The Road Behind: GWAR After Oderus

November 4, 2014 · Print This Article

Well I’m traveling down the road

And I’m carrying that heavy load

I walk around in a stupor

Sleazy, I cant do the show

 

Last April, Dave Brockie, better known as Oderus Urungus, lead singer of the band GWAR, died of a heroin overdose. I wrote about his death in a previous article: http://badatsports.com/2014/i-hope-theres-drugs-in-heaven-rest-in-peace-dave-brockie/

 

Hanging out backstage

I’m in a homicidal rage

I signed a million dollar contract

I puked on every page

Slaughtered half the crew

Caused they ate the deli-tray

Oh Baby hey

Said I’d do the show but I canceled anyway

 

Many feared that the band would die with Brockie, but happily, this doesn’t seem to be the case. GWAR has endured, with a tour beginning at Riotfest in Chicago. After the initial performance, GWAR was reported to have a new, female lead singer by the name of Vulvatron. This was of course welcomed and hailed as a progressive step by the feminist (or at least pro-equality) press (and Internet chatter), but this early reports were quickly amended. A new character called Blóthar, a self-described berserker, performed many of the vocals formerly performed by Oderus, and was credited in subsequent reports as GWAR’s new lead singer, with Vulvatron’s role being amended to being “more mysterious.”

 

You were road kill baby

Til I scraped you in my arms

Just another wattle flapping

On the old turkey farm

So baby….

 

I was of course still saddened by the loss of Brockie, but also intrigued and excited by the new lineup. Would GWAR still be GWAR without Oderus? I hoped so, and it was in this spirit of hope that I bought tickets to the Albuquerque performance on the so-called “Eternal Tour.” (They were also performing in Tempe, much closer to my new home of Flagstaff, but some friends were in Albuquerque, so we made a road trip of it.) I’d seen photos of Blóthar and Vulvatron, and heard some interviews, but I needed to see and hear them performing, with my own eyes and ears. So we headed out for Albuquerque, and arrived at the venue (Sunshine Theather) just in time to catch the last couple of songs by the second opening act, Decapitated. (They were excellent, by the way.)

 

And while the wheels keep rolling

And another milepost gone

All along the road behind

Oh can’t you hear me calling

Just like the sad whale song

I’m on the road behind

 

The show centered around a narrative that Oderus Urungus was missing. The band attempted to rescue him using a time machine, going into the past (before he went missing, presumably with Brockie’s death) to bring him into the present. After initially accidentally capturing a pizza delivery dude, who was suitably dismembered, this resulted in the band acquiring only Oderus’ penis, the “Cuttlefish of Cthulhu.” At first confused by this development, the band concluded that Oderus had mistaken the door-like “time portal” for a glory hole, and had stuck his dick through in hope that it would get sucked. (The band then complained (I’m paraphrasing), “What? This thing doesn’t suck your dick? You can get pizza, but you can’t get your dick sucked? Fuck the future!”)

 

Well there you have it baby I’m just a sensitive guy

Y’know I snuffed a million planets

But I still find time to cry

Because there’s more to life

Then making other people die

Like a little bloody tear baby

Running out my dirty little eye

 

The set list of this tour has been well described by previous reviews (http://www.heyreverb.com/blog/2014/11/02/gwar-summit-music-hall-denver-halloween-photos-review/96481/). A weird, turtle-like hobgoblin named Bonesnapper delivered a hip hop sort of track (I didn’t recognize it, but looking it up, it’s apparently called “I, Bonesnapper”) the way Sleazy P Martini, the band’s manager, formerly performed Think You Oughta Know This and Slaughterama. He was subsequently ridiculed by the rest of the band for his efforts.

 

And some things baby

They don’t make no sense

Does it really matter if it bugs your parents?

 

Beefcake the Mighty and Vulvatron performed a duet of Hate Love Songs. The band did a few other GWAR classics: Saddam a Go-Go, and Horror of Yig. The band did prove that they could perform the standard repertoire. It was by any standard a good show. Throughout, the narrative of the absence of Oderus served as a memorial to Brockie. The show hit its climax with a battle with Mr. Perfect, a giant, Dr. Manhattan-like being from the future, with a cracked lava skin texture and, after sustaining some battle damage, tentacles for arms. This was all standard GWAR fare, and certainly the band showed that, for all the sadnass at Brockie’s death, the show would go on.

 

You were road kill baby

Til I scraped you in my arms

Just another wattle flapping

On the old turkey farm

So baby….

