The GWARBQ! The GWARBQ!

•GWARBQ 2015• Is GWAR Truly IMMORTAL? By Brian McDonald

“GWAR can't go on without Dave” and “Without Brockie, GWAR is dead.” I’ve seen it written many times, in many different ways on the fan sites dedicated to the intentionally offensive band that celebrated 30 years of killing the human scum of “This Toilet Earth’ as they call it.

How could a band that lost their lead guitarist Cory Smoot, aka Flattus Maximus, in 2011, and its leader/vocalist Dave Brockie, aka Oderus Urungus, in 2014, not fall apart?

I contacted my life long buddy, Boss Man, who was with me when I heard my first bootleg cassette of the young band, probably 28 years ago. I asked the guy who gave it to me what to expect. He said he couldn’t describe but we would probably like it…. We were hooked. Ridiculousness on every track, like the man said, it can’t be explained. We purchased VIP tickets and made plans to go to the 6th annual GWARBQ at Hadads Lake in historic Richmond Va. to investigate these troubling prophecies. After all, if they are on the way out, they certainly could not put a successful music Festival together, right?

The weekend started with a B4BQ on the 14th at The National, an amazing venue full of ornate woodwork and beautiful architecture. There could not be a more suitable backdrop for a metal show. The Lineup included Cattle Decapitation, Born of Osiris, and Fear Factory to name a few and then Arch Enemy came out and delivered a mind blowing set. Coal Chamber closed the show with a great set of old and new songs. We returned to the hotel where we had a room that smelled like a dead horse had crawled under the bed and decided to hang out by the pool and mingle. That was the right move, no doubt. I’m not going to go into what I witnessed or partook of that night because I have daughters that may see this but let’s just say it was worth the price of the ticket just to party with everyone I met that evening. We met lots of people, from everywhere. We also got to put faces to names from the FB groups Bohab Central, Gwar Fans Unite, and Slaves of Gwar for Life. Look them up if you think you are ready or want to learn more, but tread lightly and do some research before you ask a ton of lame questions or comment without knowing facts. These people can smell a “Fauxhab” many states away. This strange term will explain itself later. The sun was not far from rising so we crashed.

Minutes passed, it seemed, and it was time to go to the lake. We walked through the gate and it was obvious this was going to be epic. Rows of unique merchants and food carts of every kind. GWAR must have hired Gene Simmons as their merchandizing agent as their bloody mark was everywhere, from free GWATER, GWAQBQ Sauces including BOHABENERO, GWAR brand Vape Juice from Mt.Baker Vapor flavors include Jizmoglobbin, Bloodbath, Spew, and German Chocolate Beefcake. This year Oderus Ale was the GWAR beer and I can't leave out the CIGWARS also available for purchase. Two main stages were on either side of the lake. The crowd was dressed to impress, from almost nothing to way too much and everything in-between. Of course there was a lake, but this lake was equipped with a giant bike ramp, slides, rope swings and a giant pool for anyone needing a break from the heat or crowd. I never went near it; this day was so full of must see acts there was no time for that. I couldn’t help noticing throughout the day that members from many of the bands were checking out other bands and enjoying the scene before or after their sets.

We did not see all of the bands we wanted to but came close. We ran back and forth between the two main stages like kids being chased by the cops, being old farts with brittle bones kept us on the edge of the pits, watching everyone thrash and rage and brutalize each other, but at the same time, protecting and helping each other if there was a fall or bad collision. We did see one potentially terrible incident when a guy was accidentally hit in the throat during DOWN’s emotional (for me at least) set. He was scooped up in a split second by the guy next to him and quickly dragged out. They got water down his throat and calmed him down and he was able to breathe. EMT‘s were patrolling constantly and were helping him in minutes.

Let’s get into the bands that stood out for us. We did not experience a bad set, any technical problems or any setback you would expect at a festival this packed with performances. American Sharks got us started at the Slauterama Stage; they are sort of hardcore light, a little slower paced than most here but honest and powerful. Then Gritter on the Scumdog Stage, Child Bite at the third, centralized stage, The Slutman Pavillion, named after the vocalists previous to Brockie. Then after what felt like a beating from Valkyrie and Ringworm we went to a Meet and Meat and Greet with The Scumdogs themselves, GWAR... I’ve met most of them before over the years but have never been to one of these. Up close the costumes are each masterful works of art, but I cant imagine playing an instrument, or performing anything in any one of them. They signed our stuff, told us off and sent us on our way. I thought I died and went to Valhalla immediately after walking out because I ran into Heavy Metal Jesus, got a quick selfie with him and a blessing. We met him at the right time as we walked directly up on Goatwhore, fast, brutal riffs and as loud as it gets. The singer had the entire audience in almost a hypnotic spell, except for the pit that was exploding in every direction. Towards the end of that audible assault we slid out of there to get up close for The Dickies, and they still know how to grab the attention of any crowd. I felt like a kid again, early So Cal Punk has a special place in my guts and they absolutely killed. We walked away from that fun directly to where things got serious. Phil Anselmo of Pantera and his band Down kind of reset the day. It was all you would expect from him and more…much more. He seemed humble and welcoming as he constantly interacted with the crowd between songs. He seemed to still be mourning as he dedicated one song after another to bands he respects and brothers he has lost. His voice was great. He complained about allergies messing with him but I heard no one complain. I noticed Brad Roberts (GWAR's drummer Jizmak) take over on drums and then guitarists from many other bands traded off to play on stage with him. He looked so excited and I thought it might turn emotional for a second but he kept right on going and seemed to gain strength and momentum because of it. An incredible tribute and I’m sure it meant the world to him. I later learned that this was common place at a Down show but it was powerful for me. Then, it was on to see Clutch, they never disappoint and it was a chance to catch a breath before the main event.

