50: The age at which Dave Brockie, a founding member of Gwar and the man who portrayed the band’s larger-than-life leader, Oderus Urungus, died of a heroin overdose at his Virginia home earlier this year. When I heard the news it was difficult to imagine that the band, who had soldiered through 30 years of quintessential shock-metal, would be able to continue on without it’s alien gladiator. His presence on stage was one of circus barker and merciless assassin, deciding the fate of many a poor human scum night after night, city after city. Sure, Kiss and Alice Cooper maybe lay claim to being the first, but it was Gwar that took the shock performance to its cartoonish and gory extremes. And it was Brockie, scratch that, Oderus, who ran the show. Nothing has yet to come close.
14: The age at which I encountered my first Gwar show. I lied to my parents, telling them I was spending the night at Chris Hough’s right down the street, when in fact his mom was going to drive us to Cincinnati, drop us off in a shady part of town, and let us experience our first Gwar show uninhibited. I doubt that I smoked any reefer or covertly sipped a beer, we were high on bloodlust and seeing all the hijacks we’d only seen on scratchy VHS tapes live on the stage. By night’s end we were adequately drenched in detritus and even met the band, sans costumes, behind the club. Chris’ mom waited patiently in the van as the Sexecutioner autographed my shirt “I sucked Sexy till cum came out my nose!” Understandably when my mother found the shirt it was considered contraband, worth a grounding, and locked away for years. In mom’s defense, she did triumphantly return the shirt to me the day I left for college.
16: This month’s Gwar show was my 16th show. I admit that without shame, guilt, or apologies. I may not own their barbeque sauce, or have purchased one of their albums since the late ’90s, but I’ll always see them live when they come to town. This time I was joined by Chris Hough, who’s mom, you might remember, took us to our first Gwar show 23 years ago. Though I’m what you might call an infrequent Gwar fan these days, Chris takes a bus to the band’s annual festival in Virginia every year.
3: The number of Gwar shows attended by my wife. God bless her heart. She’s from Brazil, a place where metal rules the day but Gwar never reached. Needless to say she loved her virgin experience years back and prompts me to take her whenever the band rolls through. On this night she had a much better time than I did. Coincidentally 3 is the number of Gwar albums I own, and admittedly all anyone should need to own. 3 is also the number of songs I recognized at this show, and the number of members on stage who I recognized — drummer Jizmak Da Gusha, bassist Beefcake the Mighty, and guitarist Balsac the Jaws of Death. Are we seeing a trend?
0: The amount of coordination and stage appeal of the “new” Gwar. Sadly, Blothar, the band’s new leader, is a cut-rate Oderus. The guy has antlers and an udder. Where Oderus swung a might broadsword, Blothar has a shield. Even Vulvatron, the band’s new “vixen” was a pale comparison to Slymentra Hymen – who once juggled fire and hasn’t been seen since the glory days — and that “lack” was felt. In a way I felt sympathy for Vulvatron, as she could be a star in a somewhat “lesser” version of Gwar. But this was Gwar, the same band many of whom, in this “now” cult following, tattooed themselves to pledge allegiance
.5: As in one-half. I don’t want to, as a lifelong Gwar fan, get into the politics of booking a tour without Oderus Urungus, but the stage show displayed half the blood, if not less, and half the theatrics. I could almost sense the smirk coming from the faces of Blasac and Beefcake (or even Blothar, who was played by longtime Beefcake, Michael Bishop) even behind their foam masks. Logic would dictate that any Gwar show post Oderus would celebrate his legacy, with hits and misses, and plenty of social commentary. Not a political or cultural figured was slaughtered. At my last Gwar show both John McCain and Obama were fed to the audience. Now it was just a deformed pizza boy. I figured at the very least we’d see a prototype of the Darren Wilson –an unruly pig – being torn apart for teenagers to soak in the guilty’s bloodshed. No? It’s been done before. Or at least I’ve seen Pope John Paul fed to the band’s now-dormant warrior dinosaur.
2: The number of weeks this version Gwar might last on Broadway. Had I the connections, and the creative reigns “Gwar: The Musical” would be a Broadway phenomenon. In the death of Odreus, and Brockie, there is three decades of legacy to dramatize. There are at least a dozen songs which could be exploited exactly the way they were meant with a huge budget. And….Gwar possess a mythology that wasn’t once hinted on the stage by the “new ” Gwar on this night. The biggest gag came with Oderus’ “schlong” (aka the Cuttlefish of Cthulu) being brought back in a time-machine from the past. It subsequently “came” on the audience and not a figment of the leader materialized the rest of the night, even though the stage-show was wholly invested in bringing Oderus back to the stage. From this Gwar fan’s perspective, they’re better off mining the classics, putting a hack in Oderus’s now charred rubber suit and scavenging what’s left of the empire.