I first saw GWAR playing outside one sunny Saturday afternoon on the center green at my college in the south (we called them colleges then) on a makeshift platform, surrounded by dorms and balconies where people watched and didn’t quite know what they were trying to prove, all dressed in diapers and throwing plastic spiders and worms and fake vomit at anyone that got close to the stage. They were fellow collegiates from our neighboring Virginia, and we all thought those artsy kids in Richmond were kinda crazy anyway. Halfway through the set campus security cut them off, something about ‘indecent behavior’, maybe not fitting the bible belt mentality of the institution (although we were the number one party school in the south at the time if I remember correctly). That was enough to keep us interested.
The next time I saw GWAR was same-town small-time coffeehouse-turn-music venue at night (yes I know there are a lot of hyphens in here), where we all proceeded to push aside the tables and chairs start a mosh circle (they were circles then, the not-as-user-friendly ‘pits’ weren’t vogue yet). More diapers, more rubber spiders and snakes getting thrown at us, but the troupe was graduating into monstrous paper mache heads and appendages for the delve into the intergalactic helm. This was before GWAR was an ‘official’ band at hand, no records out yet, just a steady murmur of bloody good fun.
Fast forward a few or 20 years and GWAR went way past the homemade costumes and queasy intro to full on bloody, putrid legends of the space traveling universe, characters known throughout the metal world and shows that went far beyond interactive. The released a debut record in ’88, and their second album Scumdogs of the Universe in ’90 put them on the metal map, and cameos in movies (’95’s Empire Records brownie scene was hilarious) and the now cult classics Beavis and Butthead and Jerry Springer made them, if not a household name, at least generated some peaked interest from the middle American front. The cast changed somewhat throughout the decades, but GWAR leader and vocalist Oderus Urungus (aka Dave Brockie) remained constant, carrying the GWAR legacy through generations of fans and gory fanfare to create a mythos of their very own.
The last couple times I saw GWAR recently was in Las Vegas, and those in attendance and packed against the barricades were smiling ear to ear and loving every blood spattered moment of carnage. GWAR never took things seriously, but pushed the envelope of bad taste and fun into a realm of their own making, and those that got a chance to see it go down in person will always remember the wonderful spectacle of GWAR. We have the blood spattered clothes to prove it.
Dave Brockie passed away this week at the age of 50. The days of GWAR are over, but the legacy and legendary shows will live on in the hearts and memories of fans for more decades to come.