GWAR, Decapitated, American Sharks Warehouse Live October 26, 2014
GWAR is alive and well, folks. That was the most important takeaway from the band's performance at Warehouse Live on Sunday. It was something that didn't seem quite possible when Dave Brockie, the man who fronted the band for 30 years under the foam-rubber guise of Oderus Urungus, passed away in March. He'd been the shock-rock troupe's memorable face, voice and id for so long that it was practically inconceivable that GWAR could exist without him.
But as Oderus was always happy to tell anyone and everyone who'd listen, GWAR is immortal. The scumdogs will always soldier on, and in hindsight, it seems silly to have doubted it. The very respectable Sunday night crowd that filled Warehouse Live showed up curious to see what GWAR would look and sound like post-Oderus, but confident that their favorite costumed freaks would still deliver the goods.
And deliver they did. Sunday night's show was chock full of all of the obscene violence, sexual innuendo and bodily fluids that audiences have learned to expect from GWAR over the decades. The most experienced and devoted fans were easy to pick out. They wore white T-shirts; the better to show off the gory aftermath of blood and bile pouring off the stage. But before they could be soaked, before they could properly pay tribute to the fallen Oderus, they'd have to survive the opening acts.
Houston expatriates American Sharks went on first, and before they struck a note, bassist and singer Mike Hardin briefly eulogized another hero gone too soon: Walters Downtown owner Pam Robinson, who primly and proudly presided over her very own corner of the Houston music scene for many years, giving crucial breaks to dozens, if not hundreds of bands like American Sharks.
The Sharks dedicated their entire set to Robinson, tearing through a stomping collection of punk-inflected hard rock that was well-received by the growing assemblage of howling GWAR fans. Even more welcome was the next set by Decapitated, whose syncopated death-metal grooves inspired a particularly vicious mosh pit.
Decapitated narrowly avoided some all-too-real blood and guts last Friday when their tour van crashed on the way to New Orleans. The Polish group has suffered terribly from traffic collisions over the years. A horrific crash on tour in 2007 killed drummer Witold "Vitek" Kieltyka and left former lead singer Adrian "Covan" Kowanek with severe brain impairment.
If Decaptitated was badly rattled by Friday's crash, though, it certainly didn't show on Sunday. They were wicked.
When GWAR appeared at last, cheered lustily by their slave army, they wasted no time in addressing Oderus' absence. The departed front man appeared in a "magic mirror" at the top of the set, surfing through the timestream during their opener, "Fly Now." As the band searched for him, a number of characters took over on vocals, including new front persons Blothar and Vulvatron as well as weirdoes such as Bonesnapper, Sawborg Destructo and Beefcake the Mighty.
It was all part of building a new mythology, and frankly, the strange storyline was a bit difficult to follow. But who cares? Aliens were eviscerated onstage, and their guts streamed into the crowd. Vulvatron's ample bosoms spewed blood, and likewise Blothar's bizarre udders. Older favorites like "Saddam a Go-Go" were trotted out, as well as newer songs like "Madness at the Core of Time."
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Oderus's inimitable presence was missed, sure, but this was still a GWAR show. In the action-packed, metallic climax, the evil Mr. Perfect returned, claiming to have slain Oderus in the future and stolen his immortality. To vanquish the massive foe, GWAR summoned the giant dinosaur Gor Gor... and then slew him, too.
There was a funeral procession in Oderus' honor, and then a Pet Shop Boys cover. It was an insane mixture of solemn and ridiculous, and much of it was worn home by the audience. Some fans moshed; some fans crowd-surfed. Many just hung out with stupid grins on their faces, staring and the loud and slimy spectacle.
"It wouldn't be GWAR without murder, mayhem and shitty fucking music," said Blothar.
And by that standard, by God, this was GWAR. Long may they reign.
Personal Bias: Hail Oderus!
The Crowd: Neither delicate nor squeamish.
Overheard In the Crowd: "You okay, man?" "I've done this 27 times, dude, I'm fine!"
Random Notebook Dump: Oderus Urungus may be gone, but his disembodied Cuttlefish of Cthulu lives (and sprays) on.
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