GWAR

GWAR returns to the Bourbon to spray fans with blood and glop and metal on Nov. 26. 

Courtesy photo

If you get into GWAR, the metal band that features larger-than-afterlife otherworldly characters who vow to kill the inhabitants of each city they visit on tour, you learn a lot of new words. Take for instance the term, “BileDriver,” which is both a song off 2001’s “Violence Has Arrived” and also a vein-y, rib-encaged cannon that ejects spew from a snarling mouth out onto its filthy, scummy audience. The crowd tends to love getting blasted with gallons of fake blood and other pseudo-sordid liquids.

Some don’t, or at least dress like they don’t. One time when GWAR played the Bourbon Theatre, a group of guys wore suits to the show. They sat up in the rafters of the place, seemingly out of harm’s way.

But the BileDriver’s got range, baby. And even behind the demon masks, the band members have expert aim. The suits left looking like the last act of “Reservoir Dogs.”

And then the Bourbon Theatre staff started mopping, at least where the mops could reach.

“I’m pretty sure we still have GWAR blood on our ceiling,” said Aaron Galvin, the Bourbon's hospitality manager.

GWAR has forged a significant relationship with the venue at 1415 O St., where they’re good for a show every two years or so. They’re back for a Sunday set on Nov. 26, and, if past invasions are any indication, the staff is in for its biggest post-show cleanup of the year.

This isn’t a complaint.

"They're so fun," Galvin said. "(The tour manager) screams at us nonstop — 'Aaron! Austin!' 'What do you need?' 'I need a pen.'"

GWAR’s band members have been beyond kind to the staff, they said, as have the past tour managers and slaves — the term of endearment bestowed upon the band’s crew members who offer themselves up to be sacrificed onstage.

And the blood is water-based, so it’s not nearly as bad to clean as, say, confetti.

“In 2012, we got both,” said Dustin “Duff” Hunke, a longtime Bourbon crew member. “GWAR was touring with Municipal Waste; they fired off a confetti canon and (GWAR) covered it all in blood. That was great. They were debating the whole day, ‘Should we do the confetti cannon?’ Like, please don’t. They said they weren’t gonna, and then, bam.”

The Bourbon now employs a no-confetti cannon policy. Stage blood, though, that’s manageable. It just helps to blanket the floor in dumpster carpet.

Carpet sops up blood, granting fans traction at a time where they’re competing to stand upright in a sort of hellscape “Double Dare” Physical Challenge. It also protected the Bourbon's dance floor back when it was buffered with "terrible carpeting" on the sides, Galvin said. That permanent carpet's long gone, and people know what they're getting into with a GWAR show. The setup, he said, isn't as complicated as one might imagine. 

"You plan as much as you can to get out of their way," he said. 

Alex Munson, also a longtime member of the Bourbon’s security crew, said the prep work for a GWAR set has remained about the same since the first one he worked.

“It was mostly just trying to get prepared for all the blood we’d heard about,” Munson said. “So, finding used carpets, laying the used carpets all over the place, putting trash bags over everything we possibly could. We didn’t know how far the blood would spray, so we felt the need to protect the bar as much as possible. And yeah, we all were told to wear white shirts instead of our usual uniforms. Some of us still wore our usual uniforms and wanted to keep them with all the bloodstains.”

Munson didn’t know much about GWAR before he worked his first GWAR show, but he’d received some forewarning from the crew, including Hunke, who attended the first of his 14 or so GWAR shows over a decade ago at the Royal Grove and remembers the fake blood clotting on his shirt as he walked through the freezing cold back to his car. 

The message didn’t completely take, though.

“I saw the posters and whatnot and I was like, “Ah cool — costumes,’” he said. “And of course there was so much more.”

Munson tends to work the barricade at Bourbon shows, surveying the crowd from the foot of the stage. Turned away from the band, he and other security crew members are top GWAR targets.

“Blood cannons straight to the back of the head,” Hunke said.

Said Munson: “Or you’d be reaching up to catch an audience member and they’d get a face-full of blood right as they were pouring forward. They’d shoot ‘em in the face with it. It was pretty good.”

The BileDriver is not the only device that shoots blood at a GWAR show. There is also the Cuttlefish of Cthulhu, a codpiece which Dave Brockie, known to legions of pit slaves as lead singer/bass player/sprayer Oderus Urungus, wore when he helmed the band. Brockie died in 2014, and GWAR’s latest release, “The Blood of Gods,” is a tribute to him.

About seven years ago, Decibel Magazine published an interview with him, in which he talked about losing it.

"I left my main Cuttlefish behind a dumpster in Boise once,” he said. “I was unpacking my costume in Denver the next night, and I didn't have my codpiece.”

To be fair, Oderus did not say codpiece. He used a word that holds maximum shock value, because that’s what GWAR does. They say awful things and dress like night terrors and fake-maim people dressed up as versions of whatever’s #trending in the world during each tour, basically devouring them onstage.

And while Brockie did say Boise in the interview, and while he might’ve also lost his Cuttlefish behind a dumpster in Boise, it is quite possible that he meant Lincoln, because that is where Hunke found it during a cigarette break after he spent an afternoon mopping up blood following a GWAR set.

“We went out to go smoke a cigarette in the alley and I’m like, ‘Hey, that looks like … and it’s just behind the dumpster,” he said. “Someone had placed it on top of the dumpster before we had the light in the alley. And somebody must have taken out the trash and just lifted it up without really caring and it fell behind the dumpster. And they took off without it.”

A call to the tour manager got that mess cleaned up, too. 

Some other GWAR facts to know before the show on Sunday:

* You want a GWAR-like outfit, you can buy one, if you’ve got a couple grand handy. Two of the band’s longtime designers started a business, Corotted Artistry (corottedartistry.com), that sells performance-level replicas of GWAR parts — claws, hooves, hairy feet, you maim, er, name it — and also offers custom work. Make your own blood though, you pitiful sack of misery. 

* Or hire a blood guy. GWAR has had one at previous Lincoln shows. “I like that there’s a guy who travels with him, and his only job is to mix up the fluids,” said Casey Welsch, a former Bourbon crew member who now works on the Journal Star's editing desk. “He had these huge tanks that he carted in on a two-wheeler and then he just set up wherever we had a hose spigot for him, and for several hours would just keep mixing water into these tanks with whatever he put into those tanks, and that’s what he did. That’s his job. He’s the fluid wrangler.”

* The GWAR spectacle has brought in people outside of Lincoln's metal community, Bourbon staffers said, including many who showed military IDs at the door. Perhaps it's the band's efficiency. Welsch said that, counter to the chaos frothing onstage, the show manager promised that "a GWAR show runs like clockwork — you can set your watch by it, and we will."

"And we did," Welsch said. "I think that’s the only show I had to synchronize watches. But he was right. It ran like clockwork." 

* Galvin, who typically bartends during shows, said that cans of beer are especially popular during GWAR sets. 

"They want to make sure they don't get weird liquid in the beer," he said. 

Reach the writer at 402-473-7438 or cmatteson@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSMatteson.

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Features reporter

Cory Matteson is a features reporter.

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