Concert Review: Gwar
(San Francisco, CA, The Regency Ballroom, 24-11-09)
On November 24, 2009, Gwar decimated, desecrated, and devirginized the once pristine Regency Ballroom (“RB”). Gwar started the concert at 10:00. Technically speaking, Gwarmania began at 9:50 when the band showed a spoof Gwar documentary on the large projection screen behind the drum set that gave a history of the band interspersed with interviews with Oderus Urungus (“OU”) (lead singer, real name Dave Brockie). While the movie was playing, I quickly put on a one piece coverall under the mistaken belief it would protect me from Gwar slime. [The fact that my underwear, socks, and contact lenses were blood red when I arrived home nixed that theory.] Gwar played 16 songs discussed in greater detail below.
1. Metal Metal Land (Lust in Space record, 2009) opened the festivities, a fast, upbeat song off Gwar’s new (and 11th) studio album released August 18, 2009. I admire Gwar for having the . . . ahem . . . balls (or the in case of OU, a brain dangling below his prosthetic penis, the “Cuttlefish of Cthulhu”) to start a show with a new song. Not many bands have the courage to do so. Two that come to mind are UFO during The Visitor tour (2009) and Kiss during the Psycho Circus tour (1998). This song provides clear evidence of Gwar’s thrash roots prominent on the “Scumdogs of the Universe” record (1990) and, after a foray in different musical directions, the “Violence has Arrived” (2001), “War Party” (2004), and “Beyond Hell” (2006) records.
2. Saddam A Go Go (This Toilet Earth, 2004) featured a slave donning a rocket shaped helmet who appeared manning an archaic machine gun on a stand akin to one depicted in the “Mad Max” (1979) film. The slave doused the crowd with green slime. Since I was in the photo pit, I sought protection by ducking below stage height each time the slave turned and pointed the gun’s barrel at my quivering head.
3. Lords and Masters (Lust in Space, 2009) is another fast up tempo song from Gwar’s most recent record. Two slaves appeared on stage. One slave sported an electric circular saw he used to cut the chest of the previously mentioned slave donning the rocket shaped helmet. This carnage caused the wounded slave’s chest to profusely bleed. Unfortunately, my earlier tactic of ducking below stage height miserably failed because the wounded slave lumbered and fell a few inches in front of me, past the tip of the stage. [I felt like a tiny rodent who had sought shelter by burrowing myself in an underground den but who had been sniffed out by a hungry salivating mongoose hovering above for his anticipated meal.]
4. Apes of Wrath (Violence has Arrived, 2001) featured frenetic riff work by Flattus Maximus (“FM”) (guitarist, real name Cory Smoot) and Balsac the Jaws of Death (guitarist, real name Mike Derks) and a strong drum beat by Jizmak Da Gusha (drummer, real name Brad Roberts). OU delivered the lyrics as a pseudo rap.
5. Tormentor (Beyond Hell, 2006) was the visual highlight of the show. A slave brought out a blue headed slave strapped to a vertical board. The slave with the electric circular saw used his bare hands to tear the flesh off the shackled slave’s right arm, exposing the skeleton. The slave used his saw to cut off both of his victim’s legs and then impaled his saw in his victim’s chest, causing him to vigorously bleed. The slave continued to carve his victim’s chest as if it was a Thanksgiving turkey, exposing his organs. The slave pulled out and ate portions of his victim’s intestine, savoring the delicacy as if he was eating beef jerky. The slave exhibited his dexterity by using his victim’s yanked large intestine to play the double dutch game of jump rope. [I imagined hearing the slave sing Frankie Smith’s funk hit single, “Double Dutch Bus” (1981)]. When he became bored playing with his victim’s organs, the slave violently ripped the skin of his victim’s head, exposing the flesh and making him look like one of the victim’s in Clive Barker’s classic horror film, “Hellraiser” (1987).
6. Where is Zog? (Lust in Space, 2009) featured a giant beast that resembled one of the Gamorrean Guards in George Lucas’s “Return of the Jedi” film (1983), but more refined than the slobbering film beast in that it donned a top hat and smoking jacket. A shirtless hooded slave used an oversized axe to cut the beast’s chest, causing it to spew blue slime.
7. Womb With A View (War Party, 2004) featured an up beat tempo and a punchy drum beat and bass line. Before the start of the song, OU cradled a two-foot alien creature that resembled a cross between a Cabbage Patch Kid and a baby tyrannosaurus rex. Shortly after Gwar started performing the song, a helmeted figure came on stage wearing a black shirt with the initials “MJ” on his chest. The figure removed his helmet, revealing a Michael Jackson (“MJ”) look alike, complete with an albino face, long semi curly black hair, and an albino prosthetic penis that looked more like a dangling gym sock. MJ grabbed the creature out of OU’s hands. OU then braced his “Cuttlefish of Cthulhu” (“COC”) as if he was Rambo wielding an AK-47. OU’s COC spewed green slime like a ceramic Angel fountain figurine spouting water. MJ was enticed by OU’s COC like a kid smacking his lips for a lollipop. MJ repeatedly attempted to clandestinely grab the COC. OU eventually grew tired of MJ’s repeated antics and ripped the flesh off MJ’s face, exposing a skeleton that spewed blood. For the 60 or so seconds that MJ spewed blood, he danced and pranced like the celebrity, replete with crotch grabs, one handed finger pointing in the air, and side to side head shakes.
8. Let Us Slay (Lust in Space, 2009) is a solid mid tempo song performed with no antics.
9. Maggots (Scumdogs of the Universe, 1990) featured heavy drums, a chant along chorus, and a lightning fast brief guitar solo. The slave sporting an electric circular saw appeared and simulated masturbation. [I was reminded of the film “Edward Scissorhands” (1990) and the extreme care both Edward and the slave must use in engaging in self-satisfaction. An otherwise pleasurable act could turn into a painful experience of “Lorena Bobbit” proportions, albeit self induced.] Subsequently, a bare-chested slave appeared and got on his knees. The masturbating slave proceeded to show his hospitality or, lack thereof, by impaling his circular saw in the crouching slave’s back.
10. Immortal Corruptor (Violence has Arrived, 2001) featured a slower tempo but still with a heavy drum beat and brilliant FM guitar solo. OU brought out the alien creature first featured on Womb With A View and impaled its vagina surrounded by a row of jagged teeth with his sword, causing the creature to spit blood. OU handed the creature to a slave donning a helmet with two halfway imbedded circular saws who pointed the creature’s mouth at the crowd as it spewed blood.
11. The Price of Peace (Lust in Space, 2009) featured Beefcake the Mighty (bassist, real name Casey Orr) on vocals. A 15 foot futuristic white robot with jagged teeth and eyes that lit up with white light stiltedly appeared. The slave with the electric circular saw and another holding an oversized sword confronted the robot. The robot used his massive forearms to knock the slaves around like miniature action figures. The sword wielding slave eventually impaled his weapon in the robot’s chest, causing the protective shield to fall off and a fetus to drop from within and dangle by its umbilical cord. Acting much like a tag team wrestling duo, the victorious slave and OU violently ripped the alien’s forearms off his body, causing the dangling ends of the robot’s upper arms to spew blood into the crowd. OU then finished the festivities by impaling the alien with his Conan the Barbarian sized sword. His slave henchman pulled the sword out and the alien hobbled off stage.
12. Lust in Space (Lust in Space, 2009) featured a slow, acoustic introduction. Within approximately one minute, the song went into overdrive with electric guitars playing a heavy riff at mid tempo. The song’s chorus is somewhat repetitive and, at over six minutes in length, the song dragged, slowing the frenetic pace of an otherwise brilliant show. At the end of the song, OU proudly proclaimed, “25 years of violence!”
The band left the stage at 10:53 and returned in two minutes to play four additional songs.
13. Bring Back the Bomb (War Party, 2004) is another heavy song with a thumping chorus. Prior to the pummeling song’s introduction, the Seal of the President appeared on the video screen accompanied by an audio recording of “Hail to the Chief.” A President Obama look alike came on stage offering his deepest thanks to Gwar for saving planet Earth. President Obama offered OU a medal. OU refused, repeatedly beat President Obama on his head with a short staff and then decapitated him, causing the President to spew blood from his neck.
14. Jack the World (This Toilet Earth, 2004) was performed with no antics.
15. Have You Seen Me? (America Must Be Destroyed, 1992) is a song OU dedicated to “the Mission District Abortion Clinic.” This song has an interesting twist, beginning as a jazz infused bluesy song with a loose vocal delivery by OU. Approximately two minutes into the song, the song shifts into overdrive, and the band delivers an up tempo hard edged song with power chords galore. During the course of the song OU held a small bloody dead infant in hand that spewed an endless supply of blood into the crowd. [OU held the infant’s spewing mouth at the crowd as if he was watering his very dry lawn in the mid summer heat.]
16. Sick of You (Scumdogs of the Universe, 1990) is the last song, which featured a bare chested slave wearing a black g-string and mask with long downward protruding nose. The slave rolled forward the archaic machine gun first used on Saddam A Go Go for further blood sport. The slave had apparently tweaked the settings on the weapon, permitting him to simultaneously shoot red and green slime into the crowd.
Two flashback memories are worthy of mention.
First, I was reminded of Judas Priest’s show at the Oakland Arena during the Turbo tour (05 15 86). Like Priest, Gwar performed six songs off their new record. No disrespect to the mighty Priest, but being an avid thrash fan means Turbo’s light, synthesized tinged sound is my least favorite Priest record. I came close to performing hari kari (i.e., ceremonial suicide by ripping open the abdomen with a dagger) by the time the band performed the sixth song off Turbo. Fortunately, my plastic hot dog stand knife was as dull as my brain after taking a lengthy standardized aptitude test designed to gauge my I.Q. or, more aptly, lack thereof. In contrast, I enjoyed hearing six songs off Lust in Space because of the thrash induced feel of the songs.
Second, I watched in fascination backstage pre show at the fruitless efforts by two socially awkward and technically inept wanna be rockers setting up equipment for an on camera, interview with OU. The tiny cramped backstage area was riddled with camera equipment, including a tri pod, oversized camera, and yards of cable. The cameraman sported a spiked blonde mohawk but had the mannerisms of Beavis from the American animated television series “Beavis and Butt-Head” (1993-1997). The interviewer resembled Butt-Head or a Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game aficionado. Cameraman Beavis repeatedly scurried back and forth from behind the camera, intensely looking into the eyepiece as if he was Steven Spielberg. Interviewer Butt Head awkwardly stood a few feet in front of the camera nervously awaiting OU’s arrival. As it turns out, the hapless dimwits were unable to get the camera to function. Interviewer Butt Head had a brilliant idea, conduct the interview with his iphone. When OU walked into the room and saw a tri pod with no camera and interviewer Butt Head sticking an iphone in his face, he said in shock, “You want to do this on camera interview with an iphone?!” OU should have told cameraman Beavis and interviewer Butt Head they were Gwar’s VIP guests for the night and instructed them to hang out side stage. Then, right before Gwar took the stage and while the eager rabid fans were salivating over the anticipated onslaught, OU should have instructed Gwar slaves to manhandle the two fans by stripping them of all their clothes and dousing them in red and green slime, making them look like festive candy canes.
Venue: the building that housed the original RB, known as the Avalon Ballroom, was built in 1911. The Avalon Ballroom operated from 1966-68 and reopened in 2003 under its current name. During the ballroom’s original stint in the 1960’s local bands such as Janis Joplin, Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Steve Miller Band, and Big Brother and the Holding Company performed at this venue. RB is a 1,050 seat capacity theater with a rectangular shaped standing room floor measuring 96 by 69 feet with blonde hardwood floors and a permanent stage measuring 42 by 20 feet. Positioned 35 feet above the floor are 22 teardrop chandeliers circa 1900 secured on a roof adorned with gold medallions. RB has a horseshoe-shaped reserved seating balcony, the interior siding of which visible from the floor is virgin white. Four vertical white columns line the wall atop the stage and another six are present on each of the walls on the second floor. Also lining the side walls on each floor are six square shaped gold colored tapestries. [The more timid fans not enthused with being hosed by Gwar sludge took refuge on the second floor, hoping the liquid concoction could not reach them. However, the fact that a large portion of the balcony balustrade was lined with protective clear plastic should have provided ample notice that only the extreme regions of RB opposite the stage were safe from the gore fest about to ensue.]
Opening Bands: Gwar was supported by two opening bands, The Red Chord and Job for A Cowboy. Ashamedly, I missed both opening bands because I was busy transcribing the recent interview I conducted with UFO’s Vinnie Moore. [The last thing I want to do is to bear the wrath of a hot blooded Italian from the Tri State Area.]
Arash Moussavian, Entertainment Law Attorney
All photos taken by Arash Moussavian. This article and all photos are protected by copyright. Please contact me prior to use, or I will make shish kabab of your loins.