Review: Gwar at Summit Music Hall, 11/16/11

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There's not a lot left to say about Gwar that hasn't already been mythologized. Instead, I'll defer to tradition: About twenty minutes before one of the band's shows, you hear the collective sound of zippers. Attached to ponchos and raincoats and the occasional sweatshirt, the zippers mark a fondness for the fake-blood-slinging alien metal band but an unwillingness to leave the show coated in their antics. Twenty minutes in, however, comes the night's most important (and again typical) question: Why are so many people crying?

Soon, the crowd divides like the Red Sea into masochists and sadists -- those who are ready to get doused in red ooze, and those who prefer to watch. At some points, it would appear the Red Sea also came out of their faces: At least 15 people pushed through the crowd sobbing before the guys even made it to "Hail, Genocide!" But you don't go to see Gwar for the music -- which is biting, acerbic and epically technical guitar-driven heavy metal -- the variety that often comes with the word "slaying." You come for the show.

"Greetings, my friends," is as solid a beginning as any. Every Gwar performance follows a storyline of sorts, one that always begins with the alien beasts inside their Castle of Death -- wherever the stage is -- and last night included Snooki, a Nazi necromancer and what appeared to be several adult cast members of Aaahh!!! Real Monsters. All of them, of course, are subsequently eviscerated: Snooki's body parts are slowly ripped off onstage until her fake intestines look like pink spaghetti. The JagerMonster, however, is brutally beaten and sodomized by mostly naked stage helpers until the crowd is covered in his pink faux blood. At this point, the most appropriate word is "awesome."

Oderus Urungus and his dastardly crew of extraterrestrial assholes have been repeating the show in various forms since the '80s, and everything involved is big: the talk ("Balsac, you are fucking wasted"), the sound (which breaks only -- and rarely -- for the talk), the size of Oderus' alien dong (swinging in the faces of the front row). Even the costumes are so oversized it's questionable whether they could successfully tune their own instruments. It took 45 minutes to set up for Gwar, but that could also have been how long it took Oderus to go from human to nightmare.

He is a terror even before you realize he is wearing (and gyrating in) a black mesh thong. The most captivating aspect of every Gwar show is its sensory overload, your complete inability to notice and focus on anything because you are trying to be a part of everything. At its core, Gwar remains one of the most self-sufficient and consistently rewarding DIY-esque metal projects in the world, and it takes both blood and badassery to earn that title.

More Gwar Photos: Gwar at Summit Music Hall

Apparently, though, they might not have earned it. Although all the fans know this to be a lie, Oderus spent the night's most significant chunk of crowd banter (read: rant) railing on the faults of Mayhem, the touring metal festival Gwar has yet to be invited to play. "Their idea of metal would be Metallica and Lou Reed onstage together. Fuck all that shit!" The audience reaction proved a better gauge of the band's worth than its festival line-up, but it didn't keep him from talking. The monsters in Gwar are a multi-talented bunch of misfits: Oderus alone can simulate ejaculating blood while both growling unintelligibly and rubbing his mike stand all over his thonged, trollish ass. The only thing the guys can't do, really, is come down to Earth.

Click through for Critic's Notebook and Setlist.


Personal Bias: I have seen Gwar three times, but no attempt to do so was more uncomfortable than last night. I headed straight over from Westword's Web Awards -- in a dress and heels -- and was consistently mocked throughout the night. Sure, the dude ratio is intense, but ladies like metal, too. By The Way: Tonight was the group's first Denver show without guitarist Flattus Maximus (Cory Smoot), who died November 3. The message "R.I.P. Flattus" on the backs of homemade T-shirts was the only noticeable sign. (It certainly wasn't in performance quality.) Random Detail: Early on, I thought it would be cool if I kept track of the amount of times the guys used the F word. I was wrong -- and I lost count at 72. Overheard: The dialogue between Gwar aliens is amazing. For example: "Ahhh, I see you are the janitor of the Castle of Death, and these Gwar fans have been making a mess." (Cue an entire blood bank of ooze.) By the end of the night, I had spent at least ten total minutes wondering why the opposite of "unsettling" wasn't "settling."


Gwar Summit Music Hall - 11/16/11 Denver, CO

1. "Zombies, March" 2. "Gathering of Ghouls" 3. "Storm is Coming" 4. "Jagermonsta" 5. "Eight Lock" 6. "Crack in the Egg" 7. "Bring Back the Bomb" 8. "Immortal Corruptor" 9. "Hail, Genocide!" 10. "KZ Necromancer" 11. "Metal Metal Land" 12. "Let Us Slay" 13. "Damnation Under God" 14. "The Uberklaw" 15. "Ham on the Bone" 16. "Salaminizer"


17. "Maggots" 18. "Sick of You"

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