We’re reposting this concert write-up in his memory.
Regarding his life, Mike Bishop, former member of Gwar, had this to say “Dave was one of the funniest, smartest, most creative and energetic persons I’ve known. He was brash sometimes, always crass, irreverent, he was hilarious in every way. But he was also deeply intelligent and interested in life, history, politics and art. His penchant for scatological humors belied a lucid wit. He was a criminally underrated lyricist and hard rock vocalist, one of the best, ever! A great frontman, a great painter, writer, he was also a hell of a bass guitarist. I loved him. He was capable of great empathy and had a real sense of justice.”
It’s hard not to admire the tenacity of Gwar. With last year’s passing of guitarist Cory Smoot, aka Flattus Maximus, many expected the Scumdog Overlords to hang up their helmets and call it a day, yet 2013 has been one of the busiest years in Gwar’s history. With the September release of Battle Maximus, and nearly a half dozen tours this year alone, Oderus and company have shown no signs of slowing down. Playing Atlanta’s Masquerade a day before Halloween, Gwar demonstrated precisely why their shows still resonate with crowds after nearly three decades.
Openers A Band of Orcs and Iron Reagan offered two vastly different but equally entertaining performances. The former is a five-piece death metal group dressed, not surprisingly, in impressively detailed orc outfits. The quintet is essentially a heavier alternative to Gwar without sacrificing the theatricality, even spewing regurgitated water instead of buckets of blood. Neo-thrashers Iron Reagan took the blistering guitar solos and shouted vocals of Slayer, and combined them with the brevity and political themes of modern day punk. Fans of pre-Seasons in the Abyss Slayer would do well to remember Iron Reagan’s name, as they may be the most impressive throwback act since The Sword.
While initially appearing out of place among the costumes and tongue-in-cheek tones of their tour mates, Tennessee’s titans of deathcore, Whitechapel, showed new-found potential through their performance. Though the band previously relied almost solely on breakdowns and pseudo-antagonistic lyrics, the group displayed tremendous growth as musicians and songwriters, focusing more on melody and cohesiveness than ever before.
The opening note of “Madness at the Core of Time” from Gwar’s latest effort, Battle Maximus, saw a rush to the Masquerade stage as the people of all ages, races and genders rushed to the barrier, ready to turn their white T-shirts bright red. “Salaminizer,” “Bring Back the Bomb,” and set staple “Sick of You” were played alongside rarities such as “Jack the World” and “Preschool Prostitute,” but to simply write out a setlist for a Gwar show negates the point of the band entirely. As anyone who knows anything about Gwar can tell you, the music is secondary to the vaudevillian performances that have gained the band notoriety over the years. The plot for the current tour revolves around Gwar’s battle with a humanoid being, Mr. Perfect, and his attempts to render the human race obsolete. As the band duked it out with Mr. Perfect and his army of abominations, various celebrities, including Pope Francis and Justin Bieber, fell victim to the hands of Gwar as the blood-drenched crowd cheered on.
As simplistic and ritualistic as it may seem, there’s something strangely engrossing about a Gwar show. Amidst the fake slaughter and bawdy humor, it’s apparent that the band has a tremendous amount of heart. Doing any job for 30 years — in particular a job that requires you to constantly leave your family and home for months at a time — requires a tremendous amount of dedication, and the distinctly DIY nature of the band’s production leaves little time for rest.
The addition of Smoot’s cousin, Brent Purgason, left many with questions, but Purgason’s Pustulus Maximus character fits the band like one of Oderus Urungus’ monstrous gloves. It’s easy to pass these shows off as lowbrow entertainment, but those with an open mind will surely find something enjoyable — however juvenile it may be — in the strange, bloody world of Gwar.