Gwar is coming to Medford — be afraid?
Imagine my shock as I was walking in downtown Medford the other day and my eye caught a poster showing a bloody horde of guitar- and sword-wielding space mutants.
I stopped and took a closer look.
No flippin' way, I thought. I took a closer look.
Gwar. Gwar is coming to Medford?
Or, if I was a bigger Gwar fan, the above sentence would read more like: "GWWWAAAAARRRRRR IS COMING TO DESTROY MEDFORD, OOOOOOOOOOOORRRRRRRRREEEEEEGOOOOOOOONNNNNN!!!!"
For those of you who have lived quiet and fulfilling lives outside the costume-metal scene, Gwar is a schlock-rock outfit that hails from the fertile metropolis of Richmond, Va. They started out as a punk band that incorporated horror and space themes in their music, a la The Misfits.
Soon, this morphed into a mythology heavy-metal act that features each member donning 100 pounds of latex and foam to create elaborate costumes. Gwar is fronted by singer, and the only original member of the band, Oderus Urungus, who was reared on the planet Scumdogia 43 billion years ago. His father was a supercomputer and his mother a petri dish. This explains a lot because he seems to have acute anger issues and is bent on the enslavement of mankind and the eventual destruction of Earth.
His bandmates include, in no particular order or alien race, Flattus Maximus, Beefcake the Mighty and Balsac the Jaws of Death.
I would try to explain the Gwar mythos here, but I just spent the past 19 minutes conducting research on the band's website. I had to stop when a sharp pain suddenly appeared behind my left eye. Trust me, it's complicated.
I listened to Gwar from time to time during my high-school metalhead days. I remember liking a few songs off their subtle masterpiece, "This Toilet Earth."
I still appreciate Gwar's humor and creativity, this after viewing a handful of their videos on YouTube to prepare for this column. Unlike other shock-rock and costume acts, such as the putrid and soul-rotting Insane Clown Posse and numbingly humorless Slipknot, Gwar seems to roll with the joke that heavy metal is, in its purest and most joyful form, pretty ridiculous and more than a little funny despite the demonic imagery and glowering musicians.
Gwar's shows are a parade of taboo-smashing set pieces that include executions of political and entertainment figures such as Al Gore, George W. Bush, Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus. The band spends as much time spraying fake blood and slime into the audience as it does playing instruments.
But play they do. The musicianship is impressive, considering the amount of makeup and plastic weighing on each member of Gwar.
Gwar exists in that geek-sweaty area of the cult band, barely selling enough albums to keep afloat while touring relentlessly to large and receptive audiences. In a way, Gwar shares much in common with The Ramones, who cultivated a rabid fan base in garages and college dorms across America, played packed houses in college towns but never quite broke big into the mainstream. And thank God they didn't. The mainstream was not worthy of The Ramones, it turns out.
(Did I just compare Gwar to The Ramones? I've been doing this far too long. If anyone wants to meet me at my car after work tonight and pummel me into a puddle of reporter slime, I certainly would understand. I won't fight back.)
As I was running through a few tracks last night, it dawned on me that it's nearly pointless to listen to Gwar. The music is indelibly linked to the show. One doesn't make sense without the other.
The Gwar experience can be summed up, thus. A few years back, a friend of mine who lives on the East Coast caught a Gwar show in Philadelphia. She went to soak up the nostalgia and because she was recently single and needed to get out of the house before she went insane.
I called her after the show to check up. She said it was much fun, but she couldn't talk long.
"I have to go clean the Gwar goo out of my hair before it dries," she said before hanging up.
Gwar is playing the Medford Armory Nov. 10. Tickets are $22 in advance and can be purchased at www.jmaxproductions.net or at several places in Medford.
Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.