Photo by Danielle Griscti
The Opera House, Toronto – Dec 9/14
The last time I saw Dave Brockie he was smiling. It was a good smile too. Not a big toothy one, but the kind of wide smirk that can only be achieved within the bounds of a drunken stupor. Just a couple of hours before, Dave had stepped offstage at Toronto’s Phoenix Concert Theatre as Oderus Urungus the lead singer / warlord of Gwar. After the show a small group headed to a bar up the street.
The two of us were the last to leave, and Dave had specifically put me in charge of making sure he got back to the bus, as he had no idea where we were going. Even though it was a straight shot back to the venue, as we were leaving the bar Dave immediately made a right turn so I had to spring into action. As we walked we talked about the things that guys talk about. It was then that the smile emerged. It had contentment written all over it. At age 50 he had achieved the impossible. Gwar, the silly costumed metal band he’d nurtured for three decades had become sustainable. In our interview earlier that day he talked about how he wanted Gwar to carry on after his retirement.
Three months later he was gone. Just over a year later, Gwar returned to Toronto to play The Opera House. Although there has been much written about how the band now had two new lead singers, make no mistake, Gwar is now an ensemble act. Everyone is lead singer. Original Gwar bassist Michael Bishop, the first to portray character Beefcake The Mighty, has now returned as the antler-adorned Blothar. Also for the first time in 15 years Gwar has a female vocalist with the debut of Vulvatron (portrayed by fashion designer Kim Dylla).
How is the show without Oderus? Surprisingly, heartwrenchingly sad. Yes Gwar fight monsters and those monsters explode and cover the audience in fake blood and bile. Yes there are amazingly terrible one-liners, and yes Vulvatron’s breasts shoot blood too. That all seems in line with what you would expect from a Gwar show. But without Oderus, everyone else on stage gives a little bit extra to fill the gap. Vocal duties are shared, and Blothar naturally filled in on the bass when Vulvatron and the current Beefcake stepped up for a duet. Guitarist Pustulus Maximus (Brent Purgason), who became integral to the band after the 2011 passing of guitarist Cory Smoot, also had his fair share of time at the mic.
The show began with a projection of Oderus fronting the band before being carried away into a time portal. The band then spends the rest of the show using their time machine to search for him, while in the process finding their new members and coming to terms with the fact that Oderus is actually dead. It’s the only way Gwar could get over the loss of their creative chief.
By the end of the show the band is jamming on their mash-up of the Pet Shop Boys’ “West End Girls” and Jim Carroll’s “People Who Died”. It’s in the latter that they start chanting: “Oderus died, died! Oderus died, died!” Suddenly I see Dave and that smile, and I feel tears behind my eyes. The purpose of the tour seems to be to show definitively that Brockie’s life’s work had meaning to many. In that regard it’s a blood-drenched success.
This year through my involvement in the Wacken Metal Battle Canada and the Headbanging For A Cure cancer benefit I decided to reach out to the Toronto mayoral candidates to gauge their support for underground and subcultural arts in the city. The most sensational result of which was a video of support from Olivia Chow for Headbanging For A Cure, where she does a great job of throwing the fabled metal horns, despite admitting that she’s “not much of a headbanger”.
Candidate Sarah Thomson took things a step further and actually appeared onstage at the second night Headbanging For A Cure at Toronto’s historic El Mocambo to do her own horn throw while introducing legendary Canadian thrash metal band Razor.
Photo by Danielle Griscti
It was through these events that Metal For Mayor was born. An organization dedicated to the promotion of underground music and subcultural events. Metal For Mayor believes that nothing is more important than having a good time. That’s why you work, go to school, and generally drag yourself around this city. You do it because your reward is a good time, in whatever shape that takes. For many hard-working folks in Toronto, that good time involves music. Whether it’s rock and metal, dance and electronic, hip-hop and r&b or anything in between, Metal For Mayor believes that this is the lifeblood of Toronto.
The major candidate support has been incredible, but the most pleasant surprise I’ve had is my acquaintance with candidate Dewitt Lee. Dewitt agreed to appear at the first night of Headbanging For A Cure and surprised many with his enthusiastic embrace of the heavy metal community and his recognition of the genre as an intricate and diverse art-form. As a music publisher and community activist he understands the need for diversity in the arts and how a variety of entertainment is essential to the city.
With this in mind I am proud to accept Dewitt’s invitation to appear as a guest-host at his campaign fundraiser this evening (Saturday October 25th) to officially have Metal For Mayor endorse his candidacy. Check out all the details on the event here and please like Metal For Mayor on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
#MetalForMayor logo by Jennifer Pilles
Zombitrol Productions and Blacktooth Entertainment are proud to present a 100% FREE evening of some of Ontario's finest purveyors of black and doom metal.
Sortilegia (raw/grim black metal)
Empyrean Plague (acoustic-inspired black metal from North Bay)
Godstopper (Toronto doom/sludge heroes)
Völur (new ambient folk/doom)
Saturday November 29th
Smiling Buddha – 961 College St. – Toronto
DOORS 9PM – FREE: NO COVER – 19+
Check out my new video interview for A Journal of Musical Things with guitarist Juan of the Dead and drummer Ill Will from Ice T's legendardy rap-crossover act Body Count, shot backstage at the Toronto stop of the Rockstar Mayhemfest tour. Watch it now in the Interviews section.