“How are you going to read your notes when they’re covered in blood?” was a question that was posed to me by the woman standing next to me in the crowed as we waited for GWAR’s rodies to switch over the stage and set up. It wasn’t the first question or comment people had made (most of them could be summed with “don’t get covered in too many bodily fluids”). It was a good question and I’ve been trying to figure out ever since.
The show kicked off with American Sharks; this trio from Austin set the bar high. The guitarist and bassist created a fast paced hard garage-rock wall of sound while the drummer beat his drums so hard you would have sworn he thought they owed him money. In contrast to the music, the casual way they acted and dressed left the impression that they didn’t take themselves too seriously which is always appreciated. Taking an extra few minutes out of the set to make a few bad jokes, promote their new album and give a birthday shout out, you got the sense that they were having a lot of fun and that excitement mixed with the general talent of the musicians and energy of the music made me a little sad when their set ended, but left me pumped up and ready for what was next ……a long mid show soundcheck.
Despite the extended sound check, once Corrosion of Conformity got going things got messy pretty quickly. People started flinging themselves around wildly; a couple of small punch ups broke out but were quickly stopped either by the bouncers or the crowd itself. The band, while a little grey around the edges (after 3 decades of making albums and touring who wouldn’t be?), thrashed through their set posing for the cameras and, like the American Sharks, they seemed to be really enjoying themselves and not to be outdone by the openers the drummer of CoC managed to break a symbol stand (not an easy thing to do). They didn’t spend much time talking to the audience (which considering the mild electric shock the bassist got from his mic part way through the show was probably the safer choice) and when they did it was pretty difficult to make out, the mumbled words fading into to the yells and general tussle.
With the death of singer Oderus Urungus (Dave Brockie) in March, some people were unsure of GWAR’s future. Since then the band has proved that sentiment wrong, announcing a new singer, touring, and hinting at new material being worked on. The live show focused on the search for Oderus, saying that they had lost the leader of the scumdogs and were going to use a time machine to look for him. This was a really clever way to incorporate a tribute to the singer into the mythology that the band has built for itself, obviously paying homage but doing so in a way that wasn’t maudlin. The stage itself was covered in hoses snaking back and forth alongside patch cables and plastic wrapped guitar pedals to different places, some into gargoyle statues on stage and some connecting to the band itself. After projecting a video of his last final communication, the search for Oderus began.
As the band started playing, a human-like figure in full armour with towering metal wings and cow udders sticking out of his stomach lumbered to the front of the stage and started singing. I quickly realized why all the photographers had wrapped their cameras in shower caps as blood started to spray out of his udders onto the crowd (blood milk). Red blood and jets of green bile spewed onto people from nozzles positioned in the gargoyle’s mouths one of the creatures lead a headless security guard around the stage gushing blood from where its head used to be. Within minutes, I was soaking wet and dripping black liquid at the front of a crowd who were acting like sharks that had smelled blood. I thought I could taste a coppery tinge and for a second wondered what exactly was in the liquid. A monster with a buzzsaw hand called Sawbor came onstage and was attacked by the new singer, Vulvatron, with a mace. As she defeated him and crushed his skull. Another one of the scumdogs peeled off the front of his chest and soaked the crowd with more blood from the open wound (authors note: at this point my notes become almost impossible to read). After a human slave helped him reattach his chest, a thin purple/blue 7 foot tall alien with a squid-like beak, 6 breast,s and low hanging female genitalia wandered on to the stage to be groped and spray even more fluids. So much happened at this show it would have been impossible to pay attention to just one aspect of it.
After much more time travel, brutal slaughter, crack smoking out of a gas powered crack pipe in honour of our former mayor, and gallons more bodily fluids from various organs (including Oderus’s cuttlefish of Cthulhu) the show culminated in the appearance of a gigantic green monster that looked a bit like the hulk if he were bald and had arms and legs made out of molten rock. As the last few songs were played, the behemoth had its arms ripped off to show the slimy purple tentacles underneath, a face burst from its chest in a shower of gore before eventually having its head removed entirely with the same effect as a high pressure sprinkler system.
I’ve wanted to see GWAR for a long time and they exceeded all my expectations. All the bands were good in their own rights (I was really impressed with American Sharks) but GWAR was insane, like a fever dream where Jim Henson studios produced a sci-fi horror movie with John Waters directing and a million dollar gore budget. As I took the subway home — with people moving as far away from me as they possibly could — all I could think was “I wonder if this washes out”.
Corrosion of Conformity
American Sharks | Interview
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Photos by Benjamin Telford (bentelfordphoto) | Review by Tristan Johnston