Last Saturday night, I left the confines of Comfest a bit early to attend something extremely profound & unusual, especially for deep in the deadlands of Ohio. The Shrunken Head, a relatively new rock & roll club near downtown, was hosting the first stop of Eerie Von’s Misery Obscura tour. Von is well known for many things; photographer & “fifth member” of legendary punk band The Misfits, bassist for Samhain & Danzig, and later for his own solo efforts which have dabbled in everything from Goth rock to Country. But for this tour, Eerie was doing something completely different – he was presenting a gallery of his own personal photographs and paintings (many never seen before) which he has amassed over the years, from the teenage beginnings of The Misfits thru to session shots from Danzig I & beyond, all interspersed with fantastic depictions of the macabre he has painstakingly committed to canvas. As an added bonus, he performed a live acoustic set to further celebrate the event.
Von is a trained photographer & it shows. Even at a young age, himself no older than his Fiendish subjects, his ability to capture early live performances or rudimentary publicity shots (the infamous ‘Cave’ photos) went well above his years. This collection is a sampling of an even larger catalog that is slickly displayed in his book ‘Misery Obscura’ from Dark Horse publishing, of which copies were available on this night. Von’s preference for shooting in black & white is the perfect compliment to the brooding subjects of his lens, but it is the sharp clarity of his shots and imaginative use of perspective that make for some truly compelling imagery. One particularly enthralling picture was of Glenn Danzig laying a rose on the grave of Elvis Presley (a fan favorite, he later told me). Another had the original line-up of Danzig standing inauspiciously before the darkly sighing shores of Loch Ness. And for any fan of The Misfits, the youthful photos of Jerry, Doyle, Glenn and Arthur are like ascending the steps of punk rock Mecca.
His paintings are as enigmatic as the man himself. Acrylic pieces painted on canvas, they are more abstract than I would have expected, yet all very intricately crafted with finite detail and splashes of color that brightens them without diluting their sense of horror. I’m hard pressed to liken them to any other artist, the trippy misshapen figures a seeming portraiture from hellish, nightmare realms.
As the artist, instead of standing aloof to the side while guests viewed his work, Von walked among us (pardon my pun) with the passion of a new father displaying his twisted offspring. My camera phone captured him (shown) enthusiastically explaining the back story of one of his works to curious guests, his insight adding another level to what was already visible.Â Amazingly, anyone who approached him was given this same kind of personalized one-on-one; not the obligatory “hi, how are you?” but a bonfide conversation – and sometimes a lengthy one, but that seems to be modus operandi for Eerie Von.Â When I asked him about his rumored 2-4 hours A DAY of responding to fan emails, he answered “You’ve got to. I mean, even Elvis did it. Every morning, he’d walk down to the gates of Graceland.” Then he added with a smile “And nobody’s bigger than Elvis”.
Finishing off an intimate evening that felt more like a private party in his living room, Von was joined in a short acoustic set by guitarist Michael Ulery (who had the unenviable task of accompanying on guitar sans rehearsal – yikes!). Songs were a mix of originals like “Lay The Blame”, “The Wagon”, “It’s True” with a few of Eerie’s faves from his other bands (Samhain’s “To Walk The Night” and Danzig’s “Going Down To Die”). His unpretentious delivery & sarcastic wit brought a smile to everyone’s face – despite obvious glitches in the performance.
When it was all said & done, I left The ‘Head that night feeling like I just been witness to something uniquely personal – an opportunity to be escorted through both the history and macabre future of an iconic rock musician & artist.Â How often can you leave a venue and say that?