Toxic Holocaust, Kingdom of Sorrow, and GWAR
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Revolution, Ft. Lauderdale
Better Than: A great many "serious" shows I've sat through recently ... and I will hazard a guess that it was almost definitely more fun than letting my blood pressure rise by watching the VP debates. Sorry!
Well. While the "civilized" world was watching Palin and Biden verbally duke it out last night, I was busy ducking to avoid getting hit by John McCain's spurting blood and viscera. Okay, sure, it wasn't really him; it was something akin to a walking puppet-costume thing topped with a poorly stuffed McCain mask, and he was wrestling with a monster. But hey, there's nothing like a little public dismembering in effigy. And lest you accuse GWAR -- the logic-defingly long-surviving band responsible for this circus -- of being partisan, or having taste, don't worry. Hillary, Obama, and even a demon baby all received the same treatment at various points in the show.
But let's back up a little. Although a stringent critical examination of harmonics isn't really what one would expect from a report on a GWAR show, there was, in fact, some music, and a couple acts of the (arguably) non-costumed variety.
First up were Toxic Holocaust, an uber-trashy-gnarly act that you'd expect to be from the Bay Area, but are actually from Maryland and have moved to Portland. Looking every bit the part of parking lot heshers with bitchin' Camaros, they play a sloppy-ass brand of thrash that would be awesome in a tiny venue or warehouse, but isn't really ready for a venue the size of Revolution. Then again, who really cares.
Next came a more "serious" band, or at least one that had the old hardcore dudes in the crowd really pumped: Kingdom of Sorrow. In case you didn't know, that's a for-fun side project of a bunch of people from big-deal bands. That includes Steve (son-of-Barry) Gibb of Crowbar and Black Label Society and Derek Kerswill of Unearth. But the driving forces behind the project are guitarist Kirk Windstein, of the legendary Down and Crowbar, and Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed, of course. KoS is one of the most visually mismatched bands ever -- Jasta pointed at Windstein one point and said, "Come on, he's like 80 years old!" -- but that only adds to their old-school realness.
The music itself is a little sludgy, but fast enough that Jasta still gets to do his whole tough-guy, yelling-and-pacing thing (although I still think he looks kind of cuddly), and tough enough that real pits opened up. While there was enough testosterone in the air to offer a vicarious thrill to those of us with only X chromosomes, the overall vibe was pretty good-natured.
Now for GWAR. Look, everybody just wants to know about the theatrics, which change thematically with each tour. Of course, this fall's show is vaguely election-themed ... by way of intergalatic wrestling and the emission of a number of different bodily fluids. And, wooo, this Ft. Lauderdale date was the first on the tour!
So longtime GWAR followers (and the band's been around since 1985) will be glad to note the return here of the character Sleazy P. Martini, the band's "manager" who retired from stage performance with the group around 1995. The vague story line is that, I think, he is the overseer of Intergalactic Championship Wrestling, in which a number of political and pop culture figures are made to fight, battling monsters and all meeting various creatively bloody ends.
How about some highlights.! After Martini's filmed introduction, there followed a clip of the Steve Wilkos Show -- that's the Jerry Springer security guard's own spin-off show. I'm not sure what he did to raise GWAR's ire, but after the clip, a faux Steve came out onstage -- think a costume that is obviously someone with a shirt pulled over his head, and a stuffed vinyl mask on top. Poor Steve was the first to be decapitated, his severed jugular glug-glug-glugging over the first few rows of the cheering pit.
That was before the first song. By the second song, one of Gwar's "slaves," I think, produced some kind of wriggling demon baby. Singer Oderus Urungus duly took the demon spawn into his arms, ripped it in half, chewed it, and impaled its top half on the neck of a guitar, upon which its arms seemed to continue to wave.
By the THIRD song, a large gun was wheeled out, that appeared to be swathed in the skinned abdomen of some kind of cattle. And then came the deluge. What I thought was someone spilling a beer on me was actually a rain from above of faux blood -- and I was in the club's mezzanine, in a spot that I thought was pretty far away from the railing. Some kind of purple, red, and blue mixture based on food coloring, it would take two showers to get it off my skin, and several more to get it (mostly) out of my hair. Blondes, beware GWAR.
Later, poor old John McCain was forced to wrestle a green beetle-looking monster. Oh, he lost of course, with a messy display of his intestines. Urungus performed a move in which he managed to spank himself by swinging his large, fake, pendulous-balled phallus.
Obama and Hillary were forced to wrestle, and duly slaughtered (Hillary's chest was ripped off, guts splattering everywhere). At one point, a large transformer-type robot lumbered out onstage, only to be attacked, clobbered with his own arms, and ripped open to reveal .... a fetus/parasite of evil Nancy Reagan! Hate Marilyn Manson? Oh, don't worry, he was killed too, in a particularly bloody encore.
Oh yeah, there was music played, and I guess competently, but it's almost besides the point when you're just waiting for the next display of schlocky gore. "Sick of You," the band's closest thing to a hit, was the final encore, but I was mostly distracted at this point by the combination of a spurting mutant animal carcass and Urungus' monster blood/cum-shot combo.
So anal-oral-scatological, Freud would weep with joy? Definitely. Puerile and immature? You bet, times ten. Hilarious, upon leaving all pretense of cool at the club door? Hell yeah. Essentially harmless? Ditto. The joke seemingly never gets old, and in times like these, nothing beats a little work-night blood bath. And for people actually grossed out or shocked by this crap any more, fuck 'em if they can't take a joke.
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Personal Bias: Um, none here, except that I am biased towards utter ridiculousness, I suppose, and if you throw in a little Jamey Jasta for flavor, well, I'm so there.
Random Detail: The most hardcore/enthusiastic GWAR fans were easily spotted -- they were wearing white shirts in anticipation of the faux carnage.
By the Way: Kingdom of Sorrow's first, self-titled full-length is out now on Relapse.