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Sunday, July 7, 2013

CONCERT REVIEW: Michale Graves

4/18/2013 at Musichead in Medford, OR


I’ve been a Michale Graves fan since the singer first surfaced fronting horror punk legends The Misfits during their comeback era starting in 1996. Graves took over vocal duties from Glenn Danzig, adding a flair and precision that complimented the revamped bands’ style and, along with his songwriting abilities, helped to elevate them to a new level. The Misfits became an “anthem” band with Michale Graves, separating them from the many other 1970’s punk rock acts also resurfacing at the time. After two records with the band (1997’s “American Psycho” and 1999’s “Famous Monsters”) Graves was released from vocal duties with The Misfits, and wasted no time in putting his own project together. The phenomenal “Web Of Dharma” album was released on his own label in 2002, showcasing Michale’s songwriting with now-classic songs like “Casket”, “Shoestring”, and “Ophelia”, and garnering him a whole new legion of fans. Michale Graves hasn’t stopped making music since, and every release has been full of great songs, terror-ific guitar hooks, and infectious melodies. His work with the band Gotham Road yielded the excellent “Seasons Of The Witch” album, and releases with his own band, “Punk Rock Is Dead” and “Return To Earth” have shown fans that he has no shortage of great punk songs waiting to be unleashed on the unsuspecting world.  In 2006 Graves released an acoustic album in collaboration with Damien Echols (one of the infamous West Memphis Three) called “Illusions” that was a haunting and different musical turn for the artist. A tour followed, which spawned the live CD “Illusions Live/Viretta Park” in 2008. After a break, during which time he worked with Marky Ramone’s band Blitzkrieg, Michale Graves has returned with a new album, “Vagabond”, marking a new musical milestone in his career. Not quite a punk rock album and not just a rock record, the new material lies somewhere in-between, and shows a new evolution in Michale’s songwriting skills.

            On April 18th, 2013, Michale Graves’ Vagabond Tour stopped in Medford, OR to rock the rather small audience with a fantastic, if unexpected, set list. The only Oregon stop on the tour, it was a special night for fans of Graves and his material from all stages of his career. As he and his band (Johnny B. Morbid on bass and Tony Baptist on drums) hit the stage, they treated us to several new tracks from the “Vagabond” album. Opening their set with “All The Hallways”, the first track off of the new release, the band rollicked through such songs as “Hold Onto Yesterday” and “Break Me Out” before playing some older classics like “Shoestring”, “Blackbird” and “Iridescent White Light”. While Baptist and Morbid took a break, Michale broke out his acoustic guitar and treated us to stripped-down versions of “Dig Up Her Bones” and “Cryin’ On A Saturday Night”. Soon the other members returned to the stage and the new Michale Graves Band line-up tore through a set consisting of mostly his Misfits-era material, including “Scream!”, “The Shining”, “Descending Angel”, “Lost In Space”, “Crawling Eye”, “Fiend Club” and “Scarecrow Man”. Michale and his band gave the performance so much energy it was uncanny, treating the smaller audience and venue as though they were playing their last show ever. It was a close substitute for actually being at a Misfits show in the mid-nineties, and the crowd went wild. Moshing, screaming, and singing along to every song, the local punks tore up the floor. It was a diverse and amazing show, with Graves playing songs from every segment of his career. Surely it was enough to satisfy both fans of his Misfits work and his solo career.

            On a personal note, I would have preferred him to play more material from the new “Vagabond” CD as well as a few of my favorites from the “Punk Rock Is Dead” and “Return To Earth” albums in exchange for some of the Misfits tracks. I had seen The Misfits four times while Michale was with the band, so I feel as though I’ve seen those songs performed enough already. A minor gripe, though, as I had a blast at the show and loved every minute of it!

            After the show, Michale and band hung around to meet fans and sign autographs. I had him sign a slew of stuff, and he was nice enough to take a picture with me and chat for a few minutes. This was the third time he’s played Musichead in Medford, and the crowd seems to grow larger each time, so we can only hope that he’ll be returning soon to play his unique breed of soulful horror-themed anthems for us. Until then, We Are The Fiend Club!

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