GWAR @ Corona Theatre

GWAR You Experienced?: A GWARticle

Sawborg Destructo taunts the crowd with his saw. Photo by Idle Matt of Radio Fun.

It's difficult to write about GWAR. Like any other over the top spectacle, what GWAR does, and what GWAR means to their audience, is almost impossible to format into paragraphs. For the adventurous, "hey, come see this band of giant rubber monsters that make thrash metal and dismember things... oh yeah, and wear white, they're gonna spray you with all kinds of fluids," is generally enough of an enticement. For the sane, however, it usually takes a little bit more convincing, but here's the problem: GWAR is magic. And like any other kind of magic, it only works on those who want to believe.

Jizmak on drums, with Vulvatron, Blöthar and Beefcake. Photo by Julia Gualtieri.

The GWAR mythology has changed a lot since the death of frontman Oderus Urungus (Dave Brockie) earlier this year. To fill his monstrously clawed feet, the originator of the Beefcake the Mighty character (Michael Bishop) has returned as the new co-lead vocalist, an antler-adorned warrior named Blöthar. Also new to the mythology is Vulvatron, a blonde, endowed space assassin from the future who spews blood from her breasts (an act recently forbidden by local authorities in Nashville, TN) and shares vocal leads to the delight of GWAR fans. Her big, raw, catscratch vocals and cocky stage persona are a welcome addition to the band, which has been mostly estrogen free since the departure of Slymenstra Hymen in the early 2000s. Together with the other key GWAR personas (Balsac the Jaws of Death and Pustulus Maximus on guitar, Beefcake the Mighty on bass, Jizmak da Gusha on drums, and Bone Snapper and Sawborg Destructo on... assorted violence, um, backing vocals), Blöthar and Vulvatron unleashed the Eternal Tour on Montreal's, Corona Theatre last week, and with it, a fitting tribute to their late frontman.

Vulvatron's blood spurting breasts and Bonesnapper on the mic. Photo by Stephanie Ng Wan.

With its original 1912 carved woodwork swathed in protective plastic, the Corona Theatre (and its ponchoed front of house bouncers) was dressed for battle, and GWAR, of course, was happy to oblige. This tour's storyline features time machines, pizza delivery, and the search for a missing Oderus, as well as the guest appearance of his famed Cuttlefish of Cthulhu, still spraying across the space-time continuum, all soundtracked to popular GWAR numbers like "Saddam a Go-Go", "Hate Love Songs", "Madness at the Core of Time", and "Let Us Slay". It ends with the inevitable, a solemn (well, as solemn as GWAR will ever get) farewell ceremony featuring Oderus' weapon of choice, the longsword Unt Lick, and then a primal scream in Oderus' memory. I would be lying if I didn't admit that the moment moved me. I have seen GWAR several times with Oderus at the helm, and he is, and will continue to be, missed.

I've seen GWAR a couple of other times and stayed safely clean, but here is my collection of stained shirts from over the years. The one on the left is from 2002's Blood Drive tour.

GWAR closed the show with the excellent medley of Pet Shop Boys' "West End Girls" and Jim Carroll's "People Who Died" that they originally performed for the A.V. Club's Undercover project. The GWAR version has altered lyrics that reference, among others, deceased GWAR guitar player Cory Smoot (Flattus Maximus), Dimebag Darrell from Pantera, and Mike Scaccia from Ministry. The final verse of the song is about Dave's death:

Dave died alone in his chair in his room.
He had just turned 50, it was way too soon.
Oderus’ boat went up in flames,
Now all of Vallhalla chants his name!
Oderus, I miss you more than all the others.
I salute you my brother!

Oderus died, died. (X4)
He was all of our friend and he died.

For an hour or so, GWAR did what they have been doing for decades now: blending thrash and punk, cracking jokes, dousing the audience in colored liquid, ripping apart rubber dummies, but most of all, reminding their fans that life isn't always so serious. That's GWAR's best magic trick of all; under all the bone saws and hyperviolence, under the blood, slime and semen, the dismemberment and the crude humor, under all of that is the chance to celebrate, to let go and to remember what it feels like to lose yourself in imagination, get dirty with your friends and believe in monsters. As Oderus once said in a 2008 interview: "GWAR is all about satire, GWAR is all about sarcasm, GWAR is all about freedom, and really, GWAR is all about love."

Here I am, covered in GWAR fluids after the show.

--Angelica brings you the best (and the worst) in rock'n'roll, country, punk, and metal on BVST, every Wednesday from 7 to 9 PM on CJLO.