Written By Braddon S. Williams aka “ The Concert Critic”
On this date in history, 11/6/2021, the historic Vogue nightclub in Broad Ripple hosted a terrific triple bill of terror featuring GWAR, Napalm Death, and Eyehategod.
As fate (or luck…or both) would have it, my wife and I secured a spot right on the barricade, directly in the blood zone in front of the stage; but more on that later. I have to share a few words about the stage in order to set the mood for this piece.
When I originally learned of this gig, the New York hardcore band Madball was also on this bill, but for reasons unknown to me, they were not in attendance at The Vogue. This was probably for the best as there was barely a 3′ x 8′ (and I’m being generous with this estimate) patch of open space on that stage. I doubt that another drum kit would have fit up there, let alone any more amps and band members. Eyehategod eventually appeared in their tiny allowance of real estate and wasted no time in filling the airspace with their claustrophobic brand of sludge metal.
I had previously missed them way back in the mid ’90’s when they opened for Pantera, White Zombie, and Deftones, and have been looking forward to rectifying that situation ever since. Although they played a relatively short set, the New Orleans based swamp lords delivered a crushing display of down tuned brutality, both in pure sound and lyrical spewage.
Mike Williams alternated between friendly and full of hatred towards anyone who had the audacity to yell out during any silences between songs. His vocals were delivered in an agonizing combination of screams, roars, and generally sounded like he was in major pain squeezing these inhuman sounds out of his body. Jimmy Bower cranked out riff after riff of deliciously greasy sludge guitar mastery, and the whole thing was anchored by a frenetic rhythm section. In short, it rocked balls.
Following the harrowing horror of Eyehategod was the legendary English grindcore band, Napalm Death. After the previous band’s equipment was removed from the crowded stage, vocalist “Barney” Greenway and his colleagues somehow seemed to have the exact same tiny patch of stage to commandeer for their blistering attack on our senses.
Napalm Death are the antithesis of Eyehategod in sound and approach, while being equally ferocious in pure violence of their chosen style. In other words, these guys play FAST! I’m not sure how many songs they leveled the capacity audience with, but it was relentless from the moment they hit the stage, and hit it they did. Greenway never stopped moving, appearing to be having some sort of mental breakdown at times, running in place as if he could somehow escape his miniscule strip of stage. Barney delivered a few heartfelt speeches leading into songs, but for the most part Napalm Death just laid the hammer down and battered us senseless; and it was exhilarating. Bassist Shane Embury was fascinating to watch, also. He is a big guy who plays his instrument with what appears to be a surprisingly gentle touch with his picking hand, fingers brushing across the strings like manic butterflies. The sound coming out of his amps was colossal and crushing, in direct opposition to the illusion of delicacy.
All in all, the concert had been immensely enjoyable up to this point…and then GWAR appeared and took us into the frenzy of their intergalactic and apocalyptic vision of a metal show.
Shortly after we arrived, a guy who I had just met briefly at another show where his amazing band Drude played, walked up to me and told me he was playing bass for GWAR that night. I later discovered that Jordan Smith is from GWAR’s hometown (not the one in outer space, but Richmond, VA, their base on this toilet earth). This made the show even more fun for me, since we happened to be standing directly in front of the substitute Beefcake.
The Mighty GWAR is primarily known and notorious for their visual impact, but being in the front, I was able to really enjoy the music and marvel at how difficult it must be to play cleanly with not only the cumbersome costumes, but just the general chaos going on for the duration of the show.
My friend Jordan was a great Beefcake and the entire band was on point…respect. I am fairly new to the whole GWAR experience, having seen them at their latest two appearances at Riot Fest in Chicago, but my wife (who has seen them many, many times) told me that the best place to see them was precisely where we were set to experience them, from the front row at The Vogue. She couldn’t have been more correct! Seeing all the crazy costumes, theatrics, and the nearly constant dousing of the faithful with staggering amounts of stage blood of varying colors (not to mention fake urine and semen…yeah, I said semen!) was a thrill that needs repeating for certain.
We arrived with dry hair and clothes (I was sporting a white Lucifist shirt purchased from their badass lead guitarist, Van Smith) and by concerts end my shirt would never pass for white again! We took before and after pics and it is hilarious to see the transformation that occurs at a typical GWAR show.
Needless to say, this isn’t entertainment for everyone, but for those in my tribe, this was a show that delivered a variety of musical and visual styles. It would have been cool (and rather insane) if they could have squeezed Madball onto that stage, but I’m not gonna be greedy. GWAR at The Vogue ruled!