The rest of the park quickly turned into a ghost town as the crowd funneled toward the Scumdog Stage. We waited almost quietly, as if waiting for smoke to come from the chimney at the Vatican, but smoke is not what we were waiting for. That changed quickly when Sleazy P. Martini showed his face about 5 seconds after his hair did. He belittled the crowd like only Sleazy can and after knocking the obligatory head off of whoever or whatever that was, the bloodbath began. There they were. It’s overwhelming every time. Blood spraying everywhere, even from gwargoyles placed around the stage, like it was hooked to an endless supply. Blothar, the new leader, has had some upgrades. His attire is refined and menacing with its giant antlers and utter-like sack with four penises, affectionately known as his Bag of Dicks. His voice was as thick and strong as his presence. His seems very comfortable in his place at the front. The performance was perfect, of course. The pace of the show was beyond frantic. Characters battling, ripping the latex flesh off of other characters, slaves thrashing about spraying every person in reach like their job depended on it. If you blink, you miss something. They blasted through 12 songs that span their recording career. The set included a rare performance from the sadistic, perverted Sexecutioner, a tune from Sleazy P Martini, their manager (Don Draculich), songs from the past up to Battle Maximus, and the latest studio release that is actually a tribute album to the late Cory Smoot. Crowd surfers included boys and girls of all ages, races, genders and species over a pit that could only be described as a herd of Tasmanian Devils on bath salts. It was life affirming somehow… when the love of music brings people together, we are at our absolute best. We were satisfied but still a little sad. Then we realized why they had The Decedents close the show, to cheer us up a little and cut down on the suicides due to post slaying depression. Milo still has that soothing voice paired with Steve Eggerton’s ripping guitar, and after a few songs, I believe it worked. We were quiet and just tried to let it all soak in for the ride back to the hotel.

The after party was also in our hotel so we hosed off and headed to the pool as that seemed to be the hub of info for the weekend. It was also the hub for some moose meat grilled over some coals in the grass and cookies of unknown origin and ingredients that tasted like battery acid… thanks Jay. After a sound check we went into a small conference room and had an intimate metal show with Castles of Colossus and the GWAR/Green Jell-O cover band GWELL-O… they were both young, energetic bands with a ton of talent… I wasn’t sure if it was the heat, the cookies or the fatigue kicking in but I was sure I was hallucinating when I looked up and saw Michael Bishop (currently Blothar-vocals, previously Beefcake-bass), who reappeared after years of teaching music at UVA, walking past me. He had come by to hang out with everyone and see a fan for a picture with his GWAR CAR. I have never known of a band more in touch with or adored by their loyal fans Sunday came around and a Brutal Brunch was the plan of the day at The GWARBAR. Located only a block from the run down Dairy where it all started. It is full of things to keep your attention while you await your last meal. Members of the band were on hand at different times helping the staff, bartending, talking with friends and fans, taking pictures and relaxing. Mike Derks aka Balsac The Jaws of Death, managing partner of the bar, did it all from stocking beer to mixing drinks to setting up tents for shade as if he was not a rock star. Matt Maguire aka SawBorg told me that they all enjoyed being able to take the rockstar off and put it in a box so they could be as accessible as possible to everyone. The inside of the bar was packed, it’s not a big place but there is a “family’ feel to the place and nobody seemed to mind the close quarters. We opted to stay out back, meet people from all over the country and share stories and meat sandwiches. A couple of bands kept the overflow entertained in a park across the street. We drove home to Norfolk and knew we had both already made plans to go next year, no matter what, without speaking a word. It was the greatest weekend of both of our lives.

So will the band die without Dave? Absolutely not. Even though losing Dave Brokie for a Bohab was like our moms losing Elvis, I don’t think it CAN be killed. Instead of falling back and finding other outlets, they banned together in any way they could to support the remaining members. The nay-sayers do not decide this, the fans do. There is no other earthly creature like a Bohab. Bohab means Habitually Boring, a term used to describe a fan who cannot seem to talk about anything else other than GWAR. Intended as a motivator for said person to DO SOMETHING with all of that “fan energy” towards any creative conclusion, be it art, music, or anything other than just talking about it. The funny thing is, they consider it a term of endearment instead of a insult, but let me assure you, the Bohabs are some of the most incredibly gifted, underground artists, performers and musicians, all of whom openly giving credit to Dave or the band that inspired and motivated them. It is a beautiful thing to witness. If you can’t see the beauty behind the gore or the musical artistry behind the growls and expletives, then it might not be for you. Hopefully a new album will be on the horizon soon, which in my eyes will be the most important album yet. But with 13 studio albums, numerous full length movies including Grammy nominated Phallus in Wonderland and more side projects than Bill Cosby, it doesn’t matter if they put out new material or ever do anything but covers of their own songs with numerous lineup changes, GWAR will never die. Dave Brockie has inspired so many people with his genius that showed itself in his music, his art and his ability to offend or touch the heart of anyone he came into contact with. He pointed out and ridiculed everything that’s not right in the world with Oderus and that’s why we loved him so much.

The GWARBQ was indescribable, just like that first bootleg cassette tape. Obviously a success. Maybe the explanation is simply like Oderous said, ‘Everything we do is Fucking Perfect.’

RIP DAVE BROCKIE AND CORY SMOOT.

Brian McDonald

I am a 49-year-old child who refuses to grow up and put away his childish ways.  I have lived in the Tidewater/Hampton Roads/7-Cities/Coastal Virginia (wtf, decide on a name) area my entire life.  If I'm not in the Atlantic Ocean with one of my daughters, I'm listening to punk, metal, hardcore, or any hybrid of the three.  I still think I'll be the drummer in a killer band one day.  I'm really just a simple fan of truthful, brutal music, and happy if that's all I ever am.