I was greeted by a staff that had traded in their signature black shirts for white ones. Nearly everything was covered in black trash bags. There’s only one reason that those two things happen and that reason is Gwar. It was a Tuesday night and before 6PM but I was ready– or at least as ready as I ever am for a Gwar show.
The show started ridiculously early with opening act U.S. Bastards opening the show promptly at 5:30. They jumped into their short set full of explosive and thrash style metal for the few people who made it out to First Avenue early. “We are so happy to be playing in front of all 35 of you!” vocalist Brent Purgason joked with the modest crowd. All joking aside, these guys commanded the stage and the crowd that was there. Full of down and dirty music that mixed perfectly with the raw energy, I felt bad for anyone who couldn’t make it to the show in time to see their set.
He Is Legend was up next and, if you’ve been reading this blog for awhile you might have caught onto the fact that I’m a bit obsessed with these guys. Hailing from Wilmington, North Carolina, HIL has a sound that I fell in love with the first time I heard it. It’s a bit southern rock, a little metal, and a whole lot of attitude. Per usual, singer Schuylar Croom easily stole the spotlight from the other band members as he danced his way through the all too short set. With a couple of new songs here and a couple of old ones there, HIL truly made the best of their time on stage in front of a crowd that may have never heard of them before. Sure, if you compare them to Gwar they may seem to be an odd choice for the line-up but they meshed perfectly with U.S. Bastards and helped the quickly growing crowd ease into what was to come.
Oakland, California based Ghoul was up next. Not much is known about this group as they all wear burlap sacks made into masks to conceal their identities but, what I can tell you is watching them was absolutely thrilling. Much like Gwar, Ghoul’s set was full of a story line and characters that, at times, sprayed fake blood onto the crowd (although it was nowhere near as much as Gwar did). It was easy to see that the crowd was ready and anxious to get covered in fake blood as they pushed their way up to the front closer to where the fake blood was falling from the stage. I kept my distance as I wanted to save all of my energy for the final act but watched with a smile on my face as the story line played out in front of me and the music poured into my ears.
Ghoul’s music is much like Gwar in a way but, like their highly-creative costumed characters and the story line, there’s something still unique about it. The thrash influence was real throughout their set and the speed and power behind the music was more than enough to get the crowd moving around. Ghoul is probably the only band that could have bridged the gap between the openers and the headliner last night. Them being on this line-up was truly a treat and the icing on the damn cake. I may have never heard of Ghoul prior to last night’s show but they are definitely on my radar now and I’m already looking forward to my next chance at catching them live.
Closing out the night was the almighty Gwar. If I have to explain to you who Gwar is, you’re doing something wrong but the quick overview- grotesque monsters from another planet with a hate for politicians and celebrities that typically ends in the decapitation of said politicians and celebrities causing fake blood to rain over the audience. Got it? Good.
Last night was just like every other time I’ve seen Gwar. The music was fast and heavy and the fake blood dripping from my hair was absolutely freezing. That being said, going to see Gwar never gets old. Although I just saw them in Chicago back in September, their live show had changed and new characters were brought onto the stage. Between the killing of the priest and the predictable decapitated Donald Trump, there was blood absolutely everywhere. I’m always struck by the creativity of this group. Sure, it’s gross and some of the costumes are grotesque and maybe shoving a cross up the butt of the priest causing blood to squirt everywhere was a bit much– but there’s no denying the creativity. The costumes of the members alone are impressive. Whether it’s the giant antlers jutting out of singer Pustulus Maximus’ shoulders or the shiny silver jaws that cover all of guitarist BälSäc the Jaws ‘o Death’s face, the costumes truly bring these made up characters to life and literally make them larger than life.
Gwar must have played through nearly twenty songs if not more. Their set was non-stop and was honestly a bit of a blur for me. I don’t go into many mosh pits anymore due to my high exhaustion levels and the fact that I have to get up and go to my day job everyday but as soon as I saw the silhouettes of the the members, I found myself right in the middle of it all. There was a smile on my face as I was pelted with the fake blood and other fake bodily fluids. I looked to either side of me and saw strangers with smiles on their faces as the red and blue liquids blended together as it streamed down their faces. I don’t care who you are, there is no way to not have a smile on your face as you get drenched with this crap. The atmosphere was electric and reminded me why I keep going back to see Gwar time after time. Whether you like their music or not, Gwar’s live show is more than enough to keep you entertained and is more than worth your time and the ticket price.
Gwar has been through a lot of crap over the years. In November of 2011 guitarist Cory Smoot passed away. In March of 2014, singer Dave Brockie (AKA Oderus Urungus) passed away. There’s been a lot of heartbreak through the years for both the band and fans of Gwar but they are resilient. Unfortunately, news broke a couple of weeks ago that fan favorite BälSäc the Jaws ‘o Death (Mike Derks) has been diagnosed with myelofibrosis- a life threatening disease. Mike promises to fight this and the fact that he’s still out touring, doing what he loves, pretty much says it all. If I had to use one word other than “creative” to describe this band, it would be “resilient”. This band has been through hell and back and seem to still get hit with some of the hardest punches out there but they always bounce back and never neglect their fans.
I am still covered in red dye and my shower looks like something out of a horror scene. I will look like this for a couple of days and I will wear this dye like a badge of honor. Putting a Gwar show into words is damn near impossible. It’s just something that you have to experience for yourself.