Do Christmas carols make your skin crawl? Would you rather watch a slasher movie than a touching Hallmark holiday rom-com? When your cat smacks an ornament off the family Christmas tree, do you look on at the feline’s rebellion in delight?
If you answered “Yes” to any of the above, you may be a good candidate for attending the holiday-themed extension of GWAR’s Use Your Collusion tour at 9:30 Club on December 27. The collective of intergalactic shock rockers, known for spraying their audiences with fake blood, “murdering” puppets of politicos onstage, and generally not caring about offending anyone or anything, are clearly not concerned with tarnishing the holiday.
That’s what makes them fun and has kept fans coming back since their beginnings in Richmond, Virginia in the early 80s. The group’s “lead howler” Blothar (real name: Michael Bishop), who took the reigns as frontman in 2014 after performing as bassist Beefcake the Mighty in the 80s and 90s, explains that Christmas GWAR-style is part of the band’s long-running history.
“We’ve talked about maybe doing even more of [the holiday theme] this year because we used to do it all the time,” Bishop says. “One of my favorite ones was when we did basically a GWAR version of the Scrooge story A Christmas Carol, where our manager sort of experiences all of these things to try and convince him not to be a Scrooge.”
The variations on the holiday theme have changed over the years, so you’ll just have to show up to see exactly what’s in store this time around. Seasonally appropriate programming aside, GWAR always aims to get a rise out of those who engage with them. It’s easy to interpret the band’s ethos as one that exists for the sake of shock value alone, but Bishop is quick to note that there’s usually something deeper going on behind the band’s extreme antics.
“From the very beginning of the band, GWAR talked about climate change,” Bishop explains of the band’s fictional origin story, and the mythology of the band that’s made it so appealing to fans. “That narrative was just getting going in the mid- to late 80s. That was a part of the beginning of GWAR. It was built into that narrative that we were awoken from our Antarctic slumber by a hole in the ozone layer. [This] was one of the early things that climate change scientists would talk about: the ozone layer getting thinner, that there was a hole in it over the Antarctic, and that hole kind of gave way to the idea of greenhouse gas. We were talking about that stuff really early on, and it’s still there.”
The band has roots in the DC area, perhaps accounting for the infusion of politics into their ethos and making how controversial they’re not afraid to be all the more entertaining. Late seminal figure and frontman of the band Dave Brockie, a.k.a. Oderus Urungus, hails from Northern Virginia and eventually settled in Richmond.
GWAR’s presence in Richmond fits seamlessly into the city’s identity and vice versa, as many band members including Bishop call it home. The band even has its own bar in the state capitol, GWARbar, with some of its elaborate costumes incorporated into the décor and drinks aptly named with just the right amount of crass. And in DC’s Shaw neighborhood, GWAR was even the subject of a Drink Company pop-up bar last summer, appearing in full costume to take selfies with revelers on opening night.
In person and on the phone, they’re disarmingly friendly for a band made legendary primarily through guts, gore and provocative rock ‘n’ roll. The band is also known to eviscerate, disembowel and otherwise kill elaborate, lifelike versions of famous people onstage. They’re equal opportunity stage murderers, having done this to the likes of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, just to name a few recent onstage “deaths.” Though this is nothing new to their live shows, Bishop notes that the audience’s attitude toward these theatrics has gone through notable changes in recent years.
“It’s weird to me because we’ve been doing this kind of stuff for a long time. I think that this is something that’s true across [the current] culture: only recently has the world been in a state where they would look at something like that and say, ‘Oh, you guys have a bias.’ That’s something that we never heard before. Now we do hear that people are upset about some of the things that we do.”
Even if you’re not a card-carrying fan of this band – the kind who never misses GWAR’s stop in your city – this show is a welcome respite from cutesy holiday feels if you’re into tipping the scales toward the gross, the shocking and the more metal side of things.
“Come out, because like I said, we still manage to piss people off, we still have fun and we still do things that are outrageous – and we’re very happy and grateful to be doing it.”
Apparently getting sprayed with fake blood can be festive – it is red, after all.
GWAR plays the 9:30 Club on Friday, December 27. Unearth and Savage Master open. Doors open at 8 p.m. and tickets are $25. For more on the band, visit www.gwar.net.
9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; 202-265-0930; www.930.com