What do you get when you mix punk rock sensibilities with humble musicians from Richmond, Virginia, and then throw in a strange eco-aware sci-fi plot line and over-the-top violence and theatrics?
Well, as anyone who ever watched Beavis and Butt-Head can tell you, those ingredients can only add up to one thing: GWAR.
The crazy, unmatched band of intergalactic barbarians brought their show to the historic First Avenue stage tonight, and the experience was not to be missed.
They didn’t come alone. U.S. Bastards, the punk side project of one of GWAR’s longtime members, opened the show, followed by the hard, occult-based sound of He is Legend.
He is Legend rocked harder than I was expecting in support of their new album, FEW, which was crowd-funded and had its inception in a cabin in the woods. My favorite track off the album is “Fritz the Dog.” They closed the show with a tribute to their grunge roots, performing a cover of Nirvana’s “No Recess.”
Then came Ghoul, a completely fitting warm-up act for GWAR. They had characters, masks, a few water guns filled with fake blood and sing-along anthems that were a proper soundtrack to the mosh pit.
Finally, there came the main event. GWAR has been around for nearly 30 years.
In one incarnation or another, they have recorded thirteen albums, toured relentlessly, dotted the internet with their presence, and they even lost a Grammy to Nine Inch Nails. Their new album, The Blood of Gods, is their first without their late frontman, but as they claimed they would, GWAR has continued, and in fine style.
The show started with a decapitation and went up from there. Mixing video with stage fight choreography and mock-ups of (among others) a priest, the president and one of their cosmic nemesis, GWAR barreled through a set that lasted more than an hour.
They sprayed the audience with blood at every opportunity, cutting off body parts and slitting throats at will. But the thing that always surprises me about GWAR, and I’ve seen them a couple of times now, is how good they are. Beyond the gimmick and the blood, the band is exceptionally tight and rehearsed. They are passionate, funny and deceptively smart.
One of the better moments of the show was when, during the encore, the band singled out a father and daughter in the audience and made sure the little girl, sitting atop her father’s shoulders, got a healthy spraying of blood. She looked ecstatic.
It goes without saying I think at least one GWAR show should be on every true music fan’s bucket list.
Scott Bryan is a writer and adventurer. He has penned the books This Book Will Make You Go Crazy and Yellowville as well as the script for the independent feature film, Drunk. Now he goes to shows and runs the website getitawayfromme.com.