WORDS BY IAN J SELSKY AND PHOTOS BY MAURICE NUNEZ | Go Venue Magazine
September 11, 2019 the Oakland Oracle Arena, still echoing from the previous night’s ravages by metal legends Iron Maiden, was now hosting a marathon of punk rock history. Without a doubt the most mind-blowing tour of the year, featuring Glenn Danzig, Jerry Only, and Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein – the original members of the horror punk pioneers The Misfits (contractually touring as The Original Misfits – and yes, I consider Doyle an original member) headlined a show not to be missed featuring punk rock royalty Rancid, The Damned and Cro-Mags.
Hardcore legends, the Cro-Mags led by the multi-talented Harley Flanagan, opened the show to a still arriving crowd with a lump-in-throat dedication to the victims of the September 11th attacks, followed by a mash-up of hardcore punk infused metal which quickly threw the crowd into a menacing mosh-pit driven to the classic ‘We Gotta Know’ with a follow-up 2019 release ‘No One’s Victim,’ and into one of my favorites, ‘World Peace.’
Flanagan, a founding member of the Cro-Mags, recently won a lawsuit giving him exclusive rights to the band name Cro-Mags. Prior to the night of the show Flanagan attended Glenn Danzig’s Verotika movie premier in San Francisco, and I was able to say hello and get a quick pic with this legend.
Cro-Mags played a 25-minute thrash infused set with Flanagan riling the crowd as needed, and ending the set with ‘Life of My Own’ from their 1986 debut album The Age of Quarrel, and leaving the crowd with a blistering sense of what it was like to be a part of the 80’s hardcore scene.
After a quick change over, UK punk pioneers The Damned took the stage. The arena was still shamefully empty, and two 20-something males played on their phones in front of me asking why this band they “never heard of” was opening for The Misfits. As I mentally smacked them in the back of their heads founding members Dave Vanian and Captain Sensible broke into the classics ‘Love Song,’ ‘Machine Gun Etiquette,’ ‘I Just Can’t Be Happy Today,’ ‘Anti-Pope,’ ‘Noise Noise Noise,’ and so on.
Vanian’s voice resonated with the same vigor the band had in their infancy back in 76’, but with a cleaner more polished finish. Keyboardist, and longtime band member, Monty Oxymoron showed his joy by periodically breaking into his version of the happy dance, and drummer Pinch and bassist Paul Gray just looked content to be a part of it.
Towards the end of a far too short set the band quipped about Duran Duran, calling them “a bunch of fucking wankers!”
The powerhouse set paid homage to MC5 with a cover of ‘Looking at You,’ and finished up with their career expanding hits ‘Smash it Up,’ ‘Ignite,’ and ‘New Rose’ – the first UK single released by a punk band. They wrapped up this iconic set with their new wave punk hit ‘Neat Neat Neat.’ One thing is for sure; it is obvious The Damned have hung around so long because they love what they do.
After a short intermission East Bay locals, Rancid, took the stage to a crowded arena of fans rushing from the long lines at the bar. Operation Ivy alum and ska punk pioneers Tim Armstrong (guitar and vocals), looking like he fell off a ZZ Top tour bus, and Matt Freeman (bass and vocals), with longtime member Lars Frederiksen (guitar and vocals) and Branden Steineckert (drums) broke straight into the chaotic heavy hitters ‘Roots Radicals,’ and ‘Radio’ with Armstrong and Frederiksen taking turns on vocals.
Rancid’s high-energy performance included some tracks from the more recent rockabilly-core inspired album, 2017’s Trouble Maker. Armstrong growls a message of perseverance in ‘Ghost of a Chance’ with some quick scratchy-strokes of the guitar giving it their signature Rancid sound, followed by East Bay’s own inspired ‘Telegraph Avenue,’ which broke into a word-for-word crowd sing-a-long.
The band seemed to be having a great time, and the set seemed to end a bit too short. Towards the end of the show Lars gave a shout out to his son for his 12th birthday, saying he gave him a choice of Iron Maiden, or his dad’s band and The Misfits – he instantly said, “Maiden Bro!”.
Lars told him, ”‘Run to the Hills’ don’t pay the bills, ‘Ruby Soho’ does. Let Steve Harris buy your shoes then!”
Fredericksen dedicated their last two songs of the night, and arguably the bands biggest hits, to his son, ‘Time Bomb,’ and ‘Ruby Soho.’
The time had come. I felt the hair stand up on my arms and the back of my neck. My childhood dream of seeing a Danzig led Misfits was about to come true. The band that had helped mold my musical choices throughout my life was about to take the stage. The lights were down, eerie music filled the arena, and cheers and screams filled the air. Two large lit Crimson Ghosts were all you could see flanking the drum stand, later flanked themselves by two larger ‘Halloween’ jack-o-lanterns. Suddenly, Jerry Only zips from stage left diving to his knees to the microphone stage right. Danzig bursts on stage like Satan’s demi-god with a growling scream, and Doyle hits a thunderous note banging the strings like some Pete Townsend from hell – ‘Death Comes Ripping.’
Slayer co-founder Dave Lombardo destroyed on the drums, blasting through each song with the power and fury they deserve – much improved since debuting with the band at 2016’s Riot Fest. Acey Slade (bassist for Joan Jett & the Blackhearts and Dope) spent the evening lurking in the shadows on rhythm guitar. The sound couldn’t have been better. It was if they had never stopped playing together.
As I scanned the audience the most incredible thing I noticed were the representatives of the different generations that had made it to the show – the original Fiend Club kids were now watching this piece of history with their own kids. At that moment I had regretted not bringing my own children.
Each song was better than the last, and accompanied by short neon videos and lights to represent the lyrics; ‘I Turned into a Martian’ had retro spaceships covering the monitors, ’20 Eyes’ had 20 eyes, and so on. The set list spanned albums such as Walk Among Us, Earth A.D., and Static Age.
Between songs, and with winded breath, Danzig briefly reminisced about the upcoming track – “I wrote this sitting in a jail cell,” he exclaimed, before busting into ‘London Dungeon.’ His voice was like silk. If you are old enough like me to remember Danzig’s voice in his prime, well, this was better – smoother, and refined.
Surprisingly, Jerry was pretty quiet most of the show with just the occasional back-up vocal. Although, he did snap the neck of four bass guitars, one of which I believe went to Cro-Mags lead, Harley Flanagan. Above all, they were having fun, the chemistry seemed to be there.
The set ended with the inevitable, ‘Last Caress,’ before taking their leave – only to be wooed back on stage with a fast six song encore. The audience was going nuts, the pit was unstoppable – “this is my version of a love song” Danzig wailed as he ripped into ‘Die, Die My Darling,’ followed by ‘Bullet,’ ‘She,’ ‘Come Back,’ ‘Attitude,’ and ‘We Are 138.’ Then, as fast as it started, it was over, and those of us lucky enough to experience it knew we had witnessed punk history.
Cro-MagsAll images © Maurice Nunez
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