I had been to heavy metal shows before, I grew up with the genre as my go-to musical preference ever since my brother lent me his cassette tape of Metallica’s Black Album. It had been a few years since I went to a heavy metal concert, and I didn’t have any more band t-shirts that I wear beyond laundry-day clothes, so I felt rusty. And while I would likely be able to get back into the groove of a normal metal concert, GWAR shows and fans are of an entirely different breed. They really weren’t something that fell into my usual rotation of music, so it felt as bit odd volunteering as tribute on behalf of Nerdist.
So, knowing that GWAR wasn’t exactly my scene, I had to game-plan how I would interact with the crowd and navigate the festival. I knew I needed to get a sense of the community down there but I didn’t want to ask any questions that would single me out as an outsider. With the passing of Oderus Urungus last year, the crowd would likely be sensitive to certain inquiries. But all of this made me even more curious how one becomes a GWAR devotee. Moreover, how does one become a GWAR fan in the first place? That was my in, and so I set out to find an answer to how so many people from all over the country learned about a horrorshow metal band that they’d willingly cross the country to see.
And so I posed the below question to several GWAR-B-Q attendees. Here is what we found out.
How Did You First Learn About GWAR?
“Horror Show Jack” – New Jersey
When I was 12 years old, a friend of mine invited me over to his place and showed me the GWAR album Scum Dogs Of The Universe. Well, I have to admit that it scared the shit out of me. A little while later, when I gave it a second chance I soon decided that I wasn’t scared anymore and thought it was the coolest thing ever.
Steve and Leslie – Richmond, Virginia
Steve: Well, we are locals to Richmond, and there is no way to not know about GWAR if you live here. You will run into it eventually.
Leslie: Yeah, I remember I was in college when I first read about them, and thought it was such an interesting concept that I had to check them out for myself.
“Revrand Scorn” – Cleveland, Ohio
I first heard about GWAR when I was 10 years old, and I was obsessed with the movie Labyrinth, and was absolutely enamored with the goblins in it. This girl I knew came up to me one day with these rock ‘n’ roll trading cards they used to sell and gave me one for GWAR, because she figured they looked like goblins so I’d be interested in them. So, while I was at the mall with my mom the one day, I wanted to get a GWAR cassette, so I wound up buying Hell-O, Scum Dogs Of The Universe, and Ren and Stimpy’s You Eediot album. So I got home and wanted to know what Goblin music sounded like and put on one of their albums, and it terrified me. I wound up hiding the cassettes under my bed for weeks and only listened to the Ren and Stimpy tape. Soon GWAR’s music started to corrupt me and I had to go back and listen to them. Since then, I have never missed a GWAR show when possible, and I will always miss David Brockie.
Tim Sult (from Clutch) – Maryland
I first learned about GWAR when I was at a show at a place called The Hung Jury Pub in Washington, D.C. It was probably around 1986 or 1987, and there was this band playing named Death Piggy, who would later go on to become GWAR. This was back when they were still making their outfits out of tin-foil and stuff. I’d later see GWAR several time throughout high school and they were my favorite thing at the time.
What I learned from this experience was that a lot of people had a very similar answer to the question. GWAR seemed to be a thing that, if experienced at the right time, might have scared you to death, but ultimately earned undying loyalty. This rang rather true with me, as well. I first experienced GWAR when I saw the movie Empire Records as a child, and remembered being terribly frightened by the seen in which Ethan Embry’s character Mark watches GWAR on TV while eating a pot brownie and hallucinated them talking to him before he is eaten by a giant worm onstage at their concert. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I was able to understand the band as the artistic inside joke they set out to be.
At the end of the event, I was relieved that I wasn’t as out of place as I had feared, and the people I talked to assured me that every person is a newcomer at some point. Don’t let the monster makeup and fake blood fool; these are good people.
Photos courtesy of Garrett Geary Photography
Featured Image: fanart.tv