Reviews

GWAR @ The Vogue Theatre – November 12th 2012

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Gwaaarrrgghhlllgh. This was GWAR’s original name and it makes perfect sense for the band from outer-space to have a name that is more of a sound, or grunt, than actual words with meaning. Being a satirical metal band with tremendous ability, equalled by the most memorable live performance you will likely see in this decade (or ever…), GWAR are a band not to be missed.

For as far back as my memory will go, GWAR have been playing an annual show in Vancouver and typically, it’s between the second to last week of October and the third week of November. On the 12th of November this year, it seemed to accentuate the storyline of the show. In the darkness before the band entered the stage, the voice of God warned us concert-goers that all of the mumbo jumbo regarding the rapture/apocalypse/2012 was real! He, the ultimate omnipresent being, would descend from the skies to take out the scum of the Earth and bring the good to heaven. First on his list was taking out the vilest of creatures, the members of GWAR. The warriors (GWAR-IORS?) called themselves the Scumdogs of the Universe before being banished to Earth, and lucky for them, their history with scum helped them and they quickly showed God what’s up.

Before I delve too far into the performance aspect of the show, I feel the need to touch on the actually musicality of their set. Too often, their profound ability is outshined by the mixture of their costumes/characters, the hilarity of their lyrical content and the fake blood being spewed all over the place, which is usually the result of someone being brutally “murdered” onstage. But honestly, to call this band a powerhouse seems too small a word. GWAR is really the only word that could even begin to come close. They have been successfully making and releasing albums for the past 28 years, while touring consistently. They continue to release fantastic music, year after year, and their stage show seems to get better and better. They are the hardest working aliens in ANY country on this planet and I don’t even know what most of them look without make up and shoulder pads of massive spikes, because I would rather not. The characters that the musicians inhabit onstage are more prevalent to the music.

Depending on your knowledge of metal, the newest member of the band might be somebody that you recognize. Taking the character of Pustulus Maximus on lead guitar, Brent Purgason of Cannibal Corpse began touring with the band on this tour. The previous guitarist was Flattus Maximus, but his human form (Cory Smoot) passed away late last year on tour, forcing the band to retire his character out of respect for their friend. The rest of the band includes singer and only founding (human) member still in the band, Dave Brokie, or as fans affectionately know him, Oderus Urungus. As well, there is bassist Beefcake the Mighty (who has been around for eons, but the inhabitants of the costume have changed a number of times). Rounding out the crew is Balsac the Jaws of Death on rhythm guitar and Jizmac Da Gusha on the drums. As ridiculous as their names seem, their costumes far surpass a few words. A few pieces here and there, but the majority of their outfits are made of make-up. That, and the crazy shoulder spikes, a mask or headpiece, shoes (or horse {centaur?} legs), and some sort of covering for their lower half. This ranges from a Roman style armoured skirt/apron to a giant dangling phallic figure between Orderus’ legs and nothing else but a few strips of fabric. But really, you just have to see it to believe it.

The other thing that makes them so original is their absolute dedication to their mythos. Each band member has a character name and outfit, but they also each have a distinct personality, with their own traits and mannerisms. From the song lyrics to their online community (www.gwar.net), this band has a back story like you never imagined. You can learn about what planet they came from, how they created the human race by mating with the local animals of Earth, why they were frozen in a great tomb in the barren waste of Antarctica, and even what caused them to de-thaw! They are a heavy metal geek’s wet dream in a band, to simplify. Especially if you like comedy thrown in there and you don’t take yourself too seriously… I did mention they are quite satirical, right? But don’t let that discount how brutal they can be. These creatures almost resembling demons can shred like you wouldn’t believe.

I bet when I mentioned on-stage “murders” earlier, it at least confused you. This means that you’ve never seen GWAR. Wikipedia says that they are known for their “lampooning of celebrities.” If you can call “chopping a guy’s head off to begin the show, who proceeded to bleed fake blood all over the crowd,” lampooning, then sure! Mostly, they spew blood everywhere and try to get it on as many people as possible. After a song or two, singer Oderus Urungus struck a massive blade into God’s head (who then bled onto the audience), then using God’s own cross, sodomized his oversized fake booty (which also spewed blood onto the crowd). Usually, there’s a lot more blood trajectory, but being that every previous time I had seen GWAR in Vancouver, the show was at the Commodore Ballroom. This led me to imagine that they might have been trying to get comfortable with the logistics of the Vogue Theatre on Granville St. Most of the audience gore seemed to happen in the first 8 or 10 rows of people for much of the show. That’s not to say that they didn’t deliver on the gore, though. After defeating God, they brought out Hitler. Oderus announced that Hitler is an asshole (and he’s right!), so they ripped the face from him. They pulled his skin right off the front of his body all the way to the bottom of his ribs, and yet again, blood went flying everywhere. Next up was Jesus. They figured the best way to get back at God would be to kill his only son… So I guess they brought him back from the dead for the “real crucifixion of Christ.” After piercing his right hand, the blood show began. Quickly, the blood spurts led to them tearing the bottom part of Jesus’ body right off of him. With his turtle-shell seemingly protecting him from the blood, their executioner continued cutting at him until all the skin was torn off of his body. Jesus was nothing but a skinless face, a mass of stringy guts hanging from his ribs and his left arm was left mostly intact aside from a nail through his hand (and the bloooooood). But aside from that, it was a picture wrap on ol’ Jesus. This was followed by attacks on Obama, and then Super-Hardcore Jesus. Not many people made it out of that pit without blood staining all of their light clothing… And those that came out clean clearly didn’t have nearly as much fun as GWAR intended! It’s a show of gore and you really must live it to believe it!

If you missed GWAR’s tour this time around, make a note in your calendar for next year. All signs point to a mid fall stop in Vancouver. Who knows, maybe they will even play the Vogue again. That venue is on the rise in the metal community in this city and I wouldn’t be surprised to see more and more bands of GWAR’s calibre switching over from the Commodore Ballroom. As a lover of Vancouver’s history, long live The Vogue Theatre (est. 1941).

Photos © Ryan Rose

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