#42. I worked my ass off beside GWAR (New Orleans, 2004)


squirting blood from a dead dog onto a paying audience

Big rolls of plastic crowded the stage at House of Blues. Most bands might ask for liquor or M&Ms in their riders, but GWAR’s demanded giant rolls of plastic.

Four or five people from GWAR’s crew joined us House of Blues stagehands in wrapping that protective plastic around all the speakers, all the stage monitors, all the racks of lights, the front of house mixing board, and across the entire stage floor.

Over the six hours this took, it became apparent that most of GWAR’s “roadies” were also the band members themselves.

First we all built a sort of cage that took up the stage’s back half, then draped it in rubber skin masks that hid the band’s amplifiers, and the tanks that would pump “blood,” “urine,” and “semen” onto the crowd. GWAR had switched over to water-based fluids. One of the crew said they previously used corn-syrup based goo, which caused me to wonder, for the 100th time that day, how the fuck GWAR made it this far for this long, all the while inconveniencing everyone and ruining audiences’ clothing.

One of GWAR’S roadies dedicated himself solely to the set-up and care of the rubber characters the band “killed” each night on stage. After we’d loaded all their gear into House of Blues, this guy opened a giant “coffin” full of rubber body parts, all dripping in fake blood from last night’s show. It stunk so bad. The roadie cleaned the body parts and attached them all together to form GWAR’s rubber Mike Tyson, Hillary Clinton, George Bush, etc.

Another roadie, around seven feet tall, played the part of the Tyrannosaurus Rex. His giant dinosaur costume added another couple feet to is height, looming so big it didn’t fit well backstage. We had to pull the dino out of GWAR’s truck and piece it together in broad daylight on the sidewalk out front of the club.

“Is that for Mardi Gras?” some passing tourists asked.

“No it’s for GWAR!” we proudly shouted back.

When we’d finished assembling GWAR’s set and props, the exhausted band and its roadies all went to eat. Not long after that, they played a two-hour show in full costume.

During the show, whenever bandleader Oderus Urungus (RIP!) would chop apart, say, rubber Saddam Hussein, the dead body specialist, now dressed all in black, would sneak out onto the stage, retrieve the bloody limbs, and run them back to the coffin, before readying the next victim. By night’s end, he’d filled the box back up with dripping, smelly rubber body parts.

After the epic show, GWAR stripped off their elaborate costumes, and joined us and their roadies in disassembling the whole stage and loading it back into the truck, dinosaur and all.

I’d always assumed that alotta rock n’ rollers choose their lifestyle to escape real work — whereas GWAR’s rock n’ roll dream dooms them, to this day, to brutal amounts of work. I can only imagine they love it.

Michael Patrick Welch’s “132 Famous People I Have Met” series is FREE, but please consider donating to his VENMO (michael-welch-42), or to his PayPal account (paypal.me/michaelpatrickwelch2), so he can feed his kids, pay his mortgage, etc.

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