Gwar at First Avenue, 11/2/11

November 2, 2011
First Avenue, Minneapolis

Editor's note: This review was written and published before we learned that Cory Smoot, a.k.a. Gwar guitarist Flattus Maximus, passed away sometime between last night's gig and this morning. In our writer's words, he was a "fucking metal hero" who's guitar skills "stopped him in his tracks" several times during the show. This was his last show. Our thoughts are with his friends, family and fans. 

Last night, on a beautiful, if a bit chilly, Minneapolis night, I found myself in a photo pit, dodging alien blood and bile, staring down the barrel of a two foot long Checkov's Dong. Riotous white-shirted fans writhed behind me, covered in alien blood, begging for more.

"A gigantic alien wang introduced in the first act must fire before the curtain falls."

Gwar at First Avenue, 11/2/11

"Welcome once again / To the bloody Pit, my friends / We're so glad you could attend / Come and die... Come and die..."

How the hell did I get here?

It all started a decade and a half ago. As a teenager in metal-heavy central Florida, I regularly heard epic legends of metal's ridiculous stunts but none were as over the top as Gwar. They were the band that practically defined the early era of shock rock in our freshman minds, thanks to the omnipresence of a music-playing MTV and rowdy seniors that stumbled into school coated in viscous, colorful goo the morning after "Gwar Day". None of us had their albums, none of us cared what their music sounded like. We just wanted to be there, in the front row of the crowd, being violated by the malevolent liquids of Oderus Urungus and his band of merry alien bastards.

Thankfully, I grew up. Or did I?

"We came from your nightmares / And we're calling for your souls / Your endless death begins today!"

To my left, the beasts of Gwar, occupying their newly won Castle of Death. To my right, a thousand or so rabid fans, enthusiastically clawing their way over the barricade one by one. First Avenue's pit crew was in fine form - one was even wearing a pink-stained tee shirt and a shower cap over his dreads. There goes another crowd surfer, over and out, ready for more. These guys are pros. I think they actually enjoy this, blood-drenching and all.

"We're here to kill you / And claim your souls / And drape your stinking entrails round / Our numerous war-poles."

It wasn't until I left the barricade that I saw the full extent of the madness. Each show has a storyline, usually loosely based around a recent album or lineup change, and these stories play out in exaggerated, over-the-top slow-mo costumed wrestling matches reminiscent of kaiju without the cityscapes and twice the testosterone-fueled gross-out factor. Snookie, various members of the Castle of Death staff and even a nazi necromancer were dismembered throughout the set, smothering the adoring, moshing crowd again and again. Sidekick (and stage wrangler of sorts) Bone Snapper 'fought' the interlopers with varying degrees of 'success' and reliable amounts of blood, sending the crowd into a frenzy.

"You'll go into the pit and then you'll be reborn / You won't feel the cold and you'll never get warm / And then you will take your place in the storm!"

It wasn't until the end of the show, the final song of the encore, that the inevitable happened. After the castle's massive maggot, possibly the namesake of the "Return Of The World Maggot Tour", devoured several female audience members, the front row was rewarded for their patience with a prolonged assault. With that, the show was over. Despite fervent fans chanting for an encore, the screen went down and the club began to empty. Dozens of people with once-white blood soaked shirts milled about with dazed smiles on their faces, already recounting tales of battle.

"Don't ya' know? / So sick of you. / Things you say, and all the things you do. / Human filth... Sick! / Human filth... Sick! / Human filth... SICK!"

Gwar aren't really a band, they're easily the finest purveyor of low-brow DIY performance art touring through the country. Despite their display of technical metal prowess and heavy music, I'm still not sure I'd be compelled to buy an album of their music. But the next time they come through town I'm likely to be there, getting a dose of ridiculous metal-wrastlin' catharsis with a heaping side serving of alien blood.

Personal Bias: My first time at a Gwar show.
The Crowd: Their third, fifth or tenth time at a Gwar show, depending on who you ask. Oh, and it was all-ages too, so I wasn't the only first-timer, although likely one of the oldest.
Overheard in the Crowd: "I've seen Gwar EVERY TIME they've come through town, except once, when I was in prison!"
Random Notebook Dump: Partway through the set, I spotted Gwar's laminated set list. Last song? "SICK OF YOU --- DICK SPEW + BILE DRIVER" That's actually what it said. Lo and behold, that's what happened.
For More Photos: See my full slideshow here.

Set List:

Zombies, March
Gathering of Ghouls
Storm is coming
Eight Lock
Crack in the Egg
Bring Back the Bomb
Immortal Corruptor
Hail, Genocide
KZ Necromancer
Metal Metal Land
Let Us Slay
Damnation Under God
Ham on the Bone

Maggots are Falling Rain
Slick of You

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