Framed retro-style blacklight posters of hard rock heroes were hung meticulously from wall-to-wall. Metal music and monster movie memorabilia — also displayed prominently throughout. But this wasn’t a horror convention or a haunted version of The House of Blues — this was the “House of Laz” — Chuck Lazaras, one of Florida’s preeminent underground guitar gurus and his indie music mogul wife, May Fleming.
Sporting jet black Skynyrd-length locks, Chuck manned his private bar at 6 pm — serving up pre-show libations to a few of his esteemed adult colleagues. Donning a fabulous electric blue coif, May was radiant in her circa ‘69 Black Sabbath T-shirt — prepping hors d’oeuvres and showing off the couple’s recent home renovations. The quality kitchen fixture upgrades — every bit as impressive as the shiny new flooring. Yet, despite the authentic all-American hospitality, Chuck and May ain’t Ward and June — that is unless the Cleavers have relocated to Mockingbird Lane.
But, tonight’s soiree also would provide a bit of live entertainment. Actually, it was quite a coup. And just how Mr. and Mrs. Laz managed such a maneuver was mystifying to many. But, there he was. On a wooden bench, pulled in from the patio and placed next to the cabinet overflowing with colorful knickknacks and tiny antiques, he sat tuning and tinkering with his twin acoustic six-stringers. The only distinguishable difference between the two Fender guitars — the skull decals boasting his recognizable name/brand logo — Michale Graves.
The mere fact that the famed former Misfits frontman was hangin’ in the House of Laz, spoke directly to the depth of the personal relationship between the evening’s hosts and the iconic horror/punk kingpin. And the fact that this unique op fell conveniently on an off-day during Graves’ current acoustic club tour when he would be just a stone’s throw from one of Florida’s favorite beaches was super-sweet icing on the cake, to be sure.
Contrary to recent controversy, Graves clearly is not a man who takes comfort in conflict. He’s a man of great conviction — one with “grave” concerns regarding today’s troubled times. “We’re a ‘squirrel’ trapped in the headlights. And a ‘big truck’ is coming,” he prophesied to early bird VIPs.
A certain victim of the shortsighted current “cancel culture,” Graves has seen his online content — public positions, personal perspectives and professional posts taken out of context — tried unfairly, judged wrongly and “gassed” immediately. “My life has been threatened this year,” he confessed. “The lives of my family members have been threatened,” — a telling commentary on the seemingly “enlightened” modern-day battle cry to “coexist.”
However, during the informal hour-long pre-performance meet-and-greet, Graves’ true character — his sense of integrity, kindness and compassion was revealed openly. “Black, white, red, green, I don’t give a shit,” he announced fiercely, taking a swig from his bottled water. “I just love people — ALL people.” By 7 pm, Graves appeared content to simply let his music “do the talking.”
To say this was an “intimate” setting would be an understatement. True be told, Chuck and May only had invited about a dozen of Graves’ most fervent area followers to attend the exclusive engagement.
The ensuing 75-minute set would be a career-spanning “best of” showcase — incorporating a cavalcade of Misfits classics combined with an array of solo era fan favorites. But at the outset, a reasonable question could have been whether or not Graves’ nocturnal numbers from the past could “coexist” peacefully among his friendlier folk-flavored solo fare. The answer — absolutely!
A prolific singer/songwriter, Graves’ latter work looms as large as his celebrated legacy. Tonight, Misfits tunes assumed decidedly new identities. However, the unplugged format hardly compromised their street cred. Graves’ solo selections packed equal punch — powerful verses, soaring choruses and massive hooks — and they all resided stylistically somewhere between a ‘90s coffee house open mic night and a ‘60s open-air protest rally.
Dressed in back from head-to-toe, Graves gave a passionate, animated performance from start-to-finish — veins bulged from his forearm scorpion tattoo, while his eyes shined brightly, beaming with intensity. Not even the broken string during “Saturday Night” could slow his stride.
Throughout the night, fans blurted out countless requests. “That’s the best version of that one I’ve ever heard,” a fellow bellowed from the bar, as Graves concluded one of his many Misfits staples, “Dig Up Her Bones.” A satisfied boyish grin flashed briefly from beneath the bill of his black ball cap at the crescendo of another epic, “Die Monster Die.”
Graves also spoke boldly of his faith, as the set suddenly took on a noticeable “Praise and Worship” vibe with a compelling cover of the acclaimed Chris Tomlin tune, “How Great Is Our God.” “This reminds me how important God is in my life,” Graves revealed.
“I don’t have bling, but I’m the richest man in the world,” Graves told a young enthusiast seated just a few feet away. “I write these songs about my life, and they resonate with others,” he continued, with honest and pure humility. “How you measure success is how you affect people. I have wealth beyond measure.”
“That’s all I’ve got,” Graves declared with a toothy smile and his fist in the air — slamming out his final chord, just a smidge before 8:30. Following a heartfelt offer of gratitude to Chuck and May, he then thanked the temporary House of Laz residents for coming out and for their continued support. From there, Graves spent the balance of the evening chatting with his new friends — and ogling Chuck’s vast, prized vintage guitar collection. Rock-and-roll, dude!
Michale Graves’ Solo Setlist:
2. I Believe
5. When Worlds Collide
6. Die Monster Die
7. Dig Up Her Bones
8. All the Hallways
9. If and When
10. Descending Angel
12. A Generation Coming Down
13. Saturday Night
14. How Great Is Our God
15. Fiend Club
18. The Best of Me