.Heartfelt Holiday Freakshow

The annual Christmas with the Misfits benefit features six acts performing the iconic band’s music while raising money for various local charities

There are a few tell-tale signs that the holiday season is in full effect in Santa Cruz. For some, it’s Pacific Avenue decorated in festive lights. For others, it’s the holiday parade or seasonal music greeting them in shops. 

But for punks, metalheads and rockers, it’s seeing the iconic Misfits Crimson Ghost decked out in Santa’s robes, plastered on show fliers. 

Yes, Santa Cruz, the annual Christmas With the Misfits (CWTM) show at the Catalyst Club returns this weekend for a ninth year, with a new bag full of Misfits covers and plenty of presents for all the naughty boils, ghouls and nonbinary bodies. 

“We want it to be a nice break away from the holidays,” says Nick “Anchorheart” Apodaca, founder of the annual event. “More than just a show, we want this to be a full-on event.” 

Put on by Numbskull Presents—where Apodaca has worked for more than two decades—Christmas With the Misfits is a punk rock way of giving back to the community. Every year, proceeds from ticket sales are donated to local charities like Grind Out Hunger, Imagined Support Living Services and the Santa Cruz Animal Shelter, where this year’s proceeds will be given. 

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Raffle tickets can also be purchased for $1 each, with proceeds donated to a second charity, World Strides Educational Student Travel. It’s an organization that sends middle and high school students on educational trips throughout the U.S. and the world. The raffle features prizes such as skate decks, tattoo gift certificates and more. 

“I have a child that’s in 8th grade,” Apodaca explains. “We know how hard it is for parents to afford, and want to help send these kids on an educational tour.” 

Just like the Grinch’s heart that grew three times its size, this punk rock party has a third charity it’s donating to: the pediatric ward of the Natividad Medical Center in Salinas. 

Concert goers are encouraged to bring a new, unwrapped toy or book with each item worth five raffle tickets. 

“With the donations, a lot of the time we have enough to give a child something every day,” explains Natividad nurse Hanna Bozorg. “Sometimes we even have enough toys to continue giving throughout the beginning of the next year.” 

Natividad Medical Center has been the staple charity for the CWTM event since its inception.  Even during the lockdowns of 2020 when live shows were nothing but a distant memory, Apodaca held the toy drive for Natividad. Last year, Santa Cruzans gave so much he says it all barely fit inside his Dodge Caravan. 

“I love anything that gets me more into the Christmas spirit,” states local musician Emilio Menze. This year, his band Dark Ride will make its CWTM debut, but it’s Menze’s sixth time gracing the annual stage. A lifelong Misfits fan, Menze discovered the band in the perfect way—digging through his brother’s CD collection.

“Whether you’re in punk, rock or metal, I think a majority of those musicians all have a certain appreciation for the Misfits,” he says. “Their lyrics are pretty brutal and macabre, but the melodies are catchy and infectious.”

Along with Dark Ride, this year’s line-up includes CWTM veterans Five:25, Midnight Mass, The Fiend Wolves—Apodaca’s band—and newcomers Beautiful Deception. Each band is entered in a round-robin, choosing three Misfits songs based on the order they signed up for the show. This way, each set is different and the audience doesn’t have to mosh through five versions of the same tune. The bands are also encouraged to make the covers their own, whether that’s keeping true to the original or going full experimental.  

“I love Danzig-era Misfits,” exclaims Jackie Kohls, singer and guitar player for Beautiful Deception, who will be dressing their set to reflect their signature melodic-metal sound. 

Kohls and her sister originally started the band in 2015, but reformed after 2020. She tells GT she’s excited to play for the benefit, noting that the Misfits’ music means so much for so many people. 

“‘We Are 138’ is my sister and I’s special song,” she says. “We’ve had good times yelling that song in the car.”

Beyond the charity, beyond the children, beyond the giving holiday spirit, the bloody heart of this event is about moshing along with tattooed, studded—and probably tipsy—friends, screaming at the top of your lungs, having a horrifically jolly time. 

Christmas with the Misfits is Saturday, Dec. 17, 8pm at the Catalyst Club, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $15. catalystclub.com.

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