Michale Graves Concert Review (Third Street Dive)

Ex-MISFITS Lead Singer/Songwriter, Michale Graves, Brings a Little Halloween to the Ville on the Last Night of September!

The originators of horror punk rock, The Misfits, invented the genre in the late 1970’s through the early 1980’s and recorded a coffin full of classic, catchy Drive-In influenced songs like “Halloween,” “Horror Business,” “Teenagers from Mars,” “Astro Zombies,” “I Turned into a Martian,” “Vampira” and many others. The short lived lifespan of the popularity of the punk rock genre saw the band split ways in the mid 80’s when lead singer/songwriter, Glenn Danzig, left to pursue a solo career. For 15 years, the band ceased recording new material as personal conflicts and law suits between members stalled any musical progress, but the band’s Crimson Ghost logo and legacy of material continued to generate new fans.

In 1995, founding member, Jerry Only, resurrected The Misfits and eventually recorded two new big budget records on major record labels (Geffen and Roadrunner). By this time Glenn Danzig had moved on to Satanic Heavy Metal stardom and the call went out for a new leader singer with song writing talent to continue the B-movie, horror punk concept that fans demanded. Enter Michale Graves. At 25 years old, he was pulled from obscurity and placed into the spotlight as the front man for the biggest horror punk band of all time, playing shows all over the world and appearing in movies like George (“Dawn of the Dead”) Romero’sBruiser.”

Last night Graves played the last night of his War of Information solo tour at the Third Street Dive downtown at 442 S 3rd Street before an intimate group of hardcore fans. This wasn’t the rowdy, mosh pit type of show you might expect from a modern punk rock legend. Instead fans were treated to an all acoustic set that included a number of songs from his recent solo projects punctuated with a fistful of horror-centric hits he wrote for The Misfits. There was no backup band, no skeleton face make-up, no Halloween costumes or props; just one man and his guitar. Minus the horror facade he projects at bigger shows, Graves’ unique, soulful voice and the quality of his lyrical content proved that these songs work even without the bombast of the punk/metal hybrid of framework they were originally recorded on top of.

When his original recordings with The Misfits were released, “American Psycho” in 1997 and “Famous Monsters” in 1999, old school fan reaction was mixed mostly due to the fact that Graves sounded absolutely nothing like Glenn Danzig, yet he was still expected to belt out the classic era songs during live shows. If you can remember back far enough to when Sammy Hagar originally took over as lead singer for Van Halen and the band didn’t yet have enough new material to fill a 90 minute arena show, Sammy was forced to sing David Lee Roth era hits to mixed results. No matter what Michale Graves sounded like live, he was never going to sound like Glenn Danzig, and as a result some fans could never see the new Misfits as anything but a cover band.

Graves’ post-Misfits career has gone forward to see him develop as both a songwriter and performer. After about five years of trial and error with a couple of different bands, he released his own solo horror punk records, “Punk Rock is Dead” (2005) and “Return to Earth” (2006), and recorded an album he co-wrote with Damien Echols of the West Memphis Three while Echols was still in prison. Recently freed and found innocent of the murder of three boys in West Memphis, Arkansas in 1993, Echols was the subject of the “Paradise Lost” documentaries and the upcoming documentary, “West of Memphis,” produced by Peter (“Dead Alive”) Jackson. Michael Graves supported Echols during his imprisonment and mounted a tour to contribute to his legal defense.

Last night, Graves joked that he owes his voice to Tiger Pops, which he enjoyed between songs. Tiger Pops, as I learned at the show, are cheap lollipops that can be bought in bags of 120 suckers for only a buck at Dollar Stores across the country. “Tiger Pops!,” he would exclaim in a New Jersey accent after completing a song if it seemed to go particularly well.

The set list included Misfits favorites “Shining,” “Resurrection,” “Witch Hunt,” “Fiend Club,” “Scream,” the catchy sing-along, “Don’t Open ‘Til Doomsday” and his biggest hit with The Misfits, “Dig Up Her Bones.” The highlight of the set list, at least for me, was the 1950’s doo-wop inspired, “Saturday Night,” before which Graves pulled back the magic curtain by first playing the opening verse-chorus of “Tears on My Pillow,” originally recorded by Little Anthony and the Imperials in 1958. Clearly, he wrote “Saturday Night” right on top of the hook for that timeless classic, which strikes me as perfect for a song about murder, the Drive-In and exaggerated teenage emotion.

The Third Street Dive would like you to know that if this kind of music is your “thing” then upcoming this month you can catch Forbidden Dimension and The Commies on October 12th, Dead Dick Hammer and Scumbelina on October 19th and The Nulydedz and Doombuggy Attack Battalion on October 26th.

UPDATE: Michale would like thank all his fans for coming out on Sunday night! He wanted me to tell you all about his next CD, “Vagabond,” which is being released by Kickstarter. You can support his music and pre-order the “Vagabond” CD at the same time at the following web address:


The Phantom of The Ville

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