Jan 2013 13

Washington, DC, 9:30 Club, 12/20/2012


On December 20, 2012, Washington, DC was laid to waste as one of the world’s most obscenely comedic and offensively cacophonous entities – GWAR – performed at the prestigious 9:30 Club. For nearly three decades, the world of music and theatre has been graced with the Richmond, Virginia band’s brand of hardcore/thrash metal, simultaneously shocking and enthralling audiences by presenting one of the most renowned stage shows yet conceived. While costumes and performance art is nothing new in itself, GWAR has maintained an ever evolving continuity since its inception in 1984, presenting a blend of sci-fi/horror inspired imagery by way of a visual style befitting a comic book, with glimmers of a higher intellect at work in the band’s satirical challenging of sociopolitical and moral issues of the day. In the wake of a tumultuous election season, and with a new album planned for release in 2013, the time was indeed ripe for the exiled Scumdogs of the Universe to take on the nation’s capitol.


To prepare the human hordes gathering in celebration of the sickest band in metal history, two fellow Richmond bands began the proceedings. First to take the stage was the vicious metallic punk assault of Iron Reagan, blasting out song after song with the rapid fire fury of a machine gun. Songs like “Paycheck” and “Artificial Saints” resonated in the electric air, riling the crowd up in fine thrashing fashion. Following was the slower, more melodic, but no less heavy machinations of Kepone. Formed in the early ‘90s by former GWAR member Michael Bishop, Kepone’s sound was just as voluminous and gritty, with “Knifethrower” – as well as Bishop in holiday spirits sporting a Santa hat – being one of the highlights of the performance.


With ears now effectively rattling, the crowd was finally taken into a furious and forbidden realm as the blistering litany of GWAR began. Those familiar with the band’s stage show know what to expect, for GWAR stood as a fine example of the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rule. With the stage setup appearing as a fortress stronghold from another world, the band took to the stage in character every step of the way. The dueling guitar onslaught of Balsac the Jaws of Death and Pustulus Maximus cut like chainsaws blasting out riffs as powerful as a supernova, Balsac’s appearance with the legs of a fawn and a head bearing the likeness of a bear trap being a particularly striking image. The thunderous rhythms of Beefcake the Mighty’s bass, standing vigilant and imposing, and the brutal percussive attacks of Jizmak da Gusha could be felt through even the thickest layers of soon-to-be blood-soaked flesh, while the ever intimidating alien creature of Oderus Urungus stood tall and virulent, his guttural voice sounding as commanding as ever. It was a spectacle of the grotesque and the horrific with effigies of Adolf Hitler and Mitt Romney given appropriately violent treatment, exhibiting a comically delightful display of gory entertainment. As stated, a new album is to be released this year, necessitating an arsenal of new material alongside such classics as “Tormentor” and “Immortal Corruptor.” The absence of Cory Smoot – who passed away little more than a year ago – was certainly felt, even as the mantle of Pustulus Maximus was ably assumed by Cannibis Corpse guitarist Brent Purgason, his style no less abrasive but perhaps too flamboyant to match Smoot’s dirty style. Still, this did nothing to hinder the sheer force of GWAR’s aural battering, with the five demonic warriors paying homage to their fallen comrade with a bludgeoning cover of “Carry On Wayward Son.”


Some have argued that GWAR’s music has been of the lowest caliber, relying solely on the strength of the visual presentation. However, credit must be given to the five armored warriors of metal from outer space for carrying on their ballistic campaign for three decades, constantly delivering blow after blow of energetic thrash; especially when dressed in such cumbersome and outlandish outfits. Even if GWAR is a band more to be seen than heard, they still stand as a unique force in modern music, eschewing any notions of class and going straight for the jugular as ballsy and as brazenly as ever. Enjoy, human filth!


Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
Photographs by John Bidlack – courtesy of Johnny B Photography.
To view more from this gallery and to purchase full-size prints and other custom products, please visit http://www.johnnybphoto.net/GWAR2012
Enter in coupon code “ReGen” to receive a 10% discount on any print(s) purchased from this show.



Iron Reagan

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