It looked like a powerful dumb idea from the start. How could a band like GWAR -- a visual experience more than anything else, a feculent feast for the optic nerve, messier than Gallagher smashing bunny rabbits with ball-peen hammers -- possibly perform atop a piddling little stage in a small, awkward room? In the past 12 months, GWAR spinoffs visited the region and were treated better: Dave Brockie Experience came a few times to play smaller venues shorn of any spectacle, with frontman Oderus Urungus (Brockie), Jizmak tha Gusha, and Balzac the Jaws of Death performing in street clothes. May brought dominant diva Slymenstra Hymen to the Culture Room, where unobstructed views of flame-eating and glass-chewing were essential.
It's not always about the sightlines. But with GWAR, the view to a kill is essential. So when the full band -- including the above monsters plus Beefcake the Mighty, Flattus Maximus, and the Sexecutioner -- come to Fort Lauderdale, you can bet blood- and gore-thirsty fans want a glimpse of their seven-foot-tall (in boots) icons.
In this case, hubris and greed -- and who knows, maybe even outright deception? -- probably factored into the exquisitely poor planning that led to a band the size of GWAR being booked at the Factory in the first place. The room is fine for the likes of Leif Garrett ("Leif Blower," September 19, 2002) but putting GWAR on that stage is like trying to stuff the Bolshoi Ballet in a broom closet. Every time Bandwidth saw the ad announcing GWAR at the Factory, it seemed, in the words of one observer, "a clusterfuck in the making."
So who ended up with a foot in a mop bucket? The band and its paying fans, as usual.
At almost the last minute, the show was moved, likely because GWAR discovered in about 20 seconds what the rest of us had known for weeks: There's no way the group's arsenal of props and gallons of fake blood and seven members could fit on the Factory's postage-stamp-sized stage. So the show (booked by Harry Tyler, an Orlando-based promoter) relocated to the nearby September's Club, also owned by original (Metal) Factory owner Michael Gagliardi. "It's called the Factory Two," Tyler says. "GWAR has a large production, and we thought they would want to take a look at both places."
GWAR was provided ample space to set up their gross-out gear, but since they were forced to perform on the floor, no one outside of the tallest citizens inhabiting the first three rows could see the band. Sorta negates the whole purpose.
"You couldn't see anything," reports a long-time fan who eventually found a riser near the bar to stand on. "I saw the top of their heads, that's it. People were walking out saying, 'If they ever book another show in here, I'm not coming.' It was just a fiasco. The band came out, and Brockie yelled, 'Before we play a single note, I just want you to know this is the most fucked-up show I've ever played in my life!'"
"People were pissed," adds another attendee who also just happens to be a friend of Brockie's. "You go to GWAR to see them perform. I stood in back and listened to their music and liked it, because I've seen them so many times. But if I was a kid seeing them for the first time, I would've been pissed too."
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The friend notes that Brockie "was spitting and swearing" over the less-than-adequate arrangement. "He felt like it was one of the first shows GWAR did ten years ago when they started. He felt like he was in a pit. He said, 'I'm not used to playing below people. GWAR is supposed to be towering above people.' It felt like that to all of them. They've been around a long time, and they deserve better promotion and a better stage. They needed to be up high, at a bigger venue -- maybe outside at the Chili Pepper."
Last time GWAR came through South Florida, it was booked at the massive Winn-Dixie in Boynton Beach (now called Ovation, formerly Orbit) -- not as centrally located and saddled with terrible sound -- but at least the gawkers could gawk. It's incidents like the above that help make South Florida the most skipped-over spot in the land when bands come a-tourin'.
If you want to find the coolest cats and kiddies this weekend, drop by the Poor House for a late-night Friday and Saturday jam. The Hep Cat Boo Daddies (whose photo might've appeared in these pages had yours truly not misplaced it) recently celebrated the official release of Long Time Comin', the first album from these New Times Broward-Palm Beach Best Bar Band award winners. The CD wasn't lost, however, so we can still crank up the band's swaggering, flaming-shot-fueled tunes. The Lee Rocker and Smithereens covers are unnecessary, but the rest of the disc is full of the rippin' rockabilly originals that regularly sandblast the Poor House walls on weekends. In lieu of the photo, imagine three sharp-dressed gentlemen making those faces mortals couldn't muster if an elephant stepped on their feet, grimacing, growling, and grinding the night away.