Words by Andrew Bansal
Images by Maurice Nunez
November 22nd 2017, Fonda Theatre, Hollywood CA: In support of their 14th full-length studio album ‘The Blood of Gods’, perennial shock rock / heavy metal group GWAR is currently on a typically extensive North American headline run. The band is known to bring solid support bands with them as part of the touring package every time they come through, but this time even they’ve outdone themselves with the lineup, featuring fellow blood-splashers Ghoul, along with North Carolina hard rockers He Is Legend and Richmond VA rock n’ roll trio U.S. Bastards. The fact that the tour arrived in Los Angeles the night before Thanksgiving did not deter GWAR’s LA faithful to pack the Fonda Theatre in Hollywood to capacity, as the white-shirt-clad fans knew they were in for a bloody treat.
Doors opened as early as 6:30 and the show began promptly at 7:30 with U.S. Bastards steamrolling the stage with their brand of Motörhead-inspired high-octane speed rock. The sheer energy this trio put into their performance was infectious, and ticket holders that were here early enough to catch this set discovered an absolutely fantastic band they’d most likely never heard of previously, and many people probably also didn’t know that this band is fronted by GWAR guitarist Brent Purgason (Pustulus Maximus). The speed was not just limited to the music itself, but was also presented in Purgason’s crowd interactions, and the entire 30-minute set was filled to the brim with entertainment galore. U.S. Bastards rule, and if you’re attending any of the remaining shows on this tour, you better be there for their set.
U.S. Bastards photos:
Shortly after, He Is Legend from Wilmington NC were up next. Their blend of stoner/sludge metal, alt metal, psych rock and Southern rock made for an interesting set, and the band certainly stood out from the rest of the pack in terms of musical style. They are the most melodic band on this lineup, but also the grooviest, and there is no shortage of heavy riffs and segments in their music either. They have the elements that would appeal to a mainstream rock/metal audience but also enough to garner interest from fans of underground heavy music. Vocalist Schuylar Croom was able to hold the audience’s attention with his singing as well as stage banter, and the four-piece group was clearly in the zone, coming across as a band of musicians that gel perfectly together and tour actively. Wilmington NC boasts of producing a rich line of great bands such as Weedeater and ASG in the last two decades or so, and now touring in support of their fifth album (‘Few’, released April 2017 by Spinefarm Records), He Is Legend most certainly adds to the list. They made some new fans in Hollywood with what was by all means an impressive set.
He Is Legend photos:
Ghoul has been a band since 2001, and almost every single person that gets to see this band for the first time instantly makes the comparison with GWAR, as many people have even touted Ghoul as a heavier, faster, more underground variant of GWAR. The prospect of these two bands touring together was extremely exciting on paper, and even more so as it actually transpired on this stage. Themasked marauders in Ghoul are known for their style of no-holds-barred crossover thrash / grindcore and their stage theatrics, and have usually found themselves touring with bands of those sub-genres. While some of the band’s fans might still prefer to see them as an underground act playing smaller venues, opening for GWAR and playing these big sold-out shows is what Ghoul needed to do to take themselves to the next level, and no fan of theirs can begrudge them for that. Coming out all guns blazing with ‘Ghoulunatics’, they left no stone unturned in making this an all-killer, no-filler set, with their ten of their best songs, all the stage props, costumed characters, theatrics, and of course, plenty of blood splatter onto an audience which was already prepared to be soaked in GWAR blood, in their white shirts. When it comes to the long-running Ghoul-GWAR comparison, GWAR is far more popular and for good reason, but Ghoul is in many ways the better band, and seeing both bands together vindicates as much.
Ghoul set list:
02. Bringer of War
03. Off With Their Heads
04. Shred the Dead
06. Spill Your Guts
07. Word Is Law
08. Wall of Death
09. Gutbucket Blues
Ghoul is one of the most difficult acts to follow in the world of all things heavy metal, but if there was one band that could do it, it had to be GWAR. At 10:25, the house lights went out, Black Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’ blared loud on the PA and instigated a singalong from the eagerly awaiting audience, and soon after, GWAR took the stage for a 17-song set of songs new and old, sending this Fonda Theatre gathering into a complete frenzy, mosh pits breaking out during every song, and the first few rows getting fully drenched in GWAR blood constantly shooting from the stage. The set list was well-compiled and presented many songs that are perfect for the live show, except for ‘I’ll Be Your Monster’ off of the latest album ‘The Blood Of Gods’. The song is cringeworthy in its poppiness, but deliberately so, and meant as a joke of a “hit song”, as indicated by the video sequence that preceded its performance on stage. The audience was treated to a full-on GWAR concert experience, complete with the splatter and the theatrics, and departed the Fonda Theatre with wet blood-soaked shirts and smiles on their faces.
Cory Smoot (Flattus Maximus) left the earth in 2011 and was joined in metal heaven by Dave Brockie (Oderus Urungus) in 2014, but with the 2017 release ‘The Blood of Gods’, the first since Brockie’s passing, and the touring cycle, it is clear that the GWAR juggernaut rolls on with the same speed, force and momentum as it always has, poised to churn out albums and perform shows until the day no one survives on this earth but GWAR alone.
All in all, a highly entertaining evening from start to finish, and a show you need in your life.
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GWAR set list:
01. War on GWAR
02. Hail, Genocide!
03. I’ll Be Your Monster
04. Death to Dickie Duncan
05. Saddam a Go-Go
06. Womb With a View
07. Crushed by the Cross
08. Viking Death Machine
09. Bring Back the Bomb
10. El Presidente
12. Black and Huge
13. The Sordid Soliloquy of Sawborg Destructo
14. The Morality Squad (Instrumental and extended)
15. Fuck This Place
16. Phantom Limb
17. If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)
Remaining Tour Dates:
11/24/2017 – Albuquerque, NM @ Sunshine Theater
11/25/2017 – Denver, CO @ Summit Music Hall
11/26/2017 – Lincoln, NE @ Bourbon Theatre
11/28/2017 – Tulsa, OK @ Cain’s Ballroom
11/29/2017 – Dallas, TX @ Gas Monkey Live
11/30/2017 – Houston, TX @ House of Blues
12/01/2017 – San Antonio, TX @ Aztec Theater
12/02/2017 – Baton Rouge, LA @ Varsity Theater
12/03/2017 – Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade
12/05/2017 – Ft. Lauderdale, FL @ Revolution
12/06/2017 – Tampa, FL @ The Ritz
12/08/2017 – Indianapolis, IN @ The Vogue
12/09/2017 – Peoria, IL @ Limelight
12/10/2017 – Detroit, MI @ St. Andrews Hall