By Julie Oatfield /// Staff Writer
“Why are you putting your phone in a Ziploc?” I asked the guy next to me in the croweded Roseland Theater on Nov. 11. He paused in incredulous silence. “Is this your first GWAR show?!” I responded that it was, to which he let out half a laugh and said “Aw, if you got a nice phone or something you’re screwed, dude.”
That guy was on to something. I’d come prepared to hear metal be made fun of in the greatest way possible, to witness battles with ridiculous props between riffs. I was a little less ready for fake blood to shoot in my eye from the torn arm sockets of a pizza delivery alien with vagina dentata for a face. Plain and simple, it was awesome.
I knew a bit about their image, but incredibly little about the band’s music before I went. A YouTube video of GWAR covering Kansas’ “Carry On My Wayward Son” had entertained me to the extent that I hardly bothered searching their original work. Nonetheless, when I saw they were in town I bought a ticket, happy for an above-average study break.
The band kept a powerful presence on stage from the get-go, the surprisingly melodic noise well-balanced between aggression and playfulness. Multiple male vocalists chased each other around stage, in outfits ranging from a mutant lizard, to a skimpy furry loincloth, to a Viking-yak creature whose udder shot out even more blood over the audience. That is, until Vulvatron, the band’s new female singer, took her place atop a speaker to continue dousing the crowd in liquid ejected from her enormous plastic chest.
The former leader, Oderus Urungus (Dave Brockie), was honored in an on-stage interlude involving a march carrying his iconic weapon and numerous visits to a time machine beside the guitarist. Some say Oderus passed away earlier this year after a heroin overdose, but Mr. Ziploc beside me was practically bawling, insisting he was only missing for a while.
Anxious to keep the show going in the spirit of the last founding member, the group challenged the crowds that GWAR, “the greatest band to ever exist,” could make any crappy song a piece of rock and roll art. Several people shouted dares to rework the Pet Shop Boys, and the instruments immediately blasted into a headbanging-worthy rendition of “West End Girls.”
I paid something like $30 for some cool music, and walked out with funky fresh new riffs flowing with the blood pounding in my ears. I’m guessing $20 worth of water and coloring alone had soaked into my clothes.
GWAR comes around to Portland often, as the sixth and seventh-timers sharing front row with me mentioned. So if you’re into anything from rock ‘n’ roll to cheesy horror movies, don’t miss out when their spaceship lands return to PDX. Surprises and fun experiences abound. For example, I’d had a paycheck in my jacket pocket, and explaining the half-melted, tie-dyed document to the guy at the bank the next day was pretty amusing.