Ex-Misfits frontman Michale Graves gave a ghoulishly good show at Mavericks Tuesday night, playing songs from his American Psycho and Famous Monsters albums.
The first act of the night was local two-piece Danny Van Sceney, whose sensory assault made KISS look minimalist by comparison. Draped in lasers and caked in glow-in-the-dark paint, these guys looked like they passed out in a gutter and woke up in a puddle of nuclear waste; their rave-y rivethead style was matched by an appropriately abrasive industrial punk sound.
Next on the setlist, trio Total Garbage got the mosh pit going with a selection of raunchy and aggressive punk rock, before the half dozen members of WAR FAIR stormed the stage for a set of tight but brutal hardcore punk interspersed with bursts of amiable good humour.
“You guys like spooky shit?” asked one of the band’s several vocalists, introducing an excellent hardcore cover of The Ramones’s horror movie theme “Pet Sematary.” The crowd (who had, after all, congregated for an evening of horror punk) did indeed like it.
“You know what gets me?” he later mused, reflecting on the night’s eclectic line-up. “A bunch of bands just growling and screaming, while the headliner’s [got] just a beautiful voice.”
Graves’s headlining set fused the vicious energy of punk rock with shock rock theatricality. As his band played the opening notes of “Abominable Dr. Phibes,” Graves burst onstage in a straitjacket (soon torn off to reveal a Freddy Krueger sweater, and later a tattered black tank top.) Accessorizing with a black top hat and grisly face paint, the singer had the appearance of a battered corpse.
The former Misfit wasted no time getting down to business, opening with a breakneck version of “American Psycho,” followed by fan favourite “Speak of the Devil,” which had the crowd shouting along to the brilliant opening lines.
“Traded in my Bible for a little black cat!” Graves yelped, as if the end of the world were the next big thing. “The time of Armageddon’s here.”
The crowd went nuts when American Psycho single “Dig Up Her Bones” appeared early in the set, thrusting their fists in the air in time with the “Point me to the sky above” chorus. Tracks like “Descending Angel” and “Scream” were also enthusiastically received.
Benefiting from the spirited background vocals of bandmates and fans alike, Graves’s distinctive voice was equal parts emotional and eerie as he belted out the macabre lyrics and sing-along choruses of tracks like “Lost in Space” and Frankenstein love song “Dust To Dust.”
The old-school horror aesthetic was heightened by the B-movie vibes of psychobilly-tinged “Scarecrow Man” and “Day of the Dead,” as well as dreamy ballad “Saturday Night,” which added a homicidal edge to the teen tragedy song template. (Not to mention the classic creature feature homages of songs like “Mars Attacks,” “Them,” and “Die Monster Die.”)
With the exception of a two-minute break between sets, the show proceeded at a relentless pace; it wasn’t until the end that Graves paused to introduce his band. It was then that he gave a rather poignant speech about the community-forming power of music, expressing gratitude for the ways in which his songs have continued to resonate with people. (Mid-concert soliloquies can sometimes be a bit much, but this was actually a nice, genuine moment).
His reminiscences led into a stripped-down version of freak solidarity anthem “Fiend Club,” a tribute to his Misfits tenure that he wrote prior to the band’s breakup.
Graves concluded with grisly fan favourite “Helena,” before inviting fans to chat at the merch table.
To indulge into lame Cryptkeeper-style punning, this was a gig to die for – and a campily creepy celebration of the fiend in all of us.
Line-up: Danny Van Sceney / Total Garbage / WAR FAIR / Michale Graves
Venue: Mavericks, 221 Rideau St., Ottawa
Date: Tuesday, Sept. 10/2019