There are plenty of good reasons not to see the Misfits in 2005: they’re old, they have like one original member, their fans are a scary mob of hessian goth hardcore kids who beat the shit out of each other. But still: the Misfits are the ultimate Halloween band, the band who managed to become culturally important without ever advancing their iconography beyond skulls and spiders and ghosts and werewolves and Vincent Price, the band that titled a song “Halloween” and wasn’t even joking about it. To see the Misfits on Halloween would be like seeing the Pogues on St. Patrick’s Day.
I only ever loved maybe two Misfits songs (“London Dungeon” and “Last Caress”), but I still rocked their T-shirt in high school, as did all of my friends. The band I was in (I was the dancing guy) covered “Last Caress,” and just about every band I knew covered at least one of their songs. The appeal was simple: the songs were easy to play, and everyone knew them, so they were great for big singalongs. And the band’s horror-movie-kitsch aesthetic didn’t come with (hardly) any messy political or psychological subtext; you could rock their gear without retroactively making any statements on, like, the Reagan presidency or whether you liked to drink. The band crossed subcultural lines: punk kids and skinhead kids could bond over the band with skater kids or metal kids or goth kids. For the kids who snuck cigarettes in the parking lot at lunchtime, the Misfits remained the consensus band more than ten years after they ceased to exist.
So it was kind of a big deal when the band reunited in 1996. The reunion was, of course, woefully incomplete without Glen Danzig participating, but the new Misfits still made the cover of Maximumrocknroll. My friend Kris, a kid who put his hair in a devil-lock just to go to the fucking mall, got kicked out of the band’s reunion show at the 9:30 Club for underage drinking, but he stayed outside the club for the entire show, listening to the set from outside.
In time, the Misfits reunion turned out to be irredeemably lame. The band churned out new material that no one wanted to hear, wrestled in WCW for a minute, appeared in the Insane Clown Posse straight-to-video movie Big Money Hustlas. Dez Cadena and Marky Ramone joined the band, turning it into a sort of big-money nostalgia-punk revue. Most of the news on the band’s website seems to be about their Japanese action figures and shit like that. And still this entity calling itself the Misfits soldiers on, switching up members at a furious rate and touring relentlessly. At this point, the Misfits reunion has lasted nearly twice as long as the band’s original incarnation. Its fanbase has stopped crossing subcultural lines and essentially become a subculture itself, more bound up in horror-movie-convention geekdom than actual music (George Romero directed one of the band’s videos).
I didn’t get into the Misfits Halloween show at BB King’s. My name got left off a guest list somehow, and the show sold out, so I couldn’t buy a ticket. These things happen, and I’m not especially mad about it; these Misfits are basically a Misfits cover band, and I’ve seen enough bands cover Misfits songs. And the real show was outside the venue, anyway, as overwhelmed bouncers did their best to deal with the mobs of Asian punk kids with staggering numbers of lower-lip piercings and enormous stoner kids with pot-leaf shirts and frat-guys in Mets hats. The costumes aren’t as varied as you’d expect: a lot of girls wear devil-horns with blinking lights inside, and I see at least two black-dude/white-girl couples dressed as Morpheus and Trinity from The Matrix, but most people have simply painted the Misfits skull on their faces. Even more people are That Guy, wearing Misfits shirts to the Misfits show. There’s a large number of truly unhealthy-looking girls present. “I can smell the crystal meth in the air,” says my friend. People entering are asked to empty their pocket and are patted down heavily. One huge Latino bouncer in a foam orange cowboy hat moves people around, seemingly at random. “Fuck you, security!” bellows a hulking hessian guy being led out of the club. “Fucking drag me out! How about the three motherfuckers who jumped me? Kicked me in the head! Kick them out! I get jumped and I don’t even get to see the Misfits! FUCK YOU TO HELL, SECURITY!”
I wait around for a while while the bouncers decide whether to let me into the show. Eventually: “Village Voice guy! You’re not on any lists! You’re not getting in.” “That’s OK; I have plenty to write about already.” “Good! Because I’m not letting you in!” Damn.