The Showbox Sodo
Gwar: The very name strikes terror into the tame, vanilla masses. It’s one thing to be a metal fan, but another to be a follower of a 43 billion-year-old warlord named Oderus Urungus and his band of disgusting warlocks that are ready to shred guitars and shoot fake blood and jism onto the crowd. Tonight would be the “Madness at the Center of Time” tour and I was ready to discover, for the first time, some of this madness that Gwar is legendary for.
The crowd looked like they were drinking gallons of cheap liquor and smoking questionable drugs in an 80s heavy metal wet dream. Before the show even started, I was intrigued by these folks and the scene in general. There were juggaloos without makeup, bikers with tattooed skulls, requisite black-clad goths, metal heads wearing Judas Priest shirts, and a whole mess of large-bosomed ladies with torn up metal t-shirts. Many were wearing “Gwar-dye” t-shirts, stained pink from the infamous blood and fluid spewing that occurs from the stage. The excessive eye makeup was already running as much as the prevalent fishnet stockings. They hadn’t even taken the stage, and I was already getting the Gwar experience.
But how does a band with no charting albums maintain such a loyal following of metal geeks and enthusiastic newbies? The answer was close at hand once the lights came down and the crowd started singing along to Black Sabbath‘s “War Pigs,” which was blaring from the massively shrill Showbox Sodo speakers. “Just like witches at black masses…”
Gwar hit the stage and immediately started into their unique brand of horror-core thrash metal. This shit was loud, ear-splitting, skull-cracking, and infectiously horrifying. There was plenty of screaming, loud-ass guitars, and live rock n’ roll energy that made people nuts. The songs were all part of a fascinating narrative of anger and fantasy horror. The first 5 minutes of your first Gwar experience is jaw dropping.
Visually, their stage show is insane. They wear huge elaborate costumes that look absolutely impossible to play in, and resemble a cross between a Megadeth album cover, Hellraiser‘s Pinhead, and The Masters of the Universe. This was an incredible live horror show with characters and mythology that Gwar have been crafting since their inception in 1984. It was political, funny, ridiculous, and fucking heavy. I was entranced by this alien world.
I soon found myself in the pit with what looked like extras from American History X and broads that, no doubt, would have knocked me out for a warm can of Rainier. I took a Richard Sherman elbow and shoulder check that knocked me back about 6 feet. In my younger days, rock shows were a chance to release angst, crowd surf away whatever bullshit that I was worrying about, and maybe even drop a Doc Marten on someone’s head. I hadn’t done that since the 90s, but now, chest-tattooed ladies were bringing their forearms towards me with a beer soaked bravado. It was on. This wasn’t my scene, but I was gonna dive in and swim around in these questionable Gwar fluids anyway. This was a people experience as much as a concert, and I was hyped and ready to punch someone for fun while rocking out.
Soon the casualties started streaming by. Folks were lasting a few songs in the front, blind drunk, covered in goo, and then knocking their way out like a human pinball game. The next time that I’m fed up with this godforsaken world and the shitty humans that reside in it, I’m gonna head to a Gwar concert. Anything goes. I was just imagining those concerts at the local Woodland Park Zoo with everyone’s ironed blankets spread out, staking out their spaces and settling into a nice evening of music. Gwar fans could never be this contained. I’d love to see them stomping the fine-cheese picnic baskets of zoo goers, releasing the lions, eating people’s children, and drawing satanic symbols on ponies. This show was crazy because it was it’s own zoo fantasy. I was in a cage, ready for battle against Gwar‘s alien warlord enemies, along with a few of their fans.
By the time that the band hit the song “Hail, Genocide,” from their 2010 release, Bloody Pit of Horror, the crowd was insane, moshing and crashing into anyone that was anywhere close to them. Gwar soon brought out a strapped-down Justin Bieber doll, expertly crafted on a box that one could easily surmise was filled with fluids that would soon be spewing into the audience. Sure enough, Bieber‘s chest was ripped open, intestines being munched by one of the many Gwar characters. The entrails kept coming like a magician’s handkerchief out of a sleeve, as 4 or 5 blood spouts soaked the crowd. Next time that you see a laser show at a concert, punch the promoter in the face and demand Gwar madness–this was a stage show of epic proportions.
While the place was an obvious dude-fest, there were many nods and odes toward women. The props included a Queen of England figure whose breasts were ripped off, thus spouting much blood. Also, there was a woman whose “brains and vocal chords” were removed, so that she would be “the perfect girlfriend.” She ended up being ripped open and goring the crowd. This obvious misogyny would have been out of place if not for the hundreds of Gwar-ettes in the crowd, seemingly unfazed by such horrific and woman-hating mutilation. As I said, anything goes at a Gwar show. It’s not a place for morals, political correctness, or general sensitivity. To be fair though, Gwar seems to hate, despise, and mutilate all humans and humanoids, indiscriminately, regardless of sex.
I had to step out for fresh air and a break from probably what was one of the loudest shows that I have ever seen. Immediately, I could see the casualties from the show, which included a woman who fell out of a wheelchair and hit her head on the pavement. Kudos to the Showbox Sodo staff that were ready to help and wait for the ambulance. It seems that only at a Gwar concert would someone be so fucked up that they were actually injured after already being placed in a wheelchair. Well… for me, it was time to go; I was officially Gwar’d and might leave in a wheelchair, myself, if I stayed longer. Plus, I had to go sign a petition to help get Gwar booked as the halftime band at the Superbowl.
The only real disappointment was that we didn’t get to do the interview that we had scheduled with Oderus (aka Dave Brockie). It was cancelled the day of, because of delays that they were having at the Canadian border. This, I guess, I understood though, because with the amount of secretions and fluids that they travel with, border security must get quite suspicious. Well, I’ll just wash the stains from my shirt, let the ringing in my ears die down, and wait ’till next time. I’ve learned that this is just a rite of passage in my first gWAR. Next time I’ll be just a little more prepared for battle.