GWAR / Battlecross - Live in Grand Rapids (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

GWAR / Battlecross

Live in Grand Rapids (2015)

live show

It seems like I’ve been going to a lot of shows lately specifically to see the opening acts. That was certainly the case with GWAR on Wednesday November 4th at The Orbit Room in suburban Grand Rapids. I was intrigued by the idea of local DIY punks Murder Party! on the big stage and was also looking forward to seeing Motown retro-thrashers Battlecross for the first time. I was far less excited to see Born of Osiris, who plays a brand of metal that I just can’t get into. I was still undecided about whether or not to go when I learned that BoO guitarist Lee McKinney had smashed his foot and that the band was dropping off the tour. I took this as a sign. While I wish Born of Osiris no ill will, the three-band bill seemed much more manageable for a week night.

I was curious how Murder Party! would fare playing for a thousand or so rabid metalheads. Unfortunately, I never really found out. The club was only a third full when the band hit the stage (and never really got very full all night). Some in the crowd didn’t seem to understand the trio’s twisted, poppy horror-punk, but they were generally well received. If they were intimidated by the situation it didn’t show, and they definitely played their asses off. Their extended version of “I’ll Kill, I Swear” toward the end of their half hour set brought a healthy roar of approval. The bottom line is that they got to play for a bunch of people who would never go to a punk show and probably picked up some new fans along the way. Murder Party! is one of my favorite bands from GR, and I encourage everyone to check them out.

Battlecross is a heavy as hell five piece thrash band from the Detroit area. Live, they remind me of Slayer with even harsher vocals. What surprised me most was how joyful their high energy performance was. They seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves. Singer Kyle Gunther is also a funny guy on stage, which helps offset the extreme nature of the music. They played a handful of songs from their new LP Rise to Power including “Not Your Slave,” “Absence” and “Bound by Fear.” Their too short 35 minute set really whipped the crowd into a frenzy. Battlecross has put out three full lengths and tours a ton. They seem to be building their career the right way, and the audience appreciated these hard working Michigan boys.

What’s left to be said about GWAR? I’ve seen them at least a dozen times, so the fact that I keep giving them my money is a testament to how consistently entertaining their live shows are. The narrative this time revolved around “killing the internet,” and the screens behind them showed cute kitty photos and other appropriate images. Things started with two rappers (in rubber monster costumes, of course), playing a terrible song. GWAR quickly came out and dispatched them to “Crush, Kill, Destroy,” and the fake blood began to fly. While Blothar is a fine front man, I found myself missing Vulvatron from last year’s line-up. There were some moments of genuine humor, like when Blothar mentioned a website that “My friend Jared from Subway told me about.” That led to a spirited version of “Baby Raper,” complete with the props that you’d expect. (It would have made Alice Cooper blush.) The show climaxed with the dismembering of the giant internet troll. The storyline felt a bit uninspired, but it was fun.

GWAR is currently celebrating 30 years as band, and they still manage to draw scads of white T-shirt wearing young people. Lots of the kids at this show weren’t even born the first time I saw GWAR. The oldest ticket stub I can find is from October 27, 1994. It was at the same venue and The Dickies and Buzzoven opened. It cost $15. Over the last 21 years, the price of beer at the shows has doubled. The cost of gas to get there has tripled. If you need a pack of smokes, their price has quadrupled. The cost of this year’s show? Twenty measly dollars. Proving once again that GWAR continues to give you the best bang for your entertainment buck.