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Event Report: GWAR-B-Q 2015!

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Truth be told, I never sleep well the night before a big trip. That childlike spirit of excitement offers a dose of unrelenting restlessness and next thing you know, it’s 2 hours before you have leave and you haven’t slept a wink. And while most times I’d be chastising myself for being dumb enough to not have invested in a sleeping pill or the like, this time I gave myself a little more leeway: I don’t often get out to music festivals, and the last time I did was the first (and unfortunately last) time I had seen our upcoming headliner: GWAR.

It’s not like I somehow was ignorant of the GWAR-B-Q’s existence: much like the Motorhead Cruise or the Housecore Horror Fest, the problem had not laid in knowledge but rather finances. When I was part time with FANGORIA, I didn’t nearly have the time or money to leave my day job for a long weekend for a vacation of any sort, let alone pay for tickets, transportation or hotel room. This time around wasn’t much different except for a precious few details: I was able to get press passes to relieve some of the cost, I found a cheap room to split with a great pair of friends (former STARLOG writer & current Nerdist scribe Matt Delhauer as well as go-to East Coast FANGO videographer Garrett Geary) and my position at FANGORIA allowed me to work remotely. So with that in mind, this writer set a course from NJ to Richmond, VA for a weekend he would end up never forgetting…

We arrived in Richmond a bit earlier than planned, which was actually a relief considering 9 times out of 10, my luck swings in the opposite direction. However, it was a bit too early to check in to our hotel room, and truth be told, we were starving, having skipped lunch with the intention of staking our claim at Richmond’s GWARbar. But first, we had a professional obligation, as both myself and my Nerdist compatriot were set to sit down with the folks from Fear Factory. I’ll admit that I was nervous, being both dreadfully tired (having managed to survive this long on the gracious nature of coffee and a natural second wind) and absolutely anxious as I am far from a music journalist outside of my love for karaoke.

But, much to my surprise, my chat with Burdon Bell (which you can find on the site later this week) went exceptionally smooth: I had forgotten that Fear Factory was largely sci-fi driven heavy metal rock operas, and to chat about Ray Kurzweil and BLADE RUNNER with a bona fide rock star celebrating the 20th anniversary of a seminal album was a delight. Furthermore, to give you all a peek behind the curtain, but most of these on-site interviews have a publicist or manager watching you like a hawk, or worse, breathing down your neck as they count the seconds; with GWAR-B-Q, there was almost no such clock to worry about. In fact, the interview probably went on far too long, but it was good to see that some of these intimidating musical badasses are also horror and sci-fi nerds at heart, and you can obviously tell that a lot of these rockers are more than glad to not have to talk about their musical process for the umpteenth time.

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Afterwards, Matt, Garrett and myself made our way on foot to stuff our gullets at the infamous GWARBar, a location I had been excited to frequent since its inception. We arrived early and for the better; soon after our arrival, a large crowd appeared, and we knew that we weren’t the only out-of-towners looking for some artery-clogging delicacies. After checking the menu of meals that would make any doctor gasp and ordering a much-needed drink- I believe it was an IPA by the name of “Oderus Blood”-, my eyes gravitated towards a chicken and waffles meal that came with jalapeno-infused maple syrup. An abomination of all that is holy, and one that would leave my dignity in ruins, I proudly ordered it. It was the best decision imaginable as well as the worst decision imaginable: the hearty and thick meal, while effortlessly delicious, put the nail in the coffin of my second wind, and a flood of fatigue washed over me… and we still needed to get to our hotel room.

Luckily, we arrived at the hotel (but barely) soon after, a Days Inn in Ashland, VA that was shockingly cheap and surprisingly better than we expected. Accomodation went out the window (requests for more towels fell on deaf ears) and we ended up having to switch rooms twice, but eventually, we settling in and all sneaked in a much-deserved nap before catching the tail-end of the B4BQ concert. And like clockwork, we were back to my car and on the road after 90 minutes of sweet, merciful rest, catching the last of Fear Factory’s bad-ass set.

Now on a third wind, this writer was ready to rock, getting into a show-stopping performance from Arch Enemy and a visually-powered set by the recently reunited Coal Chamber. All of the sudden, the high school metalhead in this writer was unleashed and knew that this was going to be a hell of a weekend. We returned to the hotel shortly after the show, and restless once again, shot the shit before Garrett and I enjoyed the spoils of our first day: a pair of Ci-GWARs which had purchased at the GWARBar. Soon after, we went to sleep, excited for the next round of heavy metal madness.

Surprisingly, and against every single natural tendency, we all awoke bright and early, getting ready for what was sure to become the highlight of our summer. After a quick breakfast, we made our way to Haddad’s Lake, a water park that had become the resident location of the GWAR-B-Q. After we parked in the middle of a field and made our way to the security checkpoint, we acquired our press passes and kept an eye out for what GWAR’s publicist had first wanted us to experience: the GWAR-B-Q Walkthrough Haunted Attraction. While searching for the attraction, we roamed the massive location, checking out all three stages (with bands already starting to play at 10 a.m.), the multiple food trucks, and even some horror mainstays including NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD writer John Russo and professional Fang-make Horror Show Jack. But perhaps the most shocking thing we witnessed thus far was how different GWAR-B-Q was from other music festivals: the prices for the food were shockingly reasonable, water was being given out for free, and there were multiple port-o-johns; in other words, they treated their patrons like actual human beings!

Matt and Myself eventually found the haunted attraction, being ushered in for our own private walkthrough, but don’t worry, FANGORIA fans: we didn’t get any special treatment. We were covered in just as much fake blood, demeaning insults and assorted grue as anyone else would be, and I couldn’t have been more appreciative. Unfortunately, Matt didn’t fare as well, truly getting doused in fake blood and eventually looking like something out of a Troma film.

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Afterwards, we caught one of the earlier highlights of the GWAR-B-Q in all of his glory: MC Chris! Having been a longtime fan of the rapper from the early days of Adult Swim and his subsequent rise of geek rap stardom, it was a pleasure to see the man do what he does best live, pulling together a fun atmosphere out of metalheads at 11 a.m., a near impossible task if there ever was one. Unfortunately, press obligations got in the way of seeing the whole set, ushering off to go interview the guys from Dead Earth Politics. While that chat will be online soon, perhaps the coolest aspect of interview was the one band member who was admittedly not a huge horror buff would later reveal that he had played as a touring member of Goblin!

Now, from here on out, things get a little harder to remember: running between the press tent, the multiple stages and the beer tent became much more hectic than I could have imagined. Don’t get me wrong: I remember everything that happened at the GWAR-B-Q… I just don’t remember in what order. Compound that with a humid water park surrounding and the unforgivable heat and things get a little hazy.

I do remember most of my interviews: Clutch guitarist Tim Sult was surprisingly reserved and down-to-earth; Goatwhore frontman (and overall badass) Louis Falgoust is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, as well as a legitimate horror fan; the Cancer Bats were pretty hilarious and completely grateful to be there, and Ghoul was exactly the goddamn insane interview you might expect from hooded madmen. I also remember chatting with the people behind the haunted walkthrough, both of whom were incredibly cool and completely passionate about the art of haunted attractions.

I definitely remember the performances as well: Goatwhore slayed all, while the Cancer Bats, Child Bite, Dead Earth Politics, Down and Clutch kicked all sorts of ass. Seeing Phil Anselmo work the crowd in the way only Phil Anselmo can is a sight to be seen on its own, although Dead Earth Poitics took the smallest stage and rocked it with an intensity that few others could. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to catch ‘em all, and this writer is most notably saddened by missing The Dickies and Ghoul, both of whom had stirred up chatter among the crowd as highlights of their day thus far.

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However, this all brings me to the men of the hour: the one, the only, the mighty GWAR. In interview mode (whcih you can see our assembly of chats HERE), GWAR was exactly how you would expect: offensive out of the gate and excited to fuck around with journalists. Among the hilarious insults lobbied at celebrities, their fans and, of course, this writer and his publication, GWAR did reveal in sincerity that this GWAR-B-Q line-up was among the best ever, and that fans should keep an eye out for a new album and tour soon.

On stage, GWAR was also exactly as you would expect: mean, messy and on their A-game. While the aura of Dave Brockie’s untimely passing still resonated among fans throughout the day (with many attendees wearing Brockie memoriam apparel), this new iteration of GWAR not only played to a fantastic reception, but they absolutely brought the house down. Playing an assortment of their greatest hits and debuting brand new, absolutely gross new characters to the show, GWAR’s decision to live and rock on in the age of Blothar would make Brockie/Oderus proud, and felt exactly as fun and fresh as they had when I first saw GWAR years ago.

And, of course, there’s the cuisine of the GWAR-B-Q, including the GWARBar’s signature dish, “Meat Sandwich” served with the elusive GWAR-B-Q Sauce. Was it delicious? You bet your ass it was. And even better, it went down easy and didn’t inspire indigestion nor stomach problems of any kind; it even went well with the blistering heat, which normally would turn any meal into vomit-friendly chunks at a moment’s notice. Speaking of, the idea to have a Mr. Softee truck on the premises was a brilliant idea, and one that payed off in spades for this writer.

So for any metalhead, horror hound or anyone who is generally not a coward, GWAR-B-Q should be an annual destination on your calendar from here on out. If impressive food, incredible music and legitimately great event planning isn’t enough to get you to GWAR-B-Q, then the fans should, as GWAR-B-Q of the most respectful crowds this writer has ever seen at a music festival. It was truly an event to savor, and for fans of the 30-year-strong shock rock group, the GWAR experience doesn’t get much better than this.

Check out the full gallery from this year’s GWAR-B-Q below! Photo Credit: Garrett Geary Photography.

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About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel "THE I IN EVIL", and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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