The garish gaudy spectacle that is GWAR is coming to Reno, and it’s certain to be unlike anything you’ve ever seen, unless you’ve seen a GWAR show.


The garish gaudy spectacle that is GWAR is coming to Reno, and it’s certain to be unlike anything you’ve ever seen, unless you’ve seen a GWAR show.

GWAR, who claim to be interplanetary warriors who awoke from a millennium-long slumber in the 1980s with the mission of destroying Earth, brings its 30th anniversary tour to the Knitting Factory Concert House at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26. To prepare the audience for the spectacle that is GWAR, the bands Born of Osiris, Battlecross and Limbs of the Arbitrator will open the show.

“You can expect to have your brains completely annihilated,” GWAR lead singer-bassist Blothar (whose earth name is Michael Bishop) said by phone during a tour stop in Milwaukee when asked to describe what takes place at a GWAR show. “They (fans) line up en masse – a lot of people wear white shirts because they’re into collecting the viscera and crud and spew that we send forth off the stage. It’s nonstop death, destruction and perversion. We’ll be attacked and challenged by various enemies of GWAR while we’re playing rock ‘n’ roll music. You can expect to see evisceration, decapitation and mutilation. Nothing is off-limits. But we always fight through it. You’ll hear some good rock music and see a spectacular show.”

GWAR once was described by its manager as a cross between the band Kiss, the movie “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” the World Wresting Federation (now called the WWE), and the animated TV show, “The Simpsons.”

The late comedian Joan Rivers once said that GWAR reminded her of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on LSD.

So who or what is GWAR?

According to legend, GWAR claims to be aliens from outer space that were sent millenniums ago to Earth to conquer the planet for a sentient being called The Master. However, GWAR become frozen in Antartica where it remained until the 1980s when the proliferation of glam-rock bands using copious amounts of hairspray burned a hole in the ozone layer, causing global warming that awakened GWAR from its slumber.

But the truth is that GWAR is a product of the underground music scene in Richmond, Va., in the 1980s by a collective of art and music students at Virginia Commonwealth University. The collective is known as The Slave Pit and its stated goal is to create art and music on its own terms, Bishop said.

Bishop explained that he is the human slave of the berserker Blothar (pronounced BLOW-Thar), who became the lead singer of GWAR after frontman Dave Brockie passed away in 2014. Previously, Bishop had been the human slave for the rocker-creature known as Beefcake the Mighty.

Bishop said being a slave for GWAR is more akin to the do-it-yourself ethos of punk rock than it is to being an imprisoned servant. In fact, he said being a slave of GWAR offers a freedom otherwise unattainable.

“The slaves of GWAR hated the art department of Virginia Commonwealth so much, especially the teachers with their ridiculous restrictions and their regard for GWAR as low art, that they were happy to serve for the good of GWAR,” Bishop said.

The GWAR lineup has changed over the years, although Bishop is one of the long-standing members, having become enslaved in 1987.

Before he became a slave for GWAR, Bishop graduated from the University of Virginia with a Ph.D. in music. He’s a serious student of academics, researching and writing about issues of regional identity, race relations, economic struggles and music.

In fact, Bishop gave a 12-minute talk in August at a TEDx Conference in the band’s hometown of Richmond, Va. The speech can be seen on YouTube.

In its time on Earth, GWAR has compiled an impressive resume with 12 studio albums, and multiple EPs; it’s gone on several world tours; has appeared in numerous Hollywood films; and has even earned two Grammy Award nominations: For Best Metal Performance in 1995 in the movie “S.F.W.” and for Best Long Form Music Video in 1993 with its “Phallus in Wonderland” video. GWAR lost to Nine Inch Nails in 1995 and to Annie Lennox in 1993.

GWAR also has its own comic book series, an animated cartoon that can be found on YouTube, and a newly released 350-page coffee table book that covers the history – both urban legend and fact – with text and hundreds of pictures, Bishop said. The band even has works of art in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

“GWAR is about creative energy,” Bishop said. “It’s about people coming together to create something special.”

The future of GWAR is unknown, Bishop said. But the mission remains the same.

“So far, we’ve failed to take over the planet Earth,” Bishop said. “We got distracted by sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. But we’re always trying to find new ways to eviscerate and eliminate the human race. We’re still playing rock music, writing rock music and producing art. And I think we’re getting better all the time. That’s what GWAR is. That’s what GWAR does.”

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