Every band has a different standard for success.
For GWAR, that standard is the sexual enslavement and destruction of the human race. Or creating a brilliant satirical commentary on violence and sex in metal culture. Or putting on the most disgusting, gory, violent and fun rock show anyone could ever see.
If Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead” had been from space, had a wide array of barbarian armor, trained with Skeletor and was into thrash metal, it’d be a little bit like gore metal band GWAR.
As band mythology reveals, GWAR actually is aliens bred from the scum of the universe and abandoned on Antarctica by their masters, destined to devour the earth. But luckily for hundreds of screaming fans, GWAR made it to the Royal Grove on Friday night.
Yet around 1:00 p.m. on Friday, eight hours before the quintet of alien warriors and their cadre of slaves took to the stage, the Grove had a distinctly different atmosphere. It was like seeing the beast in a larval stage.
Rubber blood splattered flesh taped to stands holding amplifiers. Black-shirted roadies, tattooed and hungover, rolled trunks of drums and bones up to the stage. A table of sandwich supplies and three dozen or so fresh towels were piled on the right of the stage as strippers walked to the dressing room in their work clothes.
Bizarre doesn’t quite describe the scene, but few things could. This is, after all, the band that settled out of court with the Athens, Ga. police that shut down a concert; these are the men that fed Jerry Springer to a giant mechanical maggot during a special on Metal Bands Rotting Our Childrens’ Minds; this is the filth of the universe who killed all the dinosaurs and subjects humans to projectile bile and audible degeneracy.
I watched bassist Beefcake the Mighty (human name Todd Evans) go through his gear for the night’s show, letting me lift up his heavy, spiked rubber shoulder pads and battle kilt adorned with 14 skulls around the waist band.
“One there for every 100,000 people I’ve killed,” Beefcake said.
The only problem with GWAR, he said, is that some people really think GWAR wants to destroy the entire world.
“The original idea was a statement. It was a parody of metal, making fun of every band in the metal genre,” Beefcake said. “I don’t know if we’re the sickest, but we’re definitely the most repulsive.”
It’s not too hard to imagine how one couldn’t be repulsed by something like the 2-foot strap-on phallus Beefcake showed me, part of singer Oderus Urungus’ costume.
“This is the infamous cuttlefish of Cthulu,” Beefcake said of the demon dick. “It’s missing an eyeball, as you might notice. Someone pulled it off in Tuscon? Texas? San Diego?”
I asked the bassist if the phallus squirted and he laughed.
“Does it squirt? Do your shoes smell?”
Being a GWAR slave is just as important as being in the band itself. The five or so slaves, adorned only in leather thongs and masks, are responsible for wielding large spiked clubs and swords, helping to shoot blood at the audience through a monster-shaped cannon and creating the massive number of props required for the show.
Slave Scott Krahl was busy brushing the hair of a Paris Hilton mask – Hilton’s dismemberment was on the schedule for the night.
“We have violence, then sex, then sexual violence,” Krahl said, and the demise of Hilton was the sexual violence portion of the show.
Thinking of stage gimmicks is a collaborative process, Krahl said, but the realization of the gimmick relies on personal initiative.
“Sometimes at moments of weakness, which I call stoned visions, when we’re so high anything sounds good … whoever actually makes the damn thing wins through it,” Krahl said, and the gimmick is constructed in the band’s Slave Pit creature workshop in Richmond, Virginia.
“If you want to make a Paris Hilton, you really have to believe in it,” Krahl said.
Meanwhile, roadie Bob Gorman was busy repairing the fashionista’s battered corpse in preparation for the night’s show.
“I talk to my friends on tour and I’m like ‘Hey I have to fix this decap or reattach this arm,’ and they’re like ‘I can’t believe this is a normal day for you,’ ” Gorman said.
The first song of the night opened with a blast from the smoke machine and an onstage decapitation followed by the first few quarts of the 100 gallons of fake blood and pus the band goes through at every single show.
Dismembering Michael Jackson, aborting Lacey Peterson’s dead fetus or severing the arms from a battle-cyborg Ronald Reagan were highlights of the show, as was Urungus’ spray of syphilitic urine – through his cuttlefish – over a cheering crowd. A different gimmick hit the stage for nearly every song, clouds of artificial smog billowed up into the rafters while the band tore through blistering, raw metal.
And after 1½ hours of a sonic and visual assault, stunned fans filtered out, leaving Grove security to clean up 100 gallons of blood, pus and bile off the floor.