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FFF6 in review: Danzig Legacy an epic disappointment

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Austin Photo Set: News_Dan Solomon_FFF_danzig_Nov 2011
Courtesy of Danzig

So, fuck Danzig, basically. If you want a rough idea of the Fun Fun Fun Fest crowd’s opinion of the frontman for its Black Stage headliner on Friday night, go watch this video and them come back to find out exactly how badly Danzig blew it at Auditorium Shores.

The set was scheduled to begin at 8:15 on Friday night. At Fun Fun Fun Fest, because it’s one of the most smartly-run festivals in the country, every stage is divided into two sections: while Band A is performing on the left, Band B is about to set up, making for an efficient transition with minimal lag between bands. When the Murder City Devils finish their set at 8 o’clock, Danzig should be all set up and ready to rock fifteen minutes later.

That’s not how it shook out, though. The band occasionally sent out the guitarist to “sound check”—those scare quotes are because he’d really just play a single riff, nod, and stalk back offstage—but otherwise left the stage dark and the PA playing canned music until 9 p.m., riling up an increasingly cranky crowd that had begun to emit a cathartic chorus of boos every time a person not named Glenn Danzig walked across the stage for any reason.

So the vibe was already bad by the time Danzig finally emerged. That was a bummer under any circumstance, because the one genuine can’t-miss act of Fun Fun Fun Fest this year was Danzig Legacy. The bill promised songs from all three distinct phases of the man’s storied career: an assortment of hits from his years fronting his eponymous hard rock band, a selection of songs from his metal band Samhain, and finally—and most remarkably—a set of material from Danzig’s legendary punk rock band The Misfits, with original Misfits guitarist Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein (Paul Caiafa) joining the band, something that had happened only a handful of times since the band’s 1983 break-up.

The crowd put the delay behind it when the band finally played. It opened the set with “Skincarver,” from Danzig’s underrated 2004 album Circle Of Snakes, and followed it with “Hammer Of The Gods” from last year’s Deth Red Saboath, before playing a song that the bulk of the crowd actually knew and cared about: “Twist Of Cain,” from the band’s first self-titled album.

Even at this point, things seemed off. Danzig’s voice was shaky—during “Twist Of Cain,” much of the singing was done by the guitar player—and while a band has a right to play whatever material it chooses, when packaging a performance as a tour through the artist’s legacy, it’s not unrealistic to expect that maybe the set would have dropped the tracks from the band’s largely-ignored recent albums in favor of, say, hits like “Mother” or “Am I Demon.”

After finishing a romp through the Danzig material, the stage dropping changed and the band emerged as Samhain. They breezed through a handful of songs to a crowd that seemed to be growing impatient and then changed the stage setting again: this time, Doyle emerged, shirtless and with a long strand of greased black hair in his face like it was 1981 all over again…

And the band played two fucking Misfits songs before the curfew had to be enforced, and Danzig told the crowd that he’d been informed they only had five minutes left. Danzig, for his part, decided to blame the event organizers and insisted that “It’s not my fault!” (Punk rock! Excellent!) He then decided that, rather than make the most of those last five minutes and bang out a few more Misfits tunes (most of the songs are only 90 seconds!), he would pout, stomp around stage and generally act like the city's noise curfew, enforced because he started his set 45 minutes late, was a civil rights issue.

“I guess they’ve never heard of a riot!”, Danzig shouted hysterically, to minimal cheers. He used his last five minutes to lead the crowd in a chant of “Bullshit! Bullshit!”, not realizing that while he may have been casting that toward the event organizers or the city, most of the people in the crowd were reflecting it right back at him. And that was it. Show's over kids, head on home. Nobody started a riot or threw a brick through a Starbucks window because Danzig was 45 minutes late, and he didn't realize that there'd be consequences. Everybody just left disappointed, with the lingering feeling that Danzig kind of sucks.

And all of this ultimately speaks to a larger point about Danzig, and his legacy, which makes this disappointingly shitty performance almost appropriate. Because Danzig’s legacy is genuinely outstanding. When the history of rock and roll is written, he will be a major character. You can’t take away the greatness of the Misfits—the crowd was made up of old dudes psyched at the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and teenagers who bought their skull stickers at Hot Topic, or the significance of Samhain in furthering goth culture, or the impact that the first four Danzig records had on heavy music in the 90s and beyond.

And so the set at Fun Fun Fun Fest was a reminder of two important things about Danzig: that his legacy is truly remarkable, and just how far the man has gone from being worthy of it.

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