Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Misfits at Starland Ballroom: A Fine Place to be Threatened with a Hate Crime

Despite living my whole life in New Jersey, I've only had the displeasure of going to the Starland Ballroom twice.  In the venue's defense, they have great sight lines.  However, my enjoyment of the venue ends with the sight lines.

Sayreville is a remote area of Central Jersey.  The Starland Ballroom, located in scenic Sayreville, is down a dark road with only an American Legion Hall across the street to make you believe civilization did not end once you turned down Jernee Mill Road.  So, given this monopoly on space, you immediately get the joy of paying $7 to park your car in the middle of nowhere New Jersey, though at least, you can pay the same money to park at the American Legion and feel a little better about where your money is going.

But, I was bored and decided to break a 20 year pledge to never see The Misfits without Glenn Danzig.  The Misfits, are in theory, a band that shouldn't work.  Cross what I would characterize as surf punk, mixed with horror overtones from a period when horror was camp, they should be a terrible and unmemorable band.  But Danzig overcomes that with his voice, inflection and presence.  Without Danzig, the Misfits quickly descend into farce, as the vocals sound off and basically Jerry Only, Jerry Only's son and a drummer is marginally more than a Misfits cover band, without a lead singer to understand the pacing or sound that makes the Misfits work.  Suffice to say, the show was a bust, as even the classics of the Misfits sound pale when sped up and the lyrics feel glossed over, no matter how much stage show they put together.

The opening acts were no better, with a mix of so-so punk rock and the She-Demons, who set out to prove how far five, attractive, multi-ethnic women in punk rock costumes can go.  Seriously, the band is exactly what you would expect to see in  a Robert Rodriguez movie, there was the blond guitarist, the raven-haired bassist in a hat and leather vest, the Hispanic lead singer, the Irish drummer who kept lifting her left arm above her head before striking the drums and the Asian guitarist.  While all very attractive, they were certainly deficient in the sound generating department, almost like a real-life Josie and the Pussycats.

So, if the actual concert wasn't bad enough, I did enjoy a fine confrontation with a neo-Nazi skinhead.  Oh, the years since that last happened.  So, before the Misfits set, I purchased a Coke from the bar, a common choice if you need to drive a car home.  So, I turn around from the bar, also common if you plan to do anything other than watch the bar.  Before I even take my first step, someone walks into me with some steam, spilling about ten ounces of Coke onto me.

The question became, is proper bar etiquette to apologize that you spilled someone's drink and offer to purchase them a new one, or is it to relentlessly call them a faggot and threaten them with physical violence.   Before last night, I was certain it was option one, which I would have politely declined, because things happened in a tight area.  However, my new friend, believed number two was appropriate.  He steamed into me, while I was standing still and told me to, "Watch where I was going?"  Now, standing still, covered in Coke, I replied that he should watch where he is going. 

My new friend, a small neo-Nazi skinhead, standing 5'4", maybe 120 pounds with glasses, felt his hard man status was threatened by being wrong and not owning the place.  As we all know, with a neo-Nazi skinhead never exists, since inside their uniforms they are all soft and afraid of any sort of altercation, which would shatter their unique worldview, the only place where they are ubermensch.

So, he turns around and calls me a faggot and who didn't watch where I was going.  I was standing still, which I pointed out to him.  Well, incensed, he upped his faggot calling game and let me know I didn't want to have a confrontation with him, though admittedly, only he thought he was dangerous to anyone's safety.  I, on the other hand, was content to walk away and wonder, was he going to strike me and whether New Jersey's hate crime laws covered situations where someone attacks you believing you are a member of a protected group, but not.  I was not excited about developing new case law, but genuinely felt safe knowing that the possibility of two years in prison for a such a small, young neo-Nazi would be very hard on him.

Of course, while I was being harassed, was there any security, of course not.  The four security personnel inside the club were one up on each side stage and two in front of the stage with no one in the back.  Needless to say, I cannot recommend anyone go to the Starland Ballroom for any event, since I can only associate the venue with the potential for hate crimes in an unsafe environment.  Good job!

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