Show Review: GWAR with Job For A Cowboy and The Red Chord at The Regency Center, 11/24/2009

by Jonathan Pirro on November 25, 2009

Oderus Urungus and Beefcake The Mighty

Oderus Urungus and Beefcake The Mighty

One step into the Grand Ballroom at the Regency Center was likely to put the average concertgoer into a state of confusion and alarm. Aside from an abnormally high amount of snarling metalheads and angry-looking punks, the walls, floors, and stage monitors were covered with plastic wrap. The security guards for the night were dressed in raincoats and the photographers had bags wrapped around their cameras. Most of the crowd was dressed in white shirts, a stark contrast to the usual sea of black encountered so often amongst metal fans. What could possibly be coming? A monsoon? The destruction of the ceiling? Of course, to the average goer to this particular concert, it heralded only one very important fact: GWAR had returned to San Francisco.

Kicking off the night were Massachusetts deathcore rockers The Red Chord, bringing with them an earsplitting blast of fury punctuated by the sludgy, snarling vocals of singer Guy Kozowyk. It was only a few songs before the crowd, sparse as it was, erupted into a gigantic circle pit as the band ran back and forth across the stage. Kozowyk, in between songs, bantered humorous nonsense to the crowd; this, personally, endeared me to the band a bit more, as I had been extremely turned off by the last time I had seen their performance and am not too big a fan of most forms of grind metal. He seemed to be in the spirit of keeping the humor in that night’s metal show, despite the fact that The Red Chord, while unflinching and monstrous in their performance scale, were a very odd combination to have with the headliners-to-come.

Similarly confusing, by virtue of genre, were Arizonan death metallers Job For A Cowboy, who picked up the deathgrind torch that The Red Chord had left for them onstage and tore into their own set with equal fury. Singer Jonny Davy, however, spanned a wider range of vocal styles, from high-pitched jabbering shrieks to howling, bellowing roars, as the rest of the band played with a rather impressive sonic precision. Despite the few circle pits and small horde of crowdsurfers that the band’s set inspired, it was clear that most of the crowd was holding back, waiting for the mayhem that was to come when GWAR finally came onstage.

When the lights dimmed and the massive screen behind the stage glistened with the band’s name, the walls of the Regency Center shook violently under the screaming, pounding and stomping of the crowd, who had broken into a frenzy of cheering. Following a rather long introduction video — spanning from a Behind The Music parody (“Behind The Murder”) to the story of GWAR’s connection to the crack industry of the world — the lights slowly faded into existence as the monstrous, alien forms of GWAR marched onstage. If the energy of the crowd could have possibly increased at that point in time, it did so tenfold, at least, as the stage exploded with light and smoke, the band tearing into the beginning of their set with glorious vigor.

It only took two songs for those few uninformed souls in the crowd to figure out what all of the plastic wrap across the Regency’s walls and floors were for, as one of the band’s cohorts shoved a giant cannon — some sort of bizarre “meat gun” that would not be out of place in an H.R. Giger museum — to the front of the stage. Without warning, a jet of water — colored dark green, possibly to emulate alien blood — erupted from the cannon, spraying the photo pit and the first several rows of the audience, who jumped up and down furiously, trying to be covered in the spray. Gone were the circle pits, but the crowd surfers reached an astonishing count; the rest of the crowd pushed back and forth, a massive wave of humanity drenched in red and green with smoke billowing around them.

The pandemonium in the crowd could only be matched by the bizarre theatrics of the band onstage. Frontman Oderus Urungus was cast in the main role of a storyteller, as a drama unfolded onstage, involving the abduction of an alien baby and the pursuit of the band (for those not in the know, GWAR masquerades as a set of alien invaders who live on Earth in the continent of Antarctica in between their various conquests) by “Cardinal Syn”, a giant robotic alien that was last seen pursuing the musicians in their 1995 album Ragnarök. Enemies of the band — made of the characteristic foam-latex/rubber that the band members’ costumes are primarily made from — were either shot, stabbed, shredded to pieces, or otherwise disembowled; the blood and other viscera sprayed across the crowd as it swelled and surged back and forth.

Following their pre-encore departure, and an amusing short that parodied the band’s drunken backstage antics, GWAR returned to the stage just in time to detonate the head of a fake Barack Obama, who awarded Oderus Urungus with the “Award Of Supreme Asskickery” before he was destroyed. Not to be outdone, Oderus brought the night to a close with two final songs, punctuated by his devouring of fake babies onstage, the return of the slime cannon, and Oderus’ phallic “Cuttlefish Of Cthulhu” dousing the crowd in even more fake blood. When the house lights finally buzzed back to life and the band had departed — leaving, in their wake, a PSA reading the credits for the videos behind the band, and then telling the crowd to go fuck off — it was with many loud, wet squelching sounds that the crowd detangled itself and trudged out of the Regency, leaving red and green trails in their wake.

Despite having listened to GWAR for many years and following their album stories somewhat extensively, this was the first live performance of GWAR that I have ever seen. My expectations were for a few random cannons or hoses strewn about the stage to spray the front few rows with fake blood as the show started; I was both shocked and impressed that the downpour continued for the entire set and was usually initiated by all manner of evisceration and massacre. The constant humor and lampooning that the band kept up throughout the set were what really made the show for me, in addition to the over-the-top theatrical violence. I was pleased to be able to see GWAR inside of a small club, as opposed to as headliners for some great arena tour; despite the muffled, hot environment, it was easily one of the best crowds to throw myself into and smash my way about in until I couldn’t stand up anymore. I was covered in red and green ooze, bruised and beaten, and probably did even more lasting damage to my hearing, but this was one of the few shows where every moment of that chaos was worth it to me.

GWAR's setlist from the soundboard. If this seems short, please let us know otherwise in the comments below!

GWAR's setlist from the soundboard. If this seems short, please let us known otherwise in the comments below!

All photos by Jonathan Pirro.

Jonathan Pirro

Off-kilter multimedia enthusiast.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jimbo78 November 28, 2009 at 10:47 pm

They played “Have You Seen Me?” as Oderus devoured babies, one of the few (2) times have actually heard them play it live, out of the many times I have seen GWAR. This song along with their signature closer “Sick Of You” are missing from the above set list.

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Jonathan Pirro November 28, 2009 at 10:51 pm

Thanks! I THOUGHT that the last song was indeed ‘Sick Of You’ but seeing the setlist threw me off.

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Sandy November 29, 2009 at 12:18 am

Bloody hell! Now I’m gonna have nightmares after reading this! Scary! 😉

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