Celebrating the holidays with America’s number one shock rock icons
Honestly, I’ve never really been the sort for holiday traditions. Granted, I do have some rituals I like to partake of every year, but when it comes to Thanksgiving and Christmas - perhaps the most traditionalistic of all U.S. holidays - I really don’t have that much to bring to the table…unless you really like pizzas made out of Taco Bell menu items or burritos constructed out of Dollar Tree inventory, of course.
That said, there is one Thanksgiving tradition that I would LOVE to celebrate each and every year. Forget A Charlie Brown Christmas or that lame ass Macy’s Parade, I’m talking about festivities of an altogether different sort - you know, the kind that involves fake blood, wry social commentary, and one hell of a mosh pit.
For most of the 2000s, Thanksgiving week was basically Atlanta’s biggest for heavy metal shows. For a few years, we had Slayer, the most metal thing this side of uranium, play at The Masquerade (which is sort of like the CBGB’s of A-Town) every Turkey Day. For whatever reason, that tradition came to a halt around the middle of the decade, only to be replaced by perhaps an even more awesome November tradition.
If you don’t know who GWAR is, you might as well just give up on life now and save yourself the time. If you DO know who GWAR is, then you really don’t need me to tell you how awesome they are. For the last few years, GWAR has made their rounds in Atlanta each November, and this year, I was fortunate enough to attend their latest rampage through the ATL.
It’s been YEARS since I’ve attended a legit metal show, and needless to say, as soon as I ascended the staircase to the concert hall, a good half a decade of repressed memories all came back to me. Going to a real metal show is sort of like partaking of a modern primitive ritual, this opportunity to air out your aggression, frustration and misery through the lost art of slamming into the dude next to you as hard as you can. The circle is your modern day pagan camp fire, and the mosh pit is the virile dance of the tribal warrior. . .well, if tribal warriors wore cargo shorts and Philadelphia Flyers jerseys, anyway.
All in all, I can’t say I was a really big fan of the opening acts. The first band, a Texas outfit called Warbeast, was one of those ironic-pseudo-metal throwbacks that sounded like Pantera on a really, really off-night. Every Time I Die, the curtain jerkers for GWAR, put on a pretty energetic performance, even if their GRR-I’M-ALL-ANGSTY-AND-WEARING-AMERICAN-EAGLE-AND-BEING-EMO-AND-YELLY style of metal really isn’t my forte.
There was almost a forty minute waiting period between the end of ETID’s set and GWAR’s introduction, although the interstitial, in which hundreds of attendees started chanting along to “War Pigs”, was one of the coolest things I’ve been a part of in quite some time.
Needless to say, the wait was WELL worth it, as the band absolutely dominated all night long. It’s one thing to be a band that sounds great live - which GWAR definitely does - but to put on such a fun show is taking it to a completely other level. The moments of banter in between songs was every bit as amusing as the music itself - as far as live acts go, I think the GWAR experience is positively unparalleled in modern heavy metal.
In general, I don’t think GWAR gets enough credit for what they do. Metal bands really aren’t known for longevity, but these crazy ass art school kids from Virginia have been decimating The United States of Outer Space for well over 25 years now. Although a lot of people tend to write them off as a joke, behind all of the quasi-offensive songs and prop-filled mayhem, there’s some pretty insightful political and social commentary at play. There really aren’t too many bands out there that can perform songs about nuclear omnicide, contemporary payola schemes, and almost Baudrillard-ian takes on the Desert Storm, but GWAR manages to do it while including on-stage decapitations and the annual sacrificial slaughter of the latest pop culture celebre, no less. In many ways, I would include them on the same list as Mike Judge and Chris Morris as our generation’s best social satirists.
Although I never thought I would be using the term “emotional” to describe a GWAR performance, that is EXACTLY how I would describe that night’s show. As the band’s guitarist, Cory “Flattus Maximus” Smoot died earlier this month, you couldn’t help but feel a little moved when Oderus Urungus (the group’s lead singer, who sort of looks like a cross between the alien from “Predator” and Gene Simmons) said that he thought it was a shame that he couldn’t bring back his recently deceased bandmate. Of course, he sandwiched the comment in between a lament for “Pepsi Clear” and a pro-nuclear holocaust ballad, but there’s only so much warmth you can expect at a GWAR show (outside of standing next to a dude lighting up a J, ostensibly.)
Even if you’re not really into heavy metal, I’d strongly advise you to check out the band if they’re ever playing in your neck of the woods. There’s just so much fun packed into their two hour performances that as soon as the show concludes, you can’t wait until the make their return next year. That, and it’s probably the ONLY time you’ll be able to pay money to get splashed in the face with fake blood, alien intestines and various other simulated bodily fluids (seriously, don’t ask), at least until Gallagher decides to start touring again.
Henceforth, I think attending a GWAR concert should be a prerequisite for the Thanksgiving holidays for everybody. Certainly, it’s something WAY more entertaining than a lot of our longstanding traditions, like watching a stupid Christmas tree get lit up or watching the Detroit Lions forget how to play football.
Middle America can keep the cranberry sauce and stuffing; from here on out, I reckon I’ll be vouching for crowd surfing and getting sprayed in the face with zombie mucus, thank you very much.
GWAR'S Epic Introduction!
GWAR "killing" Snooki of "Jersey Shore" Fame!
GWAR performing "Bring Back the Bomb!"