March 29th, 2014
Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a big GWAR fan. They were one of the first musical groups I got into when in Jr High (which deeply concerned my parents for several years, until they trusted I was not going to become a serial killer), and one of my first concert experiences. I remember talking my parents into letting me see GWAR and the Misfits at the 930 Club on a weeknight (my first ever weeknight show) and coming into school the next day with my skin still stained red. A few years later I saw them at the 930 Club again and this time went into work the next day with blue-tinged fingers. I told everyone I had been a zombie at a Halloween party the night before.
I’ve seen GWAR live more times than I can count (I estimate it is in the 10 – 13 times range) in DC, Baltimore, Worcester, and San Francisco. While at school in Boston, I won free GWAR tickets to a Palladium show for submitting a gross haiku, then ended up trading the extra ticket for a ride to/from Worcester. We got lost as hell on the way back, but no one seemed to care. My haiku, if you are interested, was:
Mutilate friends, then
Hack into tiny pieces
To be thrown at cars
I was pretty proud of it.
The last time I saw GWAR it was at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco during the tour after Cory Smoot’s tragic overnight death. My girlfriend bought me the tickets for my birthday present, and after the show I remarked on how old I had become. I didn’t get a single drop of fake blood on me the entire show! But I still really enjoyed myself, sang along with half the songs, and then got a little weepy-eyed when they played one of my favorite tunes “The Road Behind” at the very end as a tribute to Cory Smoot. That was a really fun night.
I feel like a lot of the artists I most respect are leaving this realm recently, many of them entirely too soon. But the news of Dave Brockie’s death hit me so hard it even surprised me. I found myself getting distracted easily at work, and having more tendency than usual to make an inappropriate/gross joke completely out of the blue. I guess that was my own way of paying homage to someone who was such a formative influence on me.
Later that night I spent some time trying to figure out if I could pull off a Severe Bass cover of “Road Behind”, something I haven’t attempted in a while. I wouldn’t say it came easy, but I was committed to making sure that it was not a half-baked arrangement, and played through it several times. On Friday evening I set things up for the first time in a while to do a video and audio recording, did an unpracticed take of the song, and then some minor editing to the source audio.
It’s not a perfect performance, or recording, but I am pretty happy that I was able to take the concept and turn it into a final product in such short time.
One other GWAR memory I will share is from the best show of theirs I ever saw. I can’t remember which time it was, but the band played FOREVER, eventually shedding their costumes and parading around in jock straps and makeup. Near the end, Dave went backstage and came out with a tray of sandwiches and proceeded to pass them out to the audience, telling them “Don’t ever say GWAR never gave you anything”. I find this especially funny compared to one of the lines in the song “The Road Behind”, when Oderus tells us he
“Slaughtered half the crew / cuz they ate my deli tray”
Whereas Dave actually went out of his way to share his deli tray with those of us in the audience. I never met Mr. Brockie, but all reports indicate that he was a super nice, genuine, and caring individual who gave his all to his music and his friends.
As that show came to a close, Dave got closer and closer to naked, eventually stripping down completely (I remember him throwing his socks into the audience and found out two days later my friend’s roommate had been at the show and took one of the socks home – so gross). He finished the song holding the plastic tray in front of his crotch (this was an all ages show), and I remember thinking it really takes some serious balls to start the show as a space monster and finish it as a naked and slightly overweight 30-something. I thought that would be the end of it, but at the very last moment, Dave whipped the deli tray into the audience and stood before us completely naked. He stared out at the hundreds of fans and shared this secret with us:
“I’m sorry I have such a small dong.”
Then he dropped the microphone and left the stage for the last time that night.
I’m going to miss that maniacal creature. His candor, intelligence, passion, and overwhelming ability to entertain and shock are the indication of a truly talented performer.
Some people are one-in-a-million. I honestly believe Dave was not just one of a million, or billion, he was a completely unique individual and there never has been, or ever will be, anyone quite like him.
Thank you Dave Brockie, for giving yourself so selfishly to your friends, family, and fans. Our world is a better place for having hosted your spirit. You certainly made me feel like I wasn’t so strange and that there was a place for me.
Can’t you hear them calling / Like the sad whale song / All along on the Road Behind
My thoughts and prayers are with those close to Dave during this incredibly sad time.