It was with great sadness that I woke up this morning and read that Dave Brokie aka Oderus Urungus had passed away in Virginia. He and his band Gwar have been longtime favorites of mine, and my memories of them and their music are some of the strongest I have of any artists.
I got introduced to Gwar, probably the same way most people my age in the ’90s got introduced to Gwar; through Beavis And Butthead. Gwar was one of the bands that the pair of animated morons worshiped, and, if you ever played the Sega Genesis or SNES Beavis And Butthead games, then you know that the whole purpose of the games was to get to see Gwar.
Around 1998, I picked up my first Gwar CD, their seminal, Scumdogs Of The Universe, and was entranced by their crude, tasteless humor, and crushing, brutal riffs and tunes. However, it wasn’t until 2001 or 2002 that I actually got to see the band live, and that’s where my mind truly got blown.
I’d heard all of the stories about the band’s live sets and all of the mayhem and fake blood that came with them. Still, nothing could’ve prepared me for my first Gwar show. The concert was at The Phoenix Theatre in Petaluma, CA and the first thing I noticed upon walking into the venue was that anything that could soak up liquid was covered in black plastic tarps. The Phoenix’s giant curtains were covered all the way up to the rafters, and both the monitor board and front of house had little enclosures set up over them as well. There was also a lot of gear on stage, but it was obscured by draping so as to keep everything about Gwar’s set a secret until they went on.
As the night rolled on, my friends and I watched two gnarly metal bands open up the show, one of them being Dying Fetus who were amazing. Then, it was time for Gwar. The draping was pulled off of all of the gear, and finally, the true extent of Gwar’s set up was revealed. The stage looked like a wasteland of human remains, guitar amplifiers, and drums. and when the band finally came out, it was everything I could have hoped it would be and more. They raged through a set of ferocious, riff based metal with hints of punk rock mixed in, all the while decapitating various pop culture figures like Mike Tyson, Paris Hilton, then President George W. Bush, and Osama Bin Laden. Their costuming, to this day, is something I’ve been in awe of and how they managed to play so hard while covered in so much stuff boggles my mind. The finale of their performance was the entire band doing battle with a giant (10 or 12 feet tall) Tyrannosaurus Rex named Gor-Gor. I left the show caked head to toe in fake blood with a huge smile on face; I was elated.
From that point on, I would sing the praises of Gwar and tell folks that they were easily, the best $20 concert you could ever attend in your life. I got to see them twice and consider it to be two of the best investments of my money I’ve made.
The above tune “Happy Death-Day” comes from the band’s 2001 release, Violence Has Arrived, and seems somehow appropriate. Dave built his career on reveling in dark humor, so why not send him out with this one that’s about as dark and ridiculous as it gets.
Rest easy Dave, and thank you so much for all of the good music, art, and memories.