GWAR Laid Waste To The National Once Again

by | Sep 30, 2021 | MUSIC

In preparation for kicking off their 30th anniversary tour for landmark album Scumdogs Of The Universe, GWAR brought Madball and Eyehategod along with them to destroy The National. The jubilant crowd loved every minute of it.

You should’ve been there.

I guess that’s what people say the day after a good show. Sucks to hear as a kid, but eventually becomes a shoulder shrug as you get older. Leading up to the pandemic, trendsetters found it hip not to go to the show. Whatever that means — probably the same bullshit as not using a turn signal. Has that trend shown up in your neighborhood yet? 

Still, it feels necessary to say “You should’ve been there” after this particular GWAR show. It was a one-off before the start of their tour for the 30th Anniversary of Scumdogs of the Universe (which they played in its entirety on this night), with Napalm Death and Eyehategod, which will commence on Oct. 28th. 

The venue wasn’t packed. It was full, but it wasn’t packed, despite a solid bill featuring New York Hardcore legends Madball and the once-dopesick Eyehategod. 

Photo by John Reinhold

This makes sense with autumn approaching and the looming COVID-19/Delta Variant ready to bare its canines. Proper safety precautions were taken by the National before admittance to the venue (i.e., proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test) and a large portion in attendance kept their masks on.

It’s been especially rough for musicians these last 18 months. People gotta eat. Mike IX Williams spoke into the microphone after Eyehategod’s rousing conclusion of “New Orleans is the New Vietnam,” seeming to acknowledge the missing persons. “I’d slit my wrist in the crowd just to see a show. A year and a half.”

That was the truth. Eyehategod sounded fantastic. Maybe even better than I’ve heard them play in years. Could’ve been a combination of necessity and appreciation to have live music back. They didn’t disappoint, filling their set with fan favorites from genre-defining albums Take As Needed For Pain and Dopesick. Eyehategod also included material from 2021’s A History of Nomadic Behavior, finishing off their set with the relentless “Every Thing, Every Day.”  

The audience loved it. Shit, I loved it and I can’t remember half of what they played. 

I’ve never really listened to Madball. Sure, I’ve heard them before, but I couldn’t tell you the name of a song. That’s also not a segue into saying I dislike the band for whatever reason. I’ve just never really listened to Madball. 

From jump – I say “jump” because their energetic frontman, Freddy Cricien, did that all over the stage – Madball delivered. Cricien had more energy than anyone in the room that night, and he’s 45 years old. Certainly hadn’t expected the Richmond crowd to eat up their set the way they did, either. A reminder that I hadn’t been to a hardcore show in a long time. The crowd was sweaty and Madball was excellent.

Photo by John Reinhold

Smoking weed is fun, and I think everyone smoked weed before GWAR played. Old people were comfortable on the sidelines and in the back, dar from fake blood and green dual-udder ejaculate. Hot breath and hands and elbows. I kept my mask on and leaned against a railing by the bar.

Adam Kravitz, guitarist of local instrumental-metal band FutureProjektor, told me his old band the Diseased opened for GWAR at Twisters just before their tour promoting Scumdogs of the Universe. He said they only played three songs before they were kicked offstage. “It was my second show.”

That was roughly thirty years ago. Things are much different now. 

Sans any original members since the passing of unforgettable leader Dave Brockie, GWAR has touched down on each hapless city in the US, not with something to prove (it’s been seven years), but a legacy to uphold. Diehard GWAR fans and casual listeners have gotten their money’s worth with each event, this one included. Naysayers of the past are largely silent now. GWAR must’ve drowned them in spooge.

The stage show, and hilarious banter aside, GWAR are exceptional musicians and they ready-aim-fired on the entire Scumdogs of the Universe can(n)on. Brent Purgason can bring out the dormant air-guitarist in a sea of heshers, and Brad Roberts is one nasty extraterrestrial behind the drums, while Mike Derks and Casey Orr bring killer stringed weaponry as Balsac the Jaws of Death and Beefcake the Mighty.

Photo by Branden Wilson

But, if there is anyone capable of stepping into fill the vacant spot of a legendary frontman, hands-down my money is on Michael Bishop. He nailed the songs from Scumdogs. His antler headdress and hide from a vanquished “Spectral Moon Moose” triumphantly reigned supreme over the Slave Pit. GWAR’s front-thing defends their legacy with axe and shock-rock, load-dripping udders. The Berserker Blothar murdered the National.

They’re just a nightmare of a good time. 

It’s probably close to impossible for GWAR to disappoint. They cut off Joe Biden’s head on September 16th. I don’t really care about politics, but I like watching people get decapitated in this fashion.  

Really though, you don’t need a play-by-play of a show that happened two weeks ago. If you’ve seen GWAR before, you know what goes on there. There’s fake blood and slime and violence and bad language. There are people dressed in outrageous costumes. If you haven’t experienced GWAR, well, I don’t know what to tell you. 

Maybe, buy a ticket for their Oct. 28th show at the NorVA? Maybe get a vaccine and wear a mask? Or maybe keep being hip sitting at home. Do what you like.

Top Photo by John Reinhold

Ryan Kent

Ryan Kent

Ryan Kent is the author of the collections, Poems For Dead People, This Is Why I Am Insane, Hit Me When I'm Pretty, and Everything Is On Fire: Selected Poems 2014-2021. He has also co-authored the poetry collections, Tomorrow Ruined Today, and Some Of Us Love You (both with Brett Lloyd). His spoken word record, Dying Comes With Age, will be released by Rare Bird Books in 2022. Ryan is a staff writer for RVA Magazine and maintains a pack a day habit. (photo by D. Randall Blythe)

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