An old stone construction sits quietly on the outskirts of a local market square in a bitterly cold February evening. The Redrum has been picking up more than its fair share of talent over the past few years, growing their reputation way beyond its Staffordshire borders. From the outside looking in, I was more expecting a couple of old men sat in the corner smoking (despite the smoking ban of July 2007) from pipes, chugging pale ale and discussing their latest hunt. However, the closer you got to this historic building the less it seems of a relaxing dog friendly atmosphere filled with smoke plumes and questionable countryside lifestyle choices. Instead, the sound of late 90s to early 2000s punk rock floated in the wind and like my own Pied Piper, it gave me no choice but to follow the melody.
Tonight, Redrum’s doors were open for Michale Graves. The Michale Graves. As in, one of the most iconic figures in not just the niche of horror music, but punk rock itself. It has been around 19 years since he has found time to play in the UK and it’s very clear the anticipation of his return is huge. Almost messiah-like? Can I say that? It’s how it felt.
As expected, the band were already on stage and began with a wall of noise and feedback before smashing straight into the opener “Bedlam” from Graves’s solo album of the same name. Right before the verse, Graves steps out from the side room and barges his way across the tiny floor-stage in a flurry of madness. Barely making any eye contact under his almost steampunk fashioned top hat, he jittered through a mix of material from his era with the Misfits which to a relief did not feel out of place with any of his other recorded material.
The set list felt refined. All of the main hits were executed from American Psycho and Famous Monsters that you would expect. “Descending Angel”, “Scream”, “Helena”, “Saturday Night” and “Dig Up Her Bones” all made appearances throughout the night. The band themselves were very locked in together, but not enough to take away the fact that you are watching punk rock legends. It needs grit, not glamour.
The bassist on the tour is the old founder of Blitzkid, making the backing vocals horrifyingly perfectly suited to Graves’s unique ghoulish tone. I don’t think anyone in that venue was expecting to see Michale Graves absolutely nail every vocal line and melody. The pace of the songs were much faster than what you would have heard in their recorded forms and the adaptation shown from Graves for this only further displayed the experience, and love for the music he holds. It looked and sounded natural for him to perform the songs, some of which are now 20 years old.
It’s not just the music that he and his band evidently love. The fans too hold a special place in his heart. Those were his words before the encore. An explanation was given about not wanting to walk off stage only to come back on for a few more songs, he apparently sees this as only an ego booster for the artist. It wasn’t just him saying this either. A little known rockstar, Corey Taylor, would have had an absolute field day with the mobile phone recordings constantly being taken, by most of the crowd for the entire evening.
But Michale Graves seemed to simply soak it all in and embrace this new digital culture. From the very start there were a couple of joyous crowd members getting into ‘selfie’ mode with Graves whilst he was performing. The crowd were by far shy about it too. Getting right up in his personal space (ie, the stage…) and going straight for the front facing camera opportunity. I was expecting an outburst from the stage. It was to the point where it was bothering a few of us in the crowd a lot. But there was nothing. He allowed it to go on the whole night and even took a few seconds to pose for people. He took moments off the stage to sing and dance with the audience and had a bit of a cheekier dance with one member of the crowd in “Saturday Night”. Every artist needs a love ballad.
As the night drew to a close, Graves waited by the merch desk as the audience left the venue and took the time to meet every single person, chat to them and sign anything they wanted without question. He was honestly humble and genuinely seemed to care about each person he spoke to. Can I note – all for free. No charge, no VIP ticket required.
Michale Graves is a legend in the punk rock scene and the night at Redrum helped prove exactly why his legacy is going nowhere.
Images by Gary Cooper (Edinburgh show)