I ain't afraid to admit my first exposure to the Misfits was secondhand. I didn't grow up listening to punk rock or bands that liked to dress up. But original Metallica bassist Cliff Burton looked pretty cool always wearing his Misfits T-shirt, and Metallica sounded just as awesome playing Misfits standards like "Last Caress" and "Green Hell" on Garage Days Re-revisited.
I'm a grownup now though, and not so sure I want to see an aging rock band of any genre perform live. Any band 30 years past its glory days, and you're venturing into Geritol Warriors territory. Usually, there's only one original member, and who exactly is going to these concerts anyway? Fifty year olds wearing Ed Hardy shirts sipping top shelf liquor? Sometimes.
When the Misfits played a free gig on Thursday at Florida Atlantic University and were set to play another free concert in West Palm Beach on Saturday, I wondered who was going to pay full price to see them on a rainy Friday night in Fort Lauderdale. A packed house, that's who.
A red velvet curtain descended from the proscenium following the opening acts, giving the proceedings a welcome touch of class. Jerry Only, original bassist and current stalwart, stuck his devilocked head through the curtain just enough for the crowd to go bananas. Another five minutes, and the show was on, and nothing was slowing it down.
Only and guitarist, Dez Cadena, were committed to their shtick -- it had to be sweltering in their leather and makeup, but they brought the thunder. The sole pause came when Only took off his jacket. These old dudes didn't stop to tune guitars or fool around backstage waiting for the crowd to surge before their encore. They belted out their hits alongside their new stuff, and they fucking killed it.
The crowd ate it up for over an hour and a half. When they stopped, sans-encore, Cadena and drummer Eric "Chupacabra" Arce left the stage and Only walked down the floor to meet with fans and sign autographs.
That's what impressed me the most. Only is clear into middle age and ninety percent of the house were kids that weren't even born when the Misfits formed. They weren't even born when the band broke up the first three times. Only told New Times recently that most are there because of the prevalence of the Misfits skull logo. And sure, it's helped fans, some who don't even like punk music, identify the band. Only probably could have retired on T-shirt sales alone. But the musician puts it all out there on the stage. The crowd knows it, and so they come out to shows.
I waited to see how long he would hang out with the crowd after the show. His bandmates were backstage cooling down, cleaning up, and probably sipping on champagne coolies. Only stuck it out for 45 minutes, until every last autograph was signed, and every last cell phone photo was snapped.
He didn't even take a drink of water. He stayed put in his spiked leather jacket and posed for photos with clenched fist and scowl, he took kisses from all the ladies and did what legends do: Be legendary.