Sunday, December 26, 2010

GWAR: fifteen years of fandom

Tuesday, December 28: GWAR @ Toad's Place, New Haven

Christmas is coming just a little late for Scenics, who are amped as anything to see GWAR play at Toad's place this Tuesday. The Scenics have all enjoyed live GWAR in recent years, but Katie Scenic is "celebrating" fifteen years of GWAR shows - that's half her wasted life. Katie pitched a story about GWAR to the Advocate recently, but they said some other guy in New Haven was already doing it. Screw him! Actually, he did a pretty nice job, asking questions about their artistic roots and intellectual side. Also in this article, frontman Dave Brockie claims that the band doesn't have any groupies, but we know better!

(Halloween 2009: DH & Katie attend GWAR, cleverly costumed
as John & Mackenzie Phillips; DH loses his daughter/date)

If you're really, really interested in GWAR's origins, the best place to turn is Brockie's column about the history of the band that he's been writing for the RVA News (the band is from Richmond, Virginia, not Antarctica, anticlimactically enough). Brockie is terribly clever, and doesn't actually need journalists to reinterpret him or make his sentences more coherent. For the record, we totally know him, but we didn't want to bother him with another stupid interview, so we decided to catch up with Katie about her personal history as a GWAR fan, which is really more in keeping with the tone of this blog (e.g. all about us).

CS: So, uh, tell us about your history as a GWAR fan.

KS: I first heard GWAR on MTV's Headbanger's Ball, and one of my early "boyfriends" was a big fan - and so were all his degenerate friends! Which was really lucky for me, because we only "went out" for like two weeks, but it was like months before GWAR was coming around to Connecticut. Mommy Scenic was a really indulgent parent in a lot of ways, but not so indulgent that she drove me to concerts or anything like that. But my "ex" had a friend that also liked me, and he was old enough to drive, and had his license, so he took me to my first GWAR show, at the Sting in New Britain. At least, I think that's how it happened. Mommy Scenic probably should have just driven me to these concerts herself. Because finding my own ride basically meant hanging out with a worse and worse crowd. Older boys with long hair, leather jackets, and some totally illegal habits. Oh well, it was only a year or so before I was able to drive myself. 

(1997: 17 year-old Katie Scenic after a GWAR show)

As a young person, I was equally impressed with GWAR's potty humor as with their more politically subversive content. Oh wait, I still am. Equally impressed or whatever. Watching current political figures and idiot celebrities of tabloid culture like Michael Jackson, Paris Hilton, and Monica Lewinsky get ripped apart onstage in explosively gory effigy just never loses its edge. Once I had my own driver's license and wheels, I was able to introduce the GWAR experience to some of my "non-metal" friends. Like Sara, who was super smart and intellectual and politically active, even as a teenager. During one show we attended together, GWAR tore up and violated the corpse of then-recently deceased Princess Diana. Rather than get offended, Sara was delighted and said the most insightful thing - "It's like how she was totally raped and violated by the media in her death" -  thereby rationalizing and excusing more or less every questionable act performed during a GWAR show from there into eternity. Thanks for that, Sara!

Sara liked GWAR so much that she went along to subsequent shows and years later, when she was a paralegal in NYC she was thrilled to host me for a weekend to go see frontman Brockie's art show at MF Gallery. This was in 2001 or 2002, but it wasn't too soon for Brockie, dressed as a giant singing rodent, to desecrate a model of the World Trade Center as a finale to his set of bad karaoke. But hey, it was OK! It was just like the media and George W. Bush raped and violated our national identity in the aftermath of 9/11. We met some guy at the art show who took us to see a two-headed turtle after. This is not a sexual euphemism. That's really what he showed us. Yay, New York!

(At age 21, Katie can legally enjoy a beer with her heroes)

In 2003 or 2004, when I was working at the Hartford Advocate, I was able to channel my love for the band into something constructive - a feature article! The record label guy gave me Brockie's phone number, and I've been drunk dialing him ever since. Usually around Valentine's Day or so, when I always get down about being an old spinster. 

 (Stalking on the streets of Brooklyn)

Earlier this year, as a Scenic, I visited the MF Gallery in its new Brooklyn location for another art show by Brockie and other GWAR members, where Brockie revisited his "Chippy" character, and put on a week-long webcasted "Crack-a-thon" of live performances. You may have read about it here!

I don't enjoy GWAR shows in exactly the same wild-eyed way I did as a kid. I used to memorize every lyric to their songs to scream along at concerts, and go fearlessly into the mosh pit in order to get close to the stage and soaked by the maximum amount of their fake bodily fluids, all the while on a natural high. But I'm old and delicate and self-conscious now. I don't want to lose my teeth or glasses! I want to stand in the back of the room, sipping a drink, hoping to catch a buzz, rolling my eyes at ugly young people and their easy fun. Actually, that's just what I'm better at now, and I do try to stick with my natural talents. Those were, in fact, the days! But I still get off on the audacity and originality of GWAR's live production and the immense artistic and physical effort that goes into such a touring show.
What can you expect from GWAR live? A professional blogger from Gawker recently expressed her disapproval of the band's onstage slaughter of one Sarah Palin. She obviously lacks the rich history with the band and multifaceted appreciation of their cultural relevance and secretly sophisticated humor that we Scenics have. Her loss!

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