Live Concert Photography: Hallowolfbat at House of Vans featuring GWAR, Darkest Hour and Mutoid Man 10/29/16
As I’ve mentioned several times on this site, between having a full-time job, running this site full-time and occasionally having something of a social life things can be extremely busy in my world but that’s the life of a busy blogger — and I honestly can’t complain. But more importantly, last month I was at House of Vans for a special Halloween-themed event called Hallowolfbat, which featured the art of Dennis McNett and live music from renowned and controversial shock rock/theatrical rock/heavy metal act GWAR, the Washington, DC-based metal band Darkest Hour and Mutoid Man, a supergroup featuring members of Cave In, Converge and All Pigs Must Die.
Consisting of a rotating lineup of musicians, artists and filmmakers collectively known as Slave Pit, Inc., the controversial shock rock/theatrical rock/heavy metal collective GWAR originally formed in 1984 and can trace its origins to the merger of two separate creative projects. Founding member Dave Brockie was the vocalist and bassist of a Richmond, VA-based punk band Death Piggy, that specialized in staging mini-plays with crude props to punctuate their frequently ridiculous and tasteless music. The members of Death Piggy met Hunter Jackson and Chuck Varga at Richmond Diary, a deserted bottling plant that hippies used to rent out to locally based artists, musicians and other creatives. At the time, Jackson and Varga were attending Virginia Commonwealth University when they set up their production company The Slave Pit for Scumdogs of the Universe, a movie the duo had intended of making. Because of his experience in movie production, Jackson would create props that the members of Death Piggy would use on stage.
Thanks to this burgeoning collaboration Brockie came up with an idea to use the costumes that Jackson and Varga created for Scumdogs of the Universe for a joke band of barbarians from Antarctica named Gwaaarrrgghhlllgh that played ridiculous, nonsensical music while sacrificing fake animals. Featuring the members of Death Piggy, it was as though the band were opening for themselves; of course, in an ironic twist of fate, the members of Death Piggy began noticing that people were coming out to see Gwaaarrrgghhlllgh and leaving immediately after the set. And after several aesthetic refinements, including shortening the band’s name to GWAR, Death Piggy was eventually phased out.
Unless you’ve been living in a cave over the past 30 years or so, the band is identified by their distinctively grotesque costumes while their core thematic and visual concepts revolve around an elaborate sci-fi themed mythology in which the band were interplanetary barbaric warriors. Their material and live sets are full of over-the-top, violent, sexual and scatological humor, social and political satire and live shows that enact graphic violence in a cartoonish fashion that result in several rows of the audience being sprayed with copious amounts of fake blood, urine, semen and gore. And at times their sets are uncomfortably offensive, absurd, hilarious and plain stupid as hell — simultaneously. Now as I was doing research for this post, there were several things that didn’t immediately come to mind or were just forgotten — first, fueled by the controversies surrounding their live shows and appearances, the band received regular airplay on MTV in the 90s. Now I remember the talk show appearances — but MTV was something I just don’t remember and I used to watch a helluva lot of MTV back then. Second and this is the strangest thing to me, the band’s Phallus in Wonderland was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video. Additionally, the band has dabbled in comic books, trading cards, a board game, signature beers, barbecue sauces (eww) and e-liquids.
Caption: GWAR performing at Hallowolfbat at House of Vans.
Currently comprised of John Henry, Mike Schleibaum, Mike “Lonestar” Carrigan, Aaron Deal and Travis Orbin, the Washington, DC-based metal band Darkest Hour originally formed in 1995 and although it took several years for the band to receive attention Undoing Ruin, Deliver Us and The Eternal Return may arguably be among the band’s most commercially successful releases to date with Deliver Us debuting at number #110 on the Billboard chars; The Eternal Return landed at #102; and the band’s most recent, self-titled effort landed at #102 on the Billboard 200. And that shouldn’t be surprising as the members of the band have claimed that Swedish death metal, Bad Brains, Metallica, Killswitch Engage and a lengthy list of others while continually expanding upon their sound.
Opening the night was Mutoid Man, a supergroup that features founding members Steve Brodsky (guitar, vocals), who’s best known as a member of Cave In and for a series of solo releases; and Ben Koller (drums), known for being a member of Converge and All Pigs Must Die, along with recent recruit Nick Cageo (bass), who’s best known for being in Bröhammer.