Gwar is one of those bands you’re supposed to grow out of. After a few years of moshing around in fake blood and semen sprayed from lurid prosthetics, some girl usually comes along with her shitty Smiths records, and the next thing you know, you’re listening to This Charming Man after a prolonged argument about who will take the garbage out.
Fuck that. And fuck The Smiths.
Thanks to the awful power of Spotify, I’ve been able to listen to all the album I was really into as a teenager. Some of them, like Rancid’s Out Come the Wolves never really left rotation. I listened to it at the halfway point of the half marathon I ran in Tiburon. This is something of a tradition of mine for races.
Anyway, I’ve bee watching a bunch of horror movies lately and I discovered the films and shows of director Adam Green. He was buddies with the late Dave Brockie (AKA Oderus Urungus) and cast him as Oderus on his show Holliston. I knew Brockie had died, but I wasn’t really paying too much attention at the time. Last night I spent some time watching some of the memorial services, including the viking funeral of the character Oderus. I was surprised how sad it made me. I definitely didn’t know anyone in Gwar, and I never met Brockie, but I loved him as a performer and his loss was felt deeply by a lot of artists I admire as well as ones I’m coming to admire.
I grew up really into metal, comic, books, and horror. Gwar was the super crazy combination of all those things I loved. I couldn’t even tell you how many times I’ve seen them play live. The only band I’ve seen as many time is The Melvins.
Brockie was electrifying as Oderus. He was quick witted and never seemed to be at a loss for something gruesome to say. His interview on The Joan Rivers Show and his appearances on the Fox News show Red Eye were always funny and absurd.
I’ve been listening to Gwar’s album Scumdogs of the Universe off and on over the last few days and it brought back a ton of odd high school memories. This was, at the time, the most offensive album anyone I knew had ever heard of and my friends delighted in its raunchiness. There were a few of the cooler kids who had more orthodox punk tastes who thought it was stupid, but I was all in, especially after I saw them live.
I left that first Gwar show covered in fake blood and completely amazed that anyone could put on such a great show. It was like being at a metal show and a haunted house at the same time. Around the time I got into them, it was the end of the grunge era. That means it was cool for bands to look like the merch booth guy and do absolutely nothing interesting on stage except occasionally smash something, which always seemed like a douchey display of wealth to me. A lot of my friend’s bands adopted this pose and tried there best to look like they didn’t give a shit on stage.
Gwar rocked it completely differently. They gave a shit. In fact, they sprayed fake shit on the crowd. I remember thinking at the time, “why doesn’t someone else do this, too?” I guess the answer is that costumes are hard to make and it’s hard to make a case for yourself as a serious band when everyone is dressed up like alien warlords.
But people seemed to really “get” Gwar as the years went on. There’s even a TEDx talk about how they’re a regional folk art group (I agree).
They have a new lead singer and still tour, but it’s hard not to think of Oderus as the singer. He was an all time great frontman and he left behind a lot of fun music and hilarious content. If I know one thing, it’s that I hope when I die, I deserve a viking funeral like Oderus Urungus had. Rest in peace scumdog.