TVD Live: GWAR at Baltimore Soundstage, 12/13

PHOTOS: DAVE BARNHOUSER | Mae West was once quoted as saying, “All discarded lovers should be given a second chance, but with somebody else.” Nowhere is this more applicable than in the world of music. Some people move on, some grow apart, and others shed this mortal coil leaving a gap that can either be mended and healed or it becomes the death knell of a band. In the case of GWAR, the wound left by the passing of Dave Brockie, aka Oderus Urungus, has been cleaned, dressed, and is healing up quite nicely.

Saturday night at Baltimore Soundstage, GWAR made a triumphant return, closing out the first tour of this new era and ensuring the outlandish legacy of the Scumdogs continues to march forth.

After sitting in hellish traffic due to the annual Army-Navy football game, I arrived about halfway through American Sharks‘ set. I quickly determined that I was none too thrilled about this, because these guys absolutely rocked my pants off. Figuratively, of course. Soundstage was already a packed house, and the high voltage punk-tinged stoner rock from the stage was the perfect way to start the night. Thick, heavy riffs with a Detroit garage rock flair, their sound was very catchy without being cliché or boring.

As bassist/singer Mike Hardin was introducing the final song, proclaiming it to be “the best song we’ve ever written,” a massive cloud of smoke appeared, and the voice of GWAR guitarist Pustulus Maximus came over the PA, delivering some smack-talk to the openers. It quickly became apparent that the bands on this tour have gelled and are having fun on the road.

The merch at this show was almost as good, with GWAR selling a number of “Hail Oderus” shirts, and American Sharks selling a vinyl re-press of their self-titled album that you color in with the supplied markers, and enter to win $666. This is the stuff of marketing genius, folks.

Up next was North Carolina metal veterans Corrosion of Conformity. With two albums and an EP under their belt as a three-piece, it was good to see these guys still at it and sounding great. As they took the stage, guitarist Woody Weatherman was all smiles, and drummer Reed Mullin and bassist/singer Mike Dean followed suit. The tempo shifted quite a bit through newer songs like “The Nectar” and “Brand New Sleep,” speeding up in tempo at times, and slowing down to a murky, sludgy groove at others.

Older songs from previous lineups were mixed in, like “Mad World” from 1985’s Animosity, and “Deliverance” from their mid-’90s era. When “Vote With a Bullet” began, the crowd responded heartily but it was short-lived, as they disappointingly only played the first verse of the song. In what was an otherwise great set, I couldn’t help but think they C.O.C. was missing the “pep” of guitarist/singer Pepper Keenan, on hiatus from the band while he is busy with Down. They didn’t sound bad, quite the opposite, but this is a personal thing, as the Pepper-era of C.O.C. produced my favorite albums by the band.

Just before 10pm, the lights went down and the venue filled with the sound of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs.” The moment that the visage of Oderus Urungus appeared on a video screen, the crowd went wild. They opened the set with “Fly Now,” with a video of Oderus singing the vocals part, and it took no time for an unlucky stage character to get beheaded, and the blood began to spray the eager crowd.

Blóthar, the mighty new frontman of GWAR, took the stage, explaining who he is and that he has come to Earth to help GWAR in the search for Oderus. With enormous antlers, a huge wooden shield, and an impressive set of udders, Blóthar was a sight to behold. The band went into “Madness at the Core of Time,” as various slaves and Bonesnapper the Cave Troll beat on each other and hosed down the audience.

During “The Private Pain of Sawborg Destructo,” we were introduced to the second member to join the ranks of GWAR, the fearsome Vulvatron. She took to the stage wielding a giant spiked mace, doing battle with Sawborg Destructo before taking over lead vocals on “Tormentor.” There was hilarious interaction between her and Blóthar throughout the rest of the set, and the crowd erupted when she removed a piece of her top and began showering the crowd with gore from her copious alien breasts.

The set marched on, playing older staples like “Horror of Yig” and “Saddam A Go-Go” while the insanity continued onstage and down in the pit. Newer songs like “Let us Slay” helped bring the set to a close, but GWAR was not done yet. The band returned and went into “The Road Behind,” their 1992 lampoon of a heavy metal power ballad. Considering the circumstances, this song felt like it was done as a tribute to their fallen leader.

The encore was concluded with 2 covers, the first of which was a hilariously amazing version of the Pet Shop Boys’ “West End Girls.” The closer is what really hit home, in a modified version of Jim Carroll’s “People Who Died.” The first three verses, sang by Pustulus, Beefcake and Balzac, respectively, pay tribute to fallen friends like Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman and former GWAR guitarist Cory Smoot, who passed away in 2011. The final verse, sung by Blóthar, offered a heartfelt, fitting tribute to Dave Brockie:

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 Valhalla chants his name!/ Oderus, I miss you more than all the others./ I salute you my brother!” Following this verse, the whole band and in turn, the entire crowd, sang the altered chorus, “Oderus died, died!” It was truly a proper remembrance, and rather than being a sad moment, every person was smiling as they sang along.

In a surprise move, the band returned to the stage once again, some fully or partially out of costume—Beefcake and Blóthar had ditched their helmets, and Pustulus was completely out of costume. Being not too far from home, they surely had friends and family in attendance, and this being the last show of the tour, after some kind words about the opening bands, they thanked the crowd once again and closed out the night with 1990’s “Cool Place to Park.”

The question that may have been on the mind of many before the show, was “Can GWAR continue?” Saturday night in Charm City, the Scumdogs proved that the legend does indeed live on, and the quest to destroy the universe will continue.

GWAR

 

CORROSION OF CONFORMITY

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