November 3, 2014
Gwar is a legendary band whose reputation usually entices would-be audience members to seek them out, sneer at them, or simply become bug-eyed at the stories. To see them perform is like watching characters from the Warhammer Fantasy world perform a Banana Splits routine.
The satirical, thrash metal, costume band is 30 years old and has had the occasional rotation of all its performers with the one constant of founding member Dave Brockie (also known by his stage name, Oderus Urungus). In March, Brockie died of a heroin overdose, and the absence of his stage persona was not lost to the other outrageously costumed characters in their latest performance; in fact, the storyline of the band's first post-Urungus show centers on trying to locate the missing lead singer.
Though people have written about the depths of Gwar's social and political satire, there did not seem to be much subtext in the antics of last night's show. It essentially consisted of the buffoonery of the gloriously grotesque characters whose dialogue, in between songs, was tantamount to, "Hey, you guys, where's Oderus?" The characters use a time machine to try to track down their missing frontman and hijinks ensue.
As the gang traverses time and space, they dish out a healthy supply of sophomoric humor and saturate everyone standing within 20 feet of the stage with variously colored fluids, which they distribute by equally colorful means. The battles that they stage with various hostile alien life forms result in fountains of blood. The severed phallus of Oderus, which materializes through a slot in the magic time portal when the missing character mistakes it for a glory hole, showers the audience in green semen.
This form of baptism is the quintessence of what Gwar is all about. Thus, despite this tour's being a major turning point for dedicated fans, who will judge whether or not they accept Oderus's two replacement characters, Blothar (Michael Bishop) and Vulvatron (Kim Dylla), as Gwar's new lead vocalists, the novelty of the act has always provided its principal draw. People wanting to thrash to raucous music in a mosh pit while being anointed with ceremonial filth can still do so.
Given what transpired onstage last night at The Observatory, it is difficult to make an argument for profundity in Gwar's performance. That being said, perhaps on some level it is significant to engage in base orgiastic rites as a way of escaping the banality of modern life.
On a final note to poignancy, the show concluded with a reverent farewell ceremony in which Oderus Urungus's sword was placed in a position of prominence on the stage and bowed down to by all the members of the band. This was followed directly by a spirited rendition of Jim Carroll's anthem "People Who Died."