Note: Only Kyng allowed me to take photographs (though I shot two Hammerlord songs before I was told not to, and I did sneak a few shots of Danzig and Doyle).
This show was all hassles from the start, but when the head of security told me that it didn't matter if I had a photo pass or not, I could not bring in my camera bag, I nearly lost it. Luckily my wife was in the area and was able to swing by and pick up my bag – I then went into the show with cameras and lenses swinging from my neck. Sadly, I left my earplugs in the bag.
Local five-piece Hammerlord started right on time at 7:30. The band's sound is built on a time-tested thrash base, tinged with hints of '80s metal (particularly in the screamed vocals of frontman Stevie Cruz), and updated with modern double bass from drummer Adam Mitchell. Guitarists JP Gaughan and Ty Scott alternated leads (often trading them within the same song) played in high octaves and rife with finger taps. The band successfully added hints of black metal into its final song of the set. Cruz's stage banter struck the appropriate tone immediately – he was happy to be there, he knew his band was new to the audience, and he knew the audience was there for another act – accordingly, there was no self-aggrandising banter, and the band limited itself to a polite 20-minute set that piqued the audience's attention. Mission accomplished.
Although the evening's second act was ready to go on almost immediately, the stage sat dark for nearly a half hour before MonstrO began its set. The four members of the band have established pedigrees that include a variety of musical genres, unfortunately the resulting slurry was disappointing. First off, the band's sound is dominated by the high-sung vocals of Charlie Suarez. They're New Wave of British Heavy Metal high. They're early Geddy Lee high. While I was still pondering how the vocals fit with the rest of the band's musical vision, Suarez confused me by adding a much lower, post-grunge vocal style as well. Regardless of the vocals, the band's music was consistently thick and muddy. The buzz of guitarist Juan Montoya and Kyle Sanders became so constant as to become atmospheric. Sadly, many of the band's compositions blended together (particularly the several that Suarez began with clean chiming guitar before letting the song be swallowed by the rest of the band) in a 35-minute set that never really found its legs.
Another half hour passed before Los Angeles three-piece Kyng began its set. Kyng's members have pedigrees from the extreme metal genres, yet this project is decidedly mainstream. Through the big dynamics and rumbling bass of Tony Castaneda, Kyng adequately carries the '70s hard rock standard. Unfortunately, the straight up grunge vocal delivery of Eddie Veliz cast the band as a warmed-over Soundgarden rather than the riff-heavy Sabbath-esque power trio they aim to be. During the band's 35-minute set (a set that felt much longer) the audience began to heckle the band, calling out for Danzig. Veliz response was to become indignant. Ignoring the changing tide, he amped up his level of cursing in an attempt to spur the audience into participation. The result was unpleasant for all involved.
The audience waited 40 minutes between sets – the boredom occasionally broken by cheers as a song from the house sound system would end, and sighs when another would begin. At 10:30 the instrumental "Wotan's Procession" began, bringing the headliner to the stage.
Like many of the Misfits-shirted souls at the concert, I'll confess my love of Glenn Danzig is born from his screams and yelps in the late '70s and early '80s with The Misfits. In fact after 1993 I had largely lost track of Danzig the band, save for a single show I photographed in 2005. Knowing that the band's line up had changed so regularly during those years, I was surprised to see Tommy Victor (formerly of Prong) still playing guitar in the band. I was more surprised to see that all four members of the band looked nearly identical: they're all beefy men, with long black hair, who wore black sleeveless t-shirts tucked into dark denim. In fact, when Victor first walked onto the stage, I thought he was Danzig. It wasn't until I spotted his moustache and lack of logoed belt buckle that I realized I was mistaken.
To be blunt, things started off a little spotty, but they seemed to be on track by the time "Twist of Cain" was played several songs into the set. The audience sang along heartily to "How the Gods Kill," but when they raised their camera phones above the crowd to get a snapshot of their idol, chastising bouncers with bright flashlights quickly chased them away. This doesn't seem to be the right way to maintain your fan base.
While Victor's guitar histrionics (and false harmonics) occasionally captured the necessary growl in Danzig's sinister heavy metal, more often than not they sounded tinny and shrill. Similarly Danzig's voice sounded rich and round when he would belt out songs in his full voice, but anything requiring nuance came out weak and frail. Was this the fault of a lacking sound system, illness, or just the inevitable march of time wearing away at a rock god? Despite the thinning hair and rounding stomach, I'm willing to blame the sound system.
Although both bassist Steve Zing (formerly of early Danzig project Samhain) and Victor could frequently be seen flapping their arms in an attempt to pump up the crowd, it wasn't until Misfits guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein bounded out onto the stage for "Death Comes Ripping" that the the audience came to life. Sadly this is when the sound system really went to pot. Feedback frequently tore through the monitors, visibly upsetting Danzig. There was a long awkward pause as he left the stage following "Astro Zombies," but when he returned for "Last Caress" it too was plagued with feedback. Meanwhile, Frankenstein continued to buck around the stage in his makeup and trademark devilock hair, beat on his custom guitar, and offer considerably more visual interest than musical. At the end of this set, the stage again went quiet.
Soon Zing stood at the front of the stage for a mostly instrumental version of 1994's "Bringer of Death" that was more bass solo than anything else. Minutes later Danzig returned to perform the hit "Mother," but left without a word immediately afterwards. Despite the cheers, and the extended period of pumping stage lights, the band couldn't be coerced back onto the stage. After five or six minutes the house lights came up and sympathetic security guards began escorting jilted fans out of the venue.
Every artist can have a bad night, and Danzig is known to be temperamental even in the best of circumstances, but this show was a bust. Touring acts that weren't compatible with the headliner, overzealous security (directed by Danzig's management, I should add), bad sound, and only an hour set from the headliner all contributed to this disappointing evening. The 2005 Danzig/Doyle performance I mentioned earlier was a spiritual experience for me, but this show may not have been worth all the hassles at all. I, however, seem to be in the minority. I know several fans that drove from Nebraska and Oklahoma, paid their $51 (after service fees), and were thrilled just to see Danzig and Doyle perform Misfits songs. For them, singing along to "I Turned Into a Martian" was worth every headache and fee imaginable. Maybe my 2005 show wasn't any better than this one, and maybe fans at this show will remember it as the fulfilment of a lifelong quest, but for the rest of us, I think it should have been much better.