 

The concert had, from its beginning, acted as a memorial for Dave Brockie. Towards its conclusion, this element was brought to the forefront. A metal rendition of Danny Boy accompanied a funeral procession in which the band carried Oderus’ giant, two-handed sword, Unt Lick. The sword was propped up as a monument, and the band proceeded to perform GWAR’s one classic sad song: The Road Behind. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UyqDIaFCos

Now baby quit yer crying

Put those clown britches on

Blóthar sang these lyrics in the third person: “You know he snuffed a million planets, but he still found time to cry,” and there was no doubt in anyone’s mind about whom they were singing. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house; each and every one of us sported “a bloody little tear, baby, running out my dirty little eye.” It felt and sounded like the entire audience was singing along with every word; I know I was. And then, without skipping a beat, they refused to descend too far into the maudlin, and instead performed a rendition of the Pet Shop Boys (whom they decried as “the worst band of all time”) song West End Girls, mashed up with Jim Carroll’s “People Who Died.”

Well the wheels keep rolling

And another signpost gone

Baby can’t you hear me calling

Like a sad whale song

Sad whale baby

There was no encore. They played what they came to play, following a set plan, an when they were done, they cleared the stage. The night was over. (Well, actually we went to a burlesque show at a bar afterwards, but the band was done.) And we were left to reflect on the night’s performance. The absence of Dave Brockie, a.k.a. Oderus Urungus, was not merely felt, but central to the show. In every moment was a tribute, whether overt or unspoken, to his contributions to the band. The question of his legacy, of who would take the place as lead singer of GWAR, was similarly central. While Blóthar sang most of the vocals that Oderus would have performed, he deftly avoided the role of Brockie’s replacement. In small moments, the idea that Brockie was irreplaceable ran as a consistent thread throughtout the show. The suggestion, “What do you think, Bonesnapper for lead singer of GWAR?” rang not merely as a throwaway line, but as a reminder, that GWAR’s lead singer was and would always be Oderus Urungus, a.k.a. Dave Brockie. The singing of “The Road Behind” in the third person underscored his absence. Vulvatron asserted herself even more powerfully than Sylmensta Hymen, GWAR’s most recent female member, had done, which was no mean feat. Sawborg Destructo struggled against Bonesnapper but neither was a serious contender.

The concert was the perfect tribute to Brockie. It showed two things: firstly, that Oderus was irreplaceable, and nobody would be stupid enough to try to take his place. Secondly, we saw that despite this, the band could and would continue to perform without him. GWAR has seen other members come and go, and if they can survive, as it seems, the loss of their lead singer, then the band could in theory endure indefinitely. However, the concert-as-wake was such a memorial, the late Brockie and missing Oderus so central that the performance, it left one question lingering in the air. As we spilled out into the night, I wondered what their next tour would look like. What would GWAR look like once Oderus’ shade no longer hung over the stage in absentia?

But, as Blóthar put it, that’s enough sad shit, enough feeling sorry for ourselves. Here’s the Pet Shop Boys cover.

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Top 10 Picks…

January 7, 2010 · Print This Article

…To Start Off The New Year!

Hey everyone! Hope ya’ll had a good hooliday! And now we stride fourth, from the ‘Ots to the Onezies, with many a show to look forward too. This weekend (especially Friday) is particularly ripe for new year pickings, so in celebration of all that, I give you…

THE FIRST 10 OF THE NEW YEAR!
(In not much of a particular order)

Happy ‘Effen 2010!

1. In Stereo at Rotofugi

"Raised On Hi-Fi" by Netherland

I feel like I should hate this work for being hip and trite, but it just makes me think of Rosler’s 60-era “Bringing the War Home” too much for me to hate it. Make your own decision.

Reception Friday from 7-10pm. Rotofugi is located at 1953 W. Chicago Ave.

2. 3-for-1: Queen of Heaven, R&R (…&R), and Up Is Down at the Chicago Cultural Center

Joel Sheesley (left), John Allan Faier (center) & Susanne Slavick (right)

I am generally in favor of 3-for-1 shows, especially when there are actually three big shows in one place, something few other places do as well as the Cultural Center. On top of that the work looks worth seeing, to boot. Sheesley presents nearly photo-real paintings of puddles, Faier forces confrontation with death (or our refusal to confront it) with his images of mausoleums and their waiting rooms, and Slavick explores carnage in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Lebanon through over painted photographs.

Reception Friday from 6-8pm. The Chicago Cultural Center is located at 78 E. Washington St.

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