GWAR frontman Dave Brockie passed away this year and GWAR's future has been somewhat uncertain, but over the weekend, Richmond, VA hosted the singer's memorial and the band's first show with Michael Bishop, aka Blothar, at the helm. It's easy to forget that there are people behind the masks, but this weekend was one of the most touching and cathartic tributes I've ever seen to a fallen friend.
The only way to get to the Viking funeral for Oderus Urungus is to wake up hungover and ride there on a motorcycle. Hadad's Lake, the water park which hosted the memorial and GWAR B-Q, is 350 miles from my home in Brooklyn. Friday morning, I left the house with 7 hours to make it in time.
The highway was packed bumper to bumper with New Jersey drivers who are in a hurry to get to nowhere and Maryland drivers who refuse to touch their turn signals. On a bike in the city, this wouldn't be a problem. I can split lanes and go around the 20 mile line of traffic. However, as any experienced driver knows, the further south you go, the more traffic laws you obey. Every few miles -- for reasons I never discerned -- everything stopped and I had to stop right along with them. I was stuck in traffic for the better part of my trip and when I arrived in Richmond, I had just missed Dave Brockie's smoldering funeral pyre sinking into the drink.
I went to the bar. The fifth annual GWAR B-Q was slated to begin at 10:30 AM the following morning, so I managed to leave the bar at 11 PM. This, of course, didn't stop me from staying up until the wee hours of the morning, drinking and singing David Bowie songs in a backyard I barely remember.
We arrived at the festival to see hundreds of metal fans lined up at the gates, some tailgating, some applying makeup, some visibly shaken from being out in the sun so early. One enterprising young man stopped a group of people, asked to search their belongings for drugs, and then asked if he could have their drugs. He could not, they said.
I got into the festival area as Eat The Turnbuckle was finishing their set of "ULTRA-VIOLENT DEATH MATCH ROCK AND ROLL." The few minutes I caught, plus the (real) blood-soaked aftermath was worth the price of admission.
I staked out a spot to photograph Bam Margera's horrible band, Fuckface Unstoppable. While we waited at the second stage for them to show up, I decided that the better story would be to get in a fistfight with Bam and get thrown out of the festival. Fifteen minutes turned into thirty, and it became apparent that they would miss their entire set. When I later saw Bam in the artist area, my plan to fight him was derailed by the fact that -- I swear to god I am not making this up -- he was holding a kitten. Everybody knows you don't punch a dude with a kitten.
Kepone at GWAR B-Q 2014
Kepone -- Mike Bishop's other band -- played an early slot as more and more fans crowded into the water park. The smell of barbecue filled the air as I cracked my first GWAR beer, a Killsner brewed by Cigar City Brewing exclusively for the festival. "I normally sing louder, but I have something to do later," Bishop told the crowd. They plowed through a badass set and the sun started heating up the lake.
The Meatmen at GWAR B-Q 2014
The main stage was a circus of dicks and insanity when The Meatmen started playing. Tesco Vee came out with a meter-long inflatable dong strapped to his crotch and tore into a blistering set. The between-song banter was full of lines like "If you're gonna be a legacy punk band, don't suck. Like Black Flag," but halfway through the set, Tesco gave as close to a heartfelt speech as he could, dedicating "Speed Kills (But It Sho' Feels Good)" to Dave Brockie and Slayer's Jeff Hannemen.
The Misfits at GWAR B-Q 2014
It was close to 2 PM when Jerry Only's incarnation of The Misfits started their set and I jogged to the photo pit to make it in time. I had interviews scheduled with members of other bands immediately afterward, so I wasn't able to watch their full show, but the brief time I spent there was enough to be glad I was there.
The band that played GWAR B-Q is markedly different than the band I saw several years back. Dez Cadena is as stellar as ever, but Jerry Only's vocals have improved dramatically, and the band has been bolstered by the addition of Eric Arce on drums and Only's son, Jerry II, as a second guitarist. They're all about balls-out horrorpunk, they play well, and they don't go around suing people, so it's easy to be in their camp. The fans at GWAR B-Q agreed.
Body Count at GWAR B-Q 2014
Body Count was the band I was most excited to see. Their latest album, Manslaughter, is their first record in 8 years, and I'd never had the chance to see them live before. The afternoon sun was pointed directly at the stage as Ernie, Vince, Juan, Will, and Sean walked out. Ice-T came out to the opening riffs of "Body Count" and the crowd went batshit.
Throughout the years, Body Count's music has only gotten more hardcore, and their songs were more relevant this weekend than ever. They played a pummeling set -- "Manslaughter," "There Goes The Neighborhood," and "Drive By" all highlights -- but Ice-T paused for a moment to address the crowd about the current situation in Ferguson, Missouri. "Hold your finger in the air for all the bullshit on the news that's been going on in our country," he said as they broke into "Cop Killer." I got goosebumps. "Fuck the police," T said at the end, "I play one on TV. They can suck my dick."
GWAR at GWAR B-Q 2014
The main event started at 5:45 -- early by festival standards and certainly early for the Scumdogs of the Universe. Sleazy P. Martini took the stage and introduced the band. This was the first time anyone had seen them without Oderus, but there wasn't any tension in the crowd. We were all excited to see the new chapter in the legend of GWAR.
Blothar took the stage with a Viking shield and bellowed out "Madness at the Core of Time" from last year's Battle Maximus. His voice wasn't Oderus' but it didn't matter to the throngs of kids in the front row. Michael Bishop -- who was the original Beefcake The Mighty -- is carrying the bloodstained torch now and we couldn't be happier about it.
The rest of the show was a who's who of GWAR allies and enemies. Sawborg Destructo battled Bonesnapper for singing duties, Slymenstra Hymen captured Sawborg, Sexecutioner got filthy, and Gor Gor the dinosaur devoured everyone in his path.
At the end of the set, Blothar said, "And now we must honor the fallen warrior. Who just last night was immolated on the lake. The one, the only, the Irish kid, the immortal corruptor, Oderus Urungus. Join me as we sing 'The Road Behind.'” It was the only legitimately touching moment I've ever seen at a GWAR show. The song ended with the most fitting tribute to Dave Brockie I can think of: all his Scumdoggian friends chanting "Hail Oderus!"
GWAR just announced a massive tour beginning in October and if you buy tickets, they might spare your miserable lives. Get more information at their official website. For more music, videos, and news, check out their Zumic artist page.