Never underestimate the drawing power of camp. Anyone who’s been to a midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show can attest to this. While the fan bases for cult acts aren’t large, they possess a brand of loyalty and dedication boggling to the neutral observer-and there’s no better example than the GWAR phenomenon. Their show at the Ventura Theatre on Friday didn’t sell out, but the eclectic followers who lined up for it were some of the most ardent I’ve seen.
The war gods were preceded by two Canadian acts. Ontario metalcore quartet The End had a hard time warming up the crowd-it’s not a good sign when the lead singer feels compelled to point out that people aren’t having enough fun. Unfortunately, besides energetic percussion (vocalist Aaron Wolff aided the drummer by banging the hell out of a free-standing tom), their sound wasn’t compelling enough to get anyone very worked up. The Vancouver heavy metal band 3 Inches of Blood did much better at excitation, partially because of a campy stage presence, but mostly because the band wailed. Vocalist Cam Pipes’s Rob Halford-esque falsetto was particularly inspiring.
By the time GWAR strode out to foul the stage with their hideous presence, the crowd was chanting for them, and the pit was at fever pitch. However you feel about metal, you have to hand it to GWAR for putting on a truly entertaining-and surreal-show. Among the most notable occurrences were the decapitation of Bam Margera; the subsequent feeding of his head to the band’s T-Rex, Gor-Gor; and the falating of Hitler by lead singer Oderus Urungus-all embellished, of course, by the spurting of gallons of nasty-looking fluids onto anyone within 30 feet of the stage.
To a first-timer, GWAR’s aura was surprisingly impressive for four middle-aged guys dressed in foam latex, but the seasoned fans weren’t surprised, and they bowed down to their overlords with a genuine (if not weird) devotion that helped explain how the band has lasted 23 years. But, you know, GWAR is forever.