Photos by E. Groves
Nothing was sacred in splatter metal band GWAR's theater of costumed insanity at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe on Saturday. Michael Jackson's face got ripped off. Babies were disemboweled. President Obama's noggin got partially severed and was rolling around on his shoulders, but he kept smiling.
The audience for this madness consisted mostly of 30-something biker-looking dudes and 20-something metalheads of both genders, many of whom wore white T-shirts. There's a reason people wear white T-shirts to GWAR, and it ain't to symbolize purity. They all got what they were asking for, but not before sitting through two opening acts.
I missed the first band, The Red Chord, but I did get in just before local death metal heroes Job For A Cowboy took the stage.
Now, I liked JFAC's album Genesis from a couple years ago, but I have to say I was unimpressed with them live. They are definitely a tight band, and they're really good at the pummeling rhythms, the gritty, doom-drenched riffs, and the guttural vocals -- but every song sounded the same to me. The band had bright lights illuminating them from below, and so many smoke machines onstage that the entire set just resembled Cookie Monster trapped in a shed fire.
One of the best moments of JFAC's set was when singer Jonny Davy was introducing the song "Constitutional Masturbation." Davy said, "This song is for everyone in the room who's ugly" -- and 85 percent of the people in the venue cheered.
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GWAR's set began with a videotaped mockumentary titled GWAR: Behind the Murder. The 10-minute video clip showed highlights from the band's 25-year career, as well as a faux commercial for something called the "Sperm N Slide," that's supposed to be a very, uh, fertile version of a Slip 'N' Slide.
Throughout the set, video clips played on a giant screen behind the band. Believe it or not, this was a "concept show." GWAR, alien beasts who've been stranded on Earth for 25 years, have found a Scumdog ship that will take them back to their home planet. But then a giant robot named Cardinal Syn comes to Earth to homogenize everything and make everyone civil.
Well, GWAR are no fans of civility, and so they must return to Earth to destroy Cardinal Syn. Earth, it turns out, is also the only planet where the band can find its favorite drug, crack.
Things are about to get obscene and extreme.
On the way back to Earth, GWAR encounters Michael Jackson, who appears as if he's going to give birth to a space baby (he's visibly pregnant). The baby -- a big, rubber foetus with jagged teeth and a second torso coming out of its head -- was either ripped from Jackson's womb or ate its way out, I couldn't tell. Either way, it was bloodier than a Quentin Tarantino film and led to one of the most interesting monologues ever from GWAR singer Oderus Urungus.
Clutching the bloody space baby, Urungus looked at the speckled thrashers in the mosh pit, and, for no apparent reason, said: "Fuck Rob Zombie. While we're at it, fuck every band ever. I'm about to stab this baby in its fuck hole. Would Rob Zombie do that for you?"
In another completely random celebrity blurt, Urungus later proclaimed "Angelina Jolie is a slut!" during the song "Have You Seen Me?"
Other highlights of the show included the song "Maggots," wherein a GWAR slave carted a ludicrously huge imitation crack rock on stage, and the final showdown with Cardinal Syn, an impressive 20-foot robot that met its demise after GWAR chopped its gigantic arms off.
After the band left the stage, the video screen showed them on the "backstage cam." The band members are sitting around drinking when Urungus suddenly remembers he left his crack on stage. So GWAR came back out for the crack, and a President Obama character showed up onstage to present them with "The Presidential Medal of Ass-Kicking Cool Shit." The band showed its appreciation by halfway ripping off his head, which bounced around his shoulders while red fluid sprayed from his neck.
At that point, there was nothing left to do but play some encores, so GWAR did three more songs, including "Sick of You."
GWAR's total stage time was about 80 minutes, but every second was action-packed, as the band's wacky cast of characters pranced, chopped, punched, and spewed all over the place. The fans filed out, all wet and red and shivering in the November air, their shirts now kaleidoscopes of colorful stains.
At this rate, GWAR's long overdue for a laundry detergent endorsement.
Last Night: GWAR at Marquee Theatre.
Better Than: G.G. Allin throwing his feces.
Personal Bias: "Security" at Marquee Theatre almost prevented this review from happening. I'll spare the details, but suffice to say, it's beyond ridiculous when a band's road manager has to come up to the box office three times to tell three different people to let you in while he's trying to get the band ready for a show -- and you already have tickets and a photo pass.
Random Detail: Toward the end of the set, the footage on the screen behind GWAR showed a variety of pop culture spaceships, culled from everything from Star Trek to Star Wars, being blown to bits.
Further Listening: GWAR's latest sonic saga, Lust In Space.