After the infamous Damned/Misfits UK tour of 1979 fell short of any grandiose expectations that preceded it, few would have predicted that the two bands would ever tour again nearly 24 years later. Nevertheless, the first annual "Fiend Fest" is an intriguing concept: a tour that inverts the order
of the two aforementioned groups just as the two legendary bands seem to have a contrary disparity in terms of perception: the Damned are fairly revered in the punk scene whereas the "Newfits" are viewed as a "cover band" with detractors ranging from Rolling Stone to Mitch Clem. Any subsequent tour success will undoubtedly be attributed to younger fans or nostalgics who gleefully cheer for 20 year-old Danzig-era classics or a motley of covers. Nonetheless, the Misfits have sustained a vast fan base in spite of all the changes while the Damned have done rather well themselves. Perhaps the ultimate test of both bands' competence would take place in the live venue where any pretentious expectations would finally be set or fail to be met.
While waiting outside the venue for the doors to open, I struck up a conversation with a fellow fan about the show's actual line-up. I mentioned that D.I. would open and play "O.C. Life." D.I. kicked off the Fiend Fest with a juvenile taunt of, "Hey were D.I.! And you're not!" at 7 P.M sharp, as an eerily familiar riff resonated through the Quest. As fate would have it, they opened with "O.C. Life," a song Rikk Agnew wrote prior to his stint with the Adolescents (so would that make it a cover?). Casey (who sort of resembles Keith Morris) walked about the stage and added some banter to the classic satire. "O.C. Life" was followed by a brief speech that paved the way for the substantially less satirical "Guns." At this point in the show, Mr. Royer asked the crowd for a circle pit (which never started) then broke into a new song possibly entitled "O.C.'s Burning." "Falling Out" and a song dedicated to a fat man named Rollo ("Fatso Nero?") would follow before a fan shouted out a request for "Richard Hung Himself." The band initially denied the request opting to play "Johnny's Got A Problem" but finally asked, "Ok, we're going to do one more. You want to hear â??Richard Hung Himself?'" Many cheers followed and D.I. closed out their set a mere 26 minutes after it had started.
As 311's "Creatures" faintly faded from the P.A., Balzac took the stage to a creepy intro that preceded their performance. Though I couldn't make out a setlist, I do know that they played 8 songs, the majority of which contained a lot of, "Whoa-oh-oh-oh's." But if you're going to learn one punk chant, it might as well be cosmopolitan. Speaking of, the fact that Balzac are Japanese really didn't affect their sound: fast, heavy anthems that sounded in place on a bill with the Misfits. However, their lead singer did bow after each song and (presumably) thank the crowd in Japanese.
After ten minutes, New York's Agnostic Front started off their set a little after 8 P.M. as Roger Miret grabbed the microphone and blasted through two songs, the second a new tune named "Had Enough." It seemed as though a female crew member would adjust the microphone or give Roger- who alternated between singer and singer/guitarist-a guitar between each song. This turned out to be the sole deterrent from what was an otherwise intense and energetic performance. Despite their effort, Miret yelled,
"Hey Minneapolis, I want to see you go off like you did at that Good Charlotte show!" after a raucous "Riot Riot Upstart." The next song (which started, "From the East Coast...") would cause many to sing along later chanting "Oi Oi Oi!" A happy little ditty entitled "Everyone Loves Giuliani" followed with a "F You!" chorus dedicated to the former New York Mayor. A song about life and intense finale with
a chant of "Take a Left!" ended their half-hour set. Though Agnostic Front had played for (approximately) the same amount of time as the two previous bands, they had clearly elicited strong audience participation unlike their two predecessors.
Whereas Agnostic Front's set carried a strong political undertone, the mood for the Dickies' set would be met by Leonard Philips' opening words: "Hey, we're the Dickies from O.C. This is a song we secretly wrote for the Moody Blues in 1947." The group then tore through "Nights In White Satin" and managed to incorporate puppets (from a dog to a gorilla) throughout their performance. Philips also joked about
Fat Wreck Chords stating, "Hey, the lead singer of NOFX is my boss. How the hell did that happen?" Their guitarist simply said, "Heroin." Having played "My Pop The Cop" (a "new" song), a humorous speech about reality TV would continue the hilarity before the Dickies led everyone to one last chant
of "Tobacco" or possibly "Take me home!"
