Venue: The Pitz, Milton Keynes
I once phoned the editor of our local Citizen and asked him for a job. He asked me what I wrote; ‘stories!’ I replied. He then gave me some harsh words about how the press deals only in reporting facts, not stories, that’s the sort of thing that apparently gives them a bad name! Then he hung up! Well, if that’s the case then I better just stick with the facts here! I’m hiding behind a thick curtain at the edge auditorium of the Pitz, I don’t care if I came here with a girl (Monkey Kettle Tea Girl Nikki) and so should probably be acting more manly, there are vicious looking space aliens on stage and they are spewing blood and bodily fluids all over the audience and I’m wearing my favourite t-shirt! Perhaps a few more facts are needed!
In the mid 80’s a group of space alien dudes crash land in Antarctica. They hang out, take in the sights, and then move to the US presumably because they discover chicken deep-fry’s better than penguin! They formed a band, probably to combat a strain of hair metal that was currently ravaging the nation. Replace Antarctica with Virginia Commonwealth University and ‘aliens’ with art students who just love dressing up for Halloween a little too much and you pretty much get the gist! And they’ve been battling it out ever since, going on to find notoriety, a guest spot on Empire Records and at least nominal success.
Back at the Pitz, shortly before Gwar are due to take the stage, Nikki and I nervously watch the sound desk being carefully covered with clear plastic. Then a girl dressed entirely in white and looking like she’d be more at home in Lloyds this particular Saturday, tells us in a worried voice that apparently the entire hall is to be drenched in fake blood and pus! Hordes of metal kids are pushing to the front row, eager to get drenched, while us older folk line the outside of the hall, hoping we might get away with this and still look respectable enough to head up to the bars in the city afterwards!
Onstage, Gwar work hard for their ticket money. Frontman Oderus Urungus, a.k.a. Dave Brokie, and his crew of assorted rock ‘n’ roll adventurers, play tight and fast for two hours, dressed in huge foam costumes. They look like oversized cartoon hero’s battling for space on the Pitz stage. Nikki and I were both impressed with Oderus’s shoulder pads; striking four foot tall spikes. Now that’s the kind of power dressing that would make an impact in the office! The band’s set has the drums poised high over the stage, surrounded by a vast wall of bones which probably houses their guitars! But the effect is something from a funfair of horrors. Frequently between songs, ‘slaves’ dressed as various icons of modern culture, including Hitler, Jesus and Osama Bin Laden, are marched onto the stage only to be decapitated, torn from limb to limb, their blood sprayed over the audience. All the while Oderus baits the crowd, says he longs for a return to the days of Margret Thatcher, and sprays the audience with suspicious looking liquid from his own giant prosthetic phallus. At one point George Bush is decapitated, his blood spewing on and off the stage. Oderus then climbs on his little stage pedestal and attempts to mount the hole left on George’s neck. Gosh, these are politically proactive chaps!
So then perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening is the quality of the music. Over the past 20 years these metal underdogs, banned from theaters and ridiculed by the mainstream, have actually sculpted a melodic and creative sound. Far from ‘God-What-an-Awful-Racket’, they actually sound more refreshing and modern than Trivium, more tuneful than Slayer and more heartfelt than Panic At The Disco. These guys believe in what they’re doing, they believe in their art, they believe in giving the audience the best stage show in town every night, and they believe in writing and playing the best music they can. Against a backbone of chunky mosh-pit raging riffs they layer bass breaks, guitar solos that carry the song without sounding cheesy, socially and politically proactive lyrics and soaring choruses Slipknot would be proud of. The band don’t sound 20 years old, and the members, despite still not managing to become millionaires when far more mediocre acts have found success in their place, are still giving it 100% every night. Tonight, this really is the best show in town!
Standing outside the venue afterwards, I feel like I’m standing outside A&E shortly after an unfortunate incident with a litter of hungry pumas! Kids pile out of the auditorium, thick in fake blood and green bile. We escaped without a scratch, those blood spewing cannons evidently calibrated to reach only to within about ten foot of the walls of the auditorium. And I read in an interview afterward, Gwar only like to use food dyes that wash out easily and have no wish to ruin cloths or auditoriums. Its only a show, this is just for fun, and they’re ok these Gwar dudes!