GWAR, WHITECHAPEL, IRON REAGAN, A BAND OF ORCS: LIVE AT THE ACE OF SPADES, SACRAMENTO (Oct 19, 2013)
(Our man DGR do know how to write a fuckin’ show review, and this is his latest.)
I apologize for dragging ass as long as I did with the review on this one. I had hoped that some good quality video would be out by the time I wrote this, but as time continued on, it became more evident that this would likely be a text-only review. Flash back to October 19th, the day after my birthday. This show would be my personal celebration. I was going to go see one of the most ridiculous shows out there and I was going to drunkenly enjoy every second of it — that there might be some good music happening that night would only be a bonus.
This being a Saturday show, I knew that the crowd would be huge, and that prophecy was fulfilled pretty quickly when I showed up a full twenty-five minutes before doors, and for the first time ever, wound up waiting in line around the block. Other times I’ve been to shows, I’m usually within the first fifty or so people and then the crowd forms about ten minutes before doors. Not so in this case, and that’ll learn me for when/if Gwar come around again.
They’ve played Sacramento before, with Cancer Bats and Devildriver, but I sadly wound up missing that show due to work and I was determined not to do so this time, subjecting myself to weeks of graveyard shifts in order to insure that I had that Saturday evening off. It was an exciting as hell evening in a packed as hell venue, with one of the most energetic crowds I have seen in this city in some time.
If you had to figure any tour for A Band Of Orcs to pop up on, a tour with Gwar would have to be the perfect bill, right? There’s no denying the similarities between the bands, in terms of character — although there are obvious thematic differences between them. This was my first time ever seeing the group, and I was quite impressed.
They’re based out of the orc kingdom of Santa Cruz, California, so they’ve probably been up here to Sacramento a couple of times, as groups do the usual California tour run, but I’ve missed them every time until now. I enjoy Ace Of Spades for many reasons, but one of those is that when they get a solid four-band bill, each group gets quite a bit of stage time. So, even though Band Of Orcs were ostensibly the opener of the night, they still got the chance to cover a pretty good-sized array of metal from their different releases.
The group play fully into their name in that they are decked out as a group of orcs (and impressively so, the outfits are strikingly detailed) that play heavy metal. Oftentimes, you could fling abuse at groups like this for being all imagery and zero focus on the music, but A Band of Orcs have a solid bunch of songs behind them, covering a wide variety of genres — ping-ponging between death metal, groove, and a bit of galloping thrash. My only issue was that occasionally their vocalist would wind up falling out of the mix, but I noticed throughout the night (until about a fourth of the way through Iron Reagan’s following set) that they were having minor issues with one of the microphones.
They play up the ugliness of the band to a T as well, with their vocalist constantly calling for people to drink with him and spitting water all over the crowd. Also I had to laugh at the remark from the vocalist about the crowd being “slow” — which is something I will jokingly bring up every time I watch a crowd interaction go awry in this town. Still, the group played to an already almost full-sized crowd, and they started off what would be a night full of massive mosh pits and some of the rowdiest crowd interaction I have seen in Sacramento in some time.
As of right now, the band have a crowd fund going to try and keep up with repairs for their “battle wagon” for this tour, so if any of you have heard about the band before, or are looking to score a pretty good-sized merchandise package, you can go to their Indiegogo page here. They have twenty days left on it.
The only thing I knew about Iron Reagan going into the show was that they were a project of a couple of guys from Municipal Waste and Darkest Hour. Who was playing what? No idea. Who held what role or which guys? Again, no clue. I like Darkest Hour a lot, and Municipal Waste are one of the groups that you could congratulate/fault (depending on where you fall on that spectrum of revivalist ideas) for keeping the thrash movement alive, so I had figured that the band would be somewhat thrash? Maybe with a little punk on the side? Either way, they were my personal blank spot for the night, given that I knew of A Band Of Orcs prior, had seen Whitechapel a handful of times before, and pretty much knew what I was in for when it came to Gwar taking the stage — so I was very much open to being surprised by the band.
The music they play could be called crossover thrash with a bit of hardcore punk influence for sure, but one of the things that surprised me was the short song ethos. I actually enjoyed it a lot, as the band did not play anything longer than two minutes that night, some songs verging on thirty seconds. It was great to watch as they roared through a whole set; I’m convinced they just played everything they’ve written and then a song that’ll be on a forthcoming split with Exhumed (and btw, I actually enjoyed that one the most).
They play up the hard-partying thrash band bit as well, and the circle pits that formed that night were some of the biggest I’ve seen in Ace Of Spades — short of the ones that have appeared at the legacy thrash band shows that I’ve been to. The group had multiple floor-wide pits that night, and the joking about, “Should we go faster?! How about we go faster!” was great. Yeah, it was a little red meat for thrash fans out there, but it was such a fun show to watch that whenever they roll around here again, I’ll be sure to be there.
