The first time I saw GWAR I was 18 years old. It was the summer of 2005 and the band were slotted for an hour long, 5 o’clock spot at the Sounds of the Underground festival. I had no idea what I was in for. All I knew was the lore that surrounded their live show. It was supposed to be an event. It was. It was the dead center of the Bush years, a new pope who spent part of his childhood in the Hitler Youth was now sitting atop Christendom, and all that and more would serve as kindling for GWAR’s 60 minute performance piece.
For as much as I remember that show, it is not what happened on stage that resounds the loudest of my memories of GWAR on that July afternoon. An hour before their set, I got the chance to meet Dave Brockie. He was in his full Oderus Urungus regalia, four foot sculpted rubber phallus and all, standing in the back of a makeshift tow cart that was hitched to a boxy looking ATV. As he was being carted though the crowd in his makeshift Kawasaki chariot, for some reason or other it stopped for a few minutes, and as the driver was trying to coordinate his new plans via walkie-talkie, I nervously made my way to say hello. I can vividly remember his bare ass hanging out of the back end of his get up. It was a humorous bright spot in his alien warlord visage, but it was also admittedly awkward as fuck. He greeted me in character, addressing me as human scum. He was the real deal. The entirety of his larger than life persona that I had only heard on tinny sounding records and grainy internet videos was now tangible. As we exchanged pleasantries, the driver of the ATV signaled that it was time to get going. Dave waved him off. For the next five minutes he regaled me of the mighty history of Oderus Urungus. I was ecstatic. Finally, as he was wrapping up his wondrously inventive back story, he broke character. In a much softer voice he asked, “This is your first time seeing us right?”. I nodded. His reply back was “Well, you’re gonna fucking remember it,” and then he gave the go ahead to his bootleg chauffeur to take off.
He was right. I would remember it. But even beyond the gory decapitation of George W. Bush and the staged execution of Pope Benedict while he was dressed head to toe in a crimson mishmash of Klan wizard robes and Nazi pageantry, I would remember how even when he was running late and had every reason not to, he took time to shoot the shit with a fan. I can’t make a claim of loss beyond the sadness that comes when you as a fan lose someone you’ve followed someone from a distance. It’s detached but it still hits closer to home than I would like. That being said, there is a warming comfort in the fact that very first thing that flashed before my eyes when I read about Dave Brockie’s death last night wasn’t his scumdog war face, but the immense feeling of happiness that I could tell he got from being able to share his twisted vision with his fans, and how there must be thousands and thousands of other people who got their few minutes with him to share in that joy — be it covered in galactic splooge in the front row, or just talking to him before a show.