Alien invasion at the International
For more than 30 years, there has been a band that has left audiences yearning for more; that has left the crowd soaked, bruised and exhilarated. For a band that originally started as a joke to open shows for its members’ other bands, GWAR has lasted through myriad lineup changes and multiple generations of fans.
It has been close to seven years since Knoxville was graced by the interplanetary life forms collectively known as GWAR. The Scumdogs of the Universe last blessed our town with their savage display of music and mayhem in October 2010. On Friday, September 15, GWAR set up shop at the International and once again entertained the masses in a way few other bands are capable. Helmed by a new lead vocalist, The Berserker Blothar, and a new guitarist, Pustulus Maximus, GWAR set out to make the evening memorable. Supporting the headliners were two local bands, REALM and Summoner’s Circle.
I had arrived earlier in the evening to converse with a member of the band. After watching the band perform their soundcheck, I was granted a sit-down interview with Pustulus. There is something to be said about sitting across from an alien being with a penchant for massacring anything that makes him angry. His blue and red face held a blank stare as he seemed to be waiting for me to ask him questions that he probably had no desire to answer. I started simply, asking him how the trip to Knoxville had been. Informing me that he didn’t know because he had “slept the whole time,” adding that it was “wonderful, I guess.”
Our conversation included topics ranging from how he felt about their time on the Warped Tour – “Awful. Warped Tour was … I’ll never want to do another one again.” – to the sound of their next album, which he described as mostly “easy listening, you know. It’s kind of like Air Supply. Basically, we got the guys who do “muzak” to do our record.” When asked about who he disliked more, Martin Shkreli or Donald Trump, I was informed that, “I hate them both. Donald Trump, I have to say I hate more because he’s probably in a higher position of power than Martin Shkreli,” before giving me a quick ethics lesson on how Shkreli is just a product of capitalism.
The full audio of the interview can be heard at HYPERLINK “https://soundcloud.com/ryan-scott-158/gwar-interview” https://soundcloud.com/ryan-scott-158/gwar-interview. Although a short-lived experience, I left the International with a better understanding of what goes on in the mind of a member of GWAR. Just kidding, I have no idea what goes on in their heads.
I returned to the venue just after the doors had opened and made my way inside. The dark interior, slightly illuminated by the bar and some stage lights, set the tone for the music that was to soon pump into the heads of hundreds of spectators. Promptly at 8 p.m., the first of the two opening acts began their set. REALM is a self-described “beer-battered, deep-fried, Southern and sci-fi” stoner-rock band from Knoxville. Sounding a bit like early Ozzy-led Black Sabbath with crunchier guitars and grittier vocals, they seemed to garner the quick attention of the crowd, which promptly started a mosh pit in the middle of the floor.
After they completed their set, another Knoxville group took the stage. Summoner’s Circle is a doom-metal six-piece that adorns themselves in black monk robes and white and black face paint, evoking thoughts of Scandinavian black-metal bands. The crowd seemed very pleased with the group’s performance, and the floor in front the stage began to become more crowded as the venue filled up with latecomers and those migrating inside from the smoking area.
It was finally time for the main event. You easily could tell those who previously had attended a GWAR show, as they were the ones who were ensuring their front-row position almost as soon as Summoner’s Circle left the stage. It would be at least another 20 minutes before GWAR hit the stage, but the excitement was already boiling over while the stage crew still were removing equipment from the stage.
And then it began.
If there were any doubts that the new lineup of members would be able to live up to previous incarnations, they were quickly smashed when the band opened with one of their classics, “Saddam a Go-Go.” From that point on, it was a full auditory and visual assault on the senses as the band tore through a variety of songs from their entire catalog of music, including new songs from their forthcoming album, “The Blood of Gods.” The usual display of an intergalactic battle taking place on stage proceeded to produce what fans have come to expect from the band.
The stage antics consisted of the usual “killing” of various alien creatures by some form of mutilation, and the crowd reveled in being sprayed with the various fluids that were produced by the wounds. As every GWAR fan knows, you’re just being sprayed with dyed water, but it is quite the sight to see everyone drenched from head to toe in various shades of red, blue and green once the lights come back on.
As the band walked offstage in complete darkness following the song “Sick of You,” the crowd began chanting their name. After a few minutes, the band returned in order to close out the show with a rendition of AC/DC’s “If You Want Blood (You Got It).” September 15 showed the people of Knoxville that, even after 30 years, GWAR still has plenty to offer. Furthermore, the band shows no signs of disappearing into outer space anytime soon.