That being said, each of the four opening bands' vocals would fluctuate from clear to inaudible. Perhaps this caused David Vanian to hold what appeared to be a vintage 1950's Cardyne 1 microphone in the palm of his hand for tonight's show. Or perhaps his choice merely served as a metaphor for the Damned in today's punk scene: a bit archaic and unconventional but still able to perform. Sans a spooky intro or much banter, the Damned broke into a furious "Ignite." Following many applause and cheers, the Damned tore through two classics, "I Just Can't Be Happy Today" and "See Her Tonite." Following
two vintage cuts, "song.com" was played along with an unrecognizable song ("Strength Of Druids?") which paved the way for "Amen," a very dark yet somewhat beautiful number. A foreword that involved death, freedom, and the Damned introduced the gothic-tinged "13th Floor Vendetta" before "Democracy" sped up the show's pace. In a stark contrast, the lyrics of "History Of The World, Part I" drudged to a depressive lull that would make Robert Smith's work seem cheerful by comparison. But things would liven up with a speedy run through "Neat Neat Neat"/"Break On Through." It seemed as though the show would end without "Smash It Up" but the Damned decided to play one last song as the Dickies' Stan Lee took over for Captain Sensible as the latter sprinted around the stage. The finale was none other than "New Rose." As 48 minutes seemed to fly by, the Damned had crafted an incredible 12-song set as it had meandered through both an emotionally and thematic gamut. Perhaps their only fault was a reluctance to "connect" with the audience (that and at least two occurrences of bad guitar feedback).
By contrast , Jerry Only strolled in front of the curtain to raise his arms for applause before wandering off then only to return at 10:52 P.M. As soon as the curtain rose, some guy yelled, "Play some Slayer!" to many laughs. Instead, the band opened with "Hybrid Moments" then tore through a set of Danzig era classics including a ridiculously rapid "Last Caress." But after the night's first Ramones' cover, the Misfits' set deteriorated into an indistinguishable medley of "Whoa-oh's" as well as a terrible rendition of either "She" or "Jealous Again." Aware of this problem, Jerry asked the crowd to sing along on "Dig Up Her Bones" then led another sing-along of "Rise Above" where Dez's vocals were particularly prominent. Jerry's vocals were rather adept as he crooned three songs from Project 1950 in succession (quite possibly the only time the likes of Bobby Darin have incited a circle pit). After a concession to newer material ("Kong At The Gates", the â??greatest wrestling intro music ever' in Jerry's words ), the inevitable "I Wanna Be Sedated" was covered as Jerry "f'd up" but replied, "You wanted to hear it twice anyway!" before they re-started (quite possibly the only time anyone has "f'd up" a Ramones song). "Die Die Die My Darling" was introduced as the last song but a raucous "We Are 138" would close the set. Many chants of, "Misfits, Misifts!" followed and a stage hand asked everyone to chant, "Hey, ho, let's go!" The band returned to the stage stating that we "knew the next one" as both "Blitzkrieg Bop" and "Beat On The Brat" were played. Seeing how the probable Ramones covers had been performed, I wondered what song would conclude the first annual Fiend Fest. Would it be another cover or a
Walk Among Us classic? As things would turn out, the Misfits finished off with "Runaway", a cover. Whereas the encore choice and set in total (described by one fan as "more of a Misfits/Black Flag show") may have left some disappointed, Jerry, Dez, and even Marky stayed afterwards to sign autographs or take pictures with fans. I opted not to meet the Misfits although I congratulated Balzac (who were passing out ads for their new album DIY style ) on a good set on my way out.
Ultimately, the Fiend Fest was won over by its two co-headliners. Whether or not the audience preferred the Misfits or Damned is difficult to tell. After all, inevitable criticism is one of the few certainties in punk. It seems as though the Damned will always be criticized for their slow, "boring" gothic dirges and
the "new" Misfits will never live up to the very name they so viciously fought for. But these and other differing opinions will continue to persist as long as the two groups exist. For as long as the Misfits
and Damned subsist, divergent opinions like proliferate about punks running as wide of a scale as the distance from London to Lodi, New Jersey.
D.I. (7:00 P.M.-7:26 P.M.)
New Song (O.C.'s Burning?)
Balzac (7:31 P.M.-7:57 P.M.)
Agnostic Front (8:07 P.M.-8:36 P.M.)
song about life (With Time possibly)
Dickies (8:51 P.M.-9:23 P.M.)
The Damned (9:44 P.M.-10:32 P.M.)
I Just Can't Be Happy Today
History Of The World, Part I
Neat Neat Neat/Break on Through
Misfits (10:52 P.M.-11:55 P.M.)
I Just Want To Have Something To Do (Ramones Cover)
Mars Attacks or Saturday Night
She or Jealous Again (Black Flag Cover)
Rise Above (Black Flag Cover)
This Magic Moment (Drifters Cover)
Dream Lover (Bobby Darin Cover)
Donna (Richie Valens Cover)
The KKK Took My Baby Away (Ramones Cover)
Kong At The Gates/The Forbidden Zone
I Wanna Be Sedated (Ramones Cover)
Blitzkrieg Bop (Ramones Cover)
Beat On The Brat (Ramones Cover)
Runaway (Del Shannon Cover)
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