An Evening With Eerie Von

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.  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.  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.  How often can you leave a venue and say that?

Rock On The Range – Day 1 (Saturday, May 21)

After weeks of rainy days, I was ecstatic that the first day of RotR was sunny and clear.  Saw 11 bands this day, and here are my highlights;

Asking Alexandria – Saw these guys a few months back when they opened for All That Remains.  Still a decent metalcore act that had a surprising guest appearance – Sebastian Bach came out near the end of their set & performed ‘Youth Gone Wild’!  Very strange combination what with him being an older 80’s icon, and AA being fairly youthful.  Still, the crowd ate it up – and so did I!  SB has clearly aged, but his pipes were great.  I hope RotR continues getting more surprise appearances (Bach wasn’t on the bill for the weekend – in fact, as he announced “I just got out of jail”).  Great performance to catch!

Black Veil Brides – Imagine an entire band comprised of Nikki Sixx clones (circa 1986) and you have my first impression of Black Veil Brides.   Their sound is also straight out of the Glam era, but edgier with a dueling guitar attack like Avenged Sevenfold.  I enjoyed them, but I’m sure they’re too mainstream for my more ‘brutal’ readers.  Their latest video is below for your consideration.

POD – Haven’t heard much from these guys recently, so I was pleased to see they were on the bill.  Sonny still sounds great & the crowd was really into them – so much so that I couldn’t get ANYWHERE near close enough to the small Jager stage.  I loved hearing the entire audience sing ‘Alive’ along with the band.

Danzig – Critics of RotR say they only feature mainstream acts, so the addition of an oldschooler like Danzig is a welcome attempt to diversify in my opinion.  Glenn’s voice has held up perfectly, it’s his appearance where age is really creeping up (not that I personally can say much either)!  The set was heavily focused on older material, loved hearing ‘Under Her Black Wings’, ‘Dirty Black Summer’, ‘Thirteen’ and of course ‘Mother’ again.  I’m certain Mr. Danzig gained a ton of new fans after this show.

Alter Bridge – Get the award for ‘Coolest comment about the impending Rapture’, which was reported to happen on this day at 6pm according to kooky radio personality Harold Camping.  As the appointed hour came near, vocalist Myles Kennedy commented “I can’t think of a better way to go out than onstage with 32,000 of my best friends”.  The crowd went wild. . . and nothing Rapturish occurred.   I’m sure someone will disagree with me & say they saw Jesus.  Maybe he was in the pit, dunno.

Staind & Korn – Both bands represented themselves extremely well, with Korn probably having the largest crowd of the weekend.  Each band played their obligatory hits, and I was impressed with Staind vocalist Aaron Lewis (the guy can still croon, even after 7 albums).  I was disappointed that Korn didn’t play ‘Faget’ but was thrilled to hear ‘Chutes & Ladders’ – complete with Jonathan Davis’ bagpipe intro.  Love them or hate them, these two acts continue to prove their timelessness.

Avenged Sevenfold – Headlining act of the day, A7X played a fantastic set showcasing their tremendous growth from a west coast fav to full-on arena band.  The stage set was the same as when I saw them on the Uproar Festival tour, which was a good thing since my twins hadn’t had a chance to see it yet.  Sadly, RotR 2009 was the last American show where The Rev played with his band mates before his untimely death, an occasion underscored by vocalist M. Shadows who commented his voice was failing but he wouldn’t have missed this show for the world.

USA Today ranked Rock on the Range as one of the 10 best festivals in the US, and Day 1 proved this was no accident.  Stay tuned for my thoughts on Day 2.