For the seventh time, I walked into a venue with the intent of seeing GWAR. Given the opportunities, I would likely do so another seven times. For those of you who've seen GWAR, you probably know what I'm talking about. GWAR may never attain the status of "single best concert I've seen," and while the show is always changing, the basics remain the same. Still, I have never seen another performance quite like GWAR, and I don't know that I ever will. I never tire of it. No one, again for emphasis, no one, puts on a stage show with the same kind of flair that GWAR exhibits. If you're a fan of Slipknot, don't try to fight me on this point; Slipknot doesn't bring the same blend of over-the-top, tongue-in-costumed-cheek humor. As for the growing legion of Lordi fans, sit down. I saw Lordi open for Type O Negative. While it's not a bad show, they're more KISS-wannabees than legitimate challengers to GWAR's throne.
Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me start from the beginning.
The first band up was Toxic Holocaust, a band that one of my Agents In The Field turned me toward a couple months ago. I hadn't heard a ton of things by them, but enough to know that I was curiously excited. Turns out, these guys know how to play. Clearly this band has been studying the bands that came before, as they demonstrate a lot of lessons learned from acts like Megadeth and Slayer. They're a three-piece throwback to a better age of thrash, even if their appearance is a little dated. Once you get past the fact that the members have feathered hair and kinda look like Brett Michaels from back in the day, there's a lot to like here. The best thing that separates this band from so many would-be metal icons is that the songs sound different from each other. This is an easy trap to fall into, and Toxic Holocaust treads that tenuous line between not having a "sound" and only having one "sound." They're not perfect, but their sound is aggressive, and they make sure the pit has plenty of material. One note: the band seemed to tire a little by the end of their set. It didn't affect their play, but you could see it between songs. I'm sure that comes with time. Keep an eye on these guys.
So began the house music (Black Sabbath's album "Paranoid,") and we didn't even get through "Planet Caravan" before the lights were back down and Kingdom of Sorrow was on stage. Not familiar? I admit I only knew scant details. Kingdom of Sorrow is a joint side project of a smattering of metal musicians. You could almost call them a 'supergroup,' but I don't think that's a title they're interested in. A quick rundown of the lineup from the other night: James Jasta from Hatebreed, Steve Gibb from Black Label Society and Crowbar, Kirk Windstein from Crowbar, Derek Kerswill from Seemless, and helping out, Ken Hickey from Type O Negative. My initial reaction to this band was that they were mediocre, displaying a willingness to let their songs drown in a pool of double kicks. After that though, they settled in and my opinion improved. While none of their songs particularly thrilled me, I like to see a band that seems to just be happy to be playing. Kingdom of Sorrow certainly has that going for them. Points for energy and enthusiasm, and the crowd seemed to get into it after a few songs. In the end, Kingdom of Sorrow was above average.
So, one good opening band, and one above average opening band. Not the best opening I've ever seen (that title belongs to Turbonegro when they opened for Queens of the Stone Age. Remind me to tell that story sometime,) but pretty damn good.
A note to GWAR: I personally think it was a mistake to have the DVD of the last tour playing at the merch table before you came on stage. I know you're trying to move some merch, and I know showing the DVD is the best way to get people interested in it. I don't blame you for doing it. I'm just saying one of the best parts of going to a GWAR show is watching the reaction of the first timers who have no idea what they're getting themselves into.
Pantera's "Vulgar Display of Power" was the chosen house music, always a good choice to keep the crowd warm. I have, on more than one occasion, seen a mosh pit break out to "Walk" while no one was on stage. Just as we came to "Live in a Hole," the music got quiet. We suddenly were confronted with a recorded track of GWAR manager Sleazy P. Martini explaining how the upcoming election was a fraud, and we all should appoint (submit to) Sleazy (and GWAR by extension,) to executive office. Keep in mind; this is the first time that Martini has been on tour in probably ten years. This though, is the adaptability of GWAR, as what's old can be new again.
Armed with the "Frank Sinatra Belts of Total World Domination," the band was introduced and the show began. Immediately, the night's first victim, a simulacrum of Steve Wilkos, was brought out and promptly beheaded, much to the crowd's pleasure. Ultimately, one of the most enjoyable parts as a spectator at GWAR occurs at this precise moment. When the lights go down the entire crowd, clad largely in white shirts, rushes toward the stage, everyone jockeying for position. As soon as the "blood" starts flowing, there are always a number of people who had no idea what they were in for (or had the bad luck to get hit in the eye,) and suddenly there are patrons fleeing from the front of the stage.
It wasn't too long before the wrestling matches for the night began, as Bonesnapper the Cave Troll was introduced to his theme song. Bonesnapper proceeded to win his first bout against John McCain, taking off the face of his opponent, who showered the crowd. Following that, Oderus and Bonesnapper teamed up to defeat the tag team of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Body parts and funny-colored water everywhere.
It was then that the show had a development, as the Destructos (again, it's been at least five years,) came out and stole the belts off Oderus and Bonesnapper. This eventually culminated with a winner-take all between the two teams, resulting in victory for GWAR and the reclamation of the belts.
Other victims of the night included a hippie, an emo-ish kid, and the usual nazi-skinhead. Surprising survivors of the evening included organized religion (usually an easy target for GWAR,) and Bonesnapper himself, who lost his jaw, but usually fares far worse.
As always, the music for GWAR is secondary to the stage show, but they always mix in a few crowd favorites. A good performance of "Bring Back the Bomb and "Crosstika" were just some of the highlights, topped off with an encore of all-time great "Sick of You." I’m always impressed with the dedication of GWAR fans; for a band centered on their stage show, the fans seem to know all the lyrics, and cheer for every song. As always, the pit was active, with the high number of crowd surfers as easy targets for GWAR’s color-spewing machine gun. Not to be left out, there are also always those so transfixed by the over-the-top, ridiculous slapstick nature of it all, their eyes stay unblinking at the stage. Perhaps rightfully so. The only thing I would say, and this is not GWAR’s fault, is that the venue’s stage is a little too cramped for their show. Those familiar with upstate New York might remember Saratoga Winners, the dirty, ramshackle metal club where GWAR used to play frequently before it closed. I loved to hate that place. It was perfect for GWAR though, as they could run around on the stage and make a complete wasteland out of the club itself.
As always, GWAR is not a show for the squeamish or easily offended, but I strongly recommend that if you have a chance, pay the price and see them. Your concert-going career isn’t complete until you have. Trust me; you at the very least won’t be bored.