Rock Roundup

Ready Or Not, Here Comes GWAR

Imagine Vikings from outer space. But funnier. The thrash-metal band lands this week at the Rave.

By - Nov 17th, 2014 11:04 am
GWAR. Photo from

GWAR. Photo from

Week’s Top Show: GWAR at Rave Friday, November 21

In the entertainment world, GWAR is, among other things, a leader in “like x, but better” comparisons. Three examples:

  1. GWAR is like KISS, but funnier.
  2. GWAR is like Marilyn Manson, but funnier.
  3. GWAR is like Gallagher, but funnier.

Both KISS and GWAR also enjoy thoroughgoing, deliberate stupidity. Both Marilyn Manson and GWAR have also suffered under the term “shock rock.” Both Gallagher and GWAR also cause managers of nicer venues to put plastic sheeting on walls and seats to prevent stains (from splattered fruit in the former’s case and, mostly, from fake blood in the latter’s).

I think GWAR retains greater affection among fans than the three x’s above do among theirs because GWAR has rarely done more with the mainstream than bluster into it as if by accident, and because it has never really had to answer ponderous questions about its impact on children, women, and/or forest creatures.

Started in the mid-1980s, GWAR took the inherent theatricality (and, possibly, the homoeroticism) of heavy metal to costuming and presentational extremes, then slathered on a thick layer of mythology from space opera, comic books, pulp fiction writer Robert E. Howard, and the sort of prog-rock tales in which armadillo/tank hybrids are born of volcano eggs.

Onstage, hilarity and garishness have usually ensued; on record, the theatrics translate more sporadically, although albums like 1990’s Scumdogs of the Universe achieve the over-the-top gleefulness of the best Roger Corman horror flicks, which usually elicit more astonished laughs and gasps than real scares.

In the current decade, GWAR has been shaken by the 2011 death of guitarist Cory “Flattus Maximus” Smoot and the 2013 death of founding member Dave “Oderus Urungus” Brockie. Each died of a drug overdose.

Still, it would be almost too much an acknowledgement of the non-mythical world for GWAR to stop, despite no longer having any original members. Ardent and casual fans alike should therefore prepare themselves for a Viking funeral of a performance, except that these Vikings are from space.

A memory of another time:


Tuesday, November 18: G-Eazy at Rave

G-Eazy, known to his mom as Gerald Gillum, might have charmed said mom with his 2011 hip-hop take on Dion’s 1961 golden oldie “Runaround Sue.” He evidently charmed plenty of other folks with it and went on to play every single stop of the following year’s Vans Warped Tour.

G-Eazy isn’t shy about crossover potential. At the same time, his first official LP, this year’s These Things Happen, sports enough vulgarity and indulgence to keep him credible in rap circles, even as he slips musings about the cost of success into his mellow flow. And he samples a message from his mom saying she’s proud of him:


Tuesday, November 18: RL Grime at Turner Hall

Henry Steinway admittedly doesn’t sound like a birth name conducive to attracting the punters who listen to “trap,” a subgenre of electronic music that relies strongly on delightful obnoxiousness. However, “RL Grime” is a nom de guerre that belongs on a high school sophomore’s notebook cover.

Putting that aside—with difficulty—I appreciate how Grime’s debut album, the just-released Void, plays pinball with the weaker brain cells between my headphones. Despite the aggression usually associated with trap, Grime’s version suggests that he doesn’t mind whether you dance to it or just stare at the ceiling.


Wednesday, November 19: Mike Doughty’s Question Jar Show, Shank Hall

Mike Doughty had a very difficult time as frontman for Soul Coughing  until its breakup in 2000—his 2012 memoir, The Book of Drugs, detailed his addictions and the “dark, abusive marriage” of that fascinating alt-music group—yet his distinctive vocal growl always carries an echo of that time.

His most recent studio solo work, 2014’s Stellar Motel, also echoes the hip-hop and dance-floor strophes of Soul Coughing. His Question Jar show, on the other hand, is an informal event during which he and Andrew “Scrap” Livingston draw audience questions and song requests from a jar. It’s a challenge for Doughty, but not one fraught with painful difficulty.


Saturday, November 22: Phillip Phillips, Riverside Theater

I cannot say I’ve watched American Idol with real attention, but I have dealt with its results and winners, whether elevating my eyebrows in happy surprise at a roof-raising Kelly Clarkson’slive show or twitching with furious impatience during whichever Carrie Underwood single is in heavy rotation.

Phillip Phillips, who won the 11th season of the show in 2012, hints at singer-songwriter strengths beneath his (thankfully mild) Dave Matthews-style vocal affectations and the folk-pop trend-jumping of his 2014 album Behind the Light. It is to be hoped that, at the very least, he follows Clarkson’s lead and lets out his truest side onstage.

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