fit perfectly on the soundtrack to a horror movie house party, and jumped around the stage with an enviable energy.
Electrik Dynamite’s set seemed like it was over before it had really had a chance to get started, and as soon as they left the stage the dance floor started filling with a varied crowd vying for prime viewing position. It was a longer than usual stretch waiting for the stage to be set for the Misfits, with much talk of the double-bass drum set up. It was the first time I have been in an audience who have felt compelled to cheer for a roadie simply because he picked up an instrument. It was not undeserved, though, with the roadie playing a few chords on Jerry Only’s customised bass guitar, complete with a cyclops skull on the headstock, and he received another round of applause as he finished the test and lowered the guitar respectfully to its podium.
The audience reaction wasn’t matched until the Misfits themselves emerged on stage, coated in their trademark make-up, Jerry clad in a spiked vest, Dez Cadena wearing a full length leather jacket that I decided I wanted when I saw the skeleton motif printed on the back. They launched into a string of unfamiliar songs from their current album, which sounded great – and allayed the fear I always have seeing old bands that they might suck – but it wasn’t until they dove into classics like Bullet and Static Age that the audience really went wild.
And it really was the dream crowd. A sad truth is that an audience can make or break an otherwise admirable live show. It only takes a little bit of consistent shoving or macho posturing to cast a shadow over a perfect performance. Luckily, everyone had come out on this night to show the performance the respect it deserved, and ensured everyone felt truly a part of the experience. The crowd surged and pulsed at just the right moments, never more evident than when Jerry teased into the microphone ‘I want your skulls…,’ to be answered in unison: ‘I need your skulls!’
Other highlights included American Psycho and more crowd participation with Dig Up Her Bones, and after a brief break, the band returned to the stage for an encore that slowed down only enough to slide in a delicious rendition of Saturday Night. It was a set and an encore sadly devoid of any of the covers from the Project 1950 album, but for a band with over thirty years of history, it was a good selection of songs (although I doubt anyone would have complained if I Turned Into A Martian had been slipped in somewhere.)
If anyone was waiting for a second encore, Jerry Only made clear that it was not forthcoming in the most exciting way short of smashing his guitar into pieces against the stage. In a single, dynamic gesture, he ripped the strings from his guitar as the other members of the band tossed drum sticks and guitar picks into the audience on their way backstage. As the ominous strains of horror music soundtracks rose over the PA, Jerry jumped off the stage, bypassing the screaming young vixens spilling tattooed cleavage over the barrier in front of the stage and stalked directly to the woman standing in front of me.
An older woman, perhaps in her mid-fifties, she had seemed a little out of place throughout the show – not due to her age, because she was far from alone in that bracket – but because she was wearing a sensible red blouse and conservative slacks, a plain handbag draped over one shoulder that was sure to contain anything she might need for an emergency. Nowhere to be found were the extremes of make-up, spiked hair, and costumes that were de rigueur that evening. Nevertheless, she’d been jumping and pounding her fists in the air throughout the night. Jerry stopped in front of her, and flashed a rare smile, then gave the woman a hug and a kiss, to much deserved applause from even the girls who had been begging for cleavage signatures.
As the scary music continued, so did Jerry, prowling around the whole venue, posing for photos and shaking hands for as long as it took. Meanwhile, his antics encouraged members of other bands to do the same, and, as I browsed the merchandise stand – surprisingly devoid of the iconic skull-motif t-shirts – an elaborate member of Hatchet Dawn handed me an autographed poster. I was still reeling from an unexpectedly passionate kiss from Jerry Only and the gig itself, so may have thanked him more ferociously than was called for.