This has to be the fourth or fifth review of Whitechapel’s live show that I’ve done for the site at this point, isn’t it? Seems like I cross paths with these guys a lot, and whilst I would go see them willingly on their own, they are often on bills that I was going to see anyway — making them an enjoyable as hell bonus.
Whitechapel’s live shows have always been a different experience from date to date. They seem like a band who do very different things on different nights, sometimes being more lively than others — much of this dependent on the group’s vocalist Phil Boseman and what he plans on doing that night. For a while it seemed like he was experimenting with the idea of portraying a lanky, barely moving scarecrow, hanging from a microphone noose that would occasionally and violently spring to life, and at other times when I have seen the band he has been up front and in the face of every person in the crowd. Having seen both, I much prefer the latter, if only because Whitechapel’s music is made to be violent and in your face, and watching Phil be the embodiment of that on stage augments their music that much more. Of course, it’s also been interesting watching the rest of the band react as well, as they have also taken to moving around the stage more often — a feat in its own right, given that there are six of them up there and all of them pretty sizeable dudes.
One of the best parts of this particular show was that each band felt so different; it really felt like each band gave their own distinctive show that night. Whitechapel’s set has been pretty similar every time I’ve seen them touring for their self-titled, and I think it’s an interesting maneuver slapping all of the new stuff up front and then playing one song from each of the three albums prior, which means we saw the return of “Vicer Exciser” to the group’s set since they re-released Somatic Defilement earlier this year.
By the time Whitechapel were playing, the venue was absolutely packed to the gills, so things were way more rowdy than they had been, including multiple pits and yes, even some hardcore dancing. The band also saw fit to do a “wall of death”, the second one I’ve witnessed in Ace Of Spades, the previous being All Shall Perish and it was just as violent then. It didn’t get as wide since they just didn’t have as much space in which to move, but it was still a massive collision of bodies. And it was one of the reasons why I always feel like a genius choosing to hang out on the railing at the bar and watch every band from there.
Hey guys, I saw Gwar.
The story of the Gwar stageshow is practically legend by now. They soak you with fake blood and viscera, do one hell of a weird stage play, probably jam in one hell of a rendition of bring back the bomb, and in between all that the band somehow manage to fit in music whilst wearing some very difficult to move around in outfits. They’re an established act by this point, and when you go to see Gwar you have to know exactly what you’re in for beforehand. If you don’t and you try to hide from said viscera spray, they’re going to aim right at you.
The part where I was stunned was the moment they started shooting into the bar, because then, it seemed like the floodgates burst open and everything was free game. In a moment of providence I had taken my hoodie off and set it leaning over the railing during Iron Reagan’s set because the venue got super hot during their stage show, and I believe that is what saved my cell phone from the oncoming spray — because I’m convinced once they saw me whip my hair back they just continually aimed for the top of my head any time they could reach the bar area, which pretty much guaranteed no one was going to escape. My buddy got hit right in the face with blue jizz and spent the rest of the show looking like a smurf, and I left completely red. Not as bad as the folks on the front row, but where I got soaked, everyone who was in front of the stage got absolutely drenched.
Musically, Gwar are just about as goofy as you expect the band to be — the music is surprisingly punk rock and simple, with a couple of really heavy as hell songs. The band have quite a few weapons in their arsenal but Oderus being the master of ceremonies seems just as comfortable de-limbing a Justin Bieber mannequin (highlight of the night for me was a silly throwaway joke: “why are we killing Vanilla Ice again?”) as he does babbling away from the microphone. Pustulus Maximus is super intense, and I still remain really impressed with Balzac’s ability to move around in those giant hooves, including up stairs; it doesn’t matter how wide or large the stairs, that still seems like one hell of a feat to do and still play guitar.
The current stage show is a nonsensical bit about a Mr. Perfect showing up post-apocalypse, sending out different creations for the band to tear apart, including “the perfect woman”, a mass consisting of about forty boobs and a vagina for the face, with no vocal cords or brain — as you can see, this is the most serious thing out there today. In between all this they still found time to kill the Pope (which is probably where I got soaked the most, since the guy dancing in the outfit couldn’t see and just aimed square at me for what seemed like a minute) and the Queen. The music behind Gwar is actually pretty good and translates well live, but it’s obvious that a lot of folks go see the band for the show. I was about half and half, interested in hearing Gwar’s couple of hits and making up for when I missed them last year. It was as ridiculous as I expected and wanted, and it proved to be one hell of a good time.
I saw gwar a few months ago here in San Diego with Warbeast and a few others. I too was completely drenched and red as the devil, not that was a problem.
think you mean ace of spades, not ace of spaces brodogg
Thanks — that goof is fixed now. Our fucking editor is so lame. I’m gonna whip his ass — again.
I have on more than one occasion misspelled the venues name as ace of base. I blame retail.
Whitechapel is such a great live band, they never disappoint
Happy Birthday! 🙂
I was the one who got wisked away by the ambulance, 10 minutes after GWAR started!
Broke my hip in the pit, and had surgery!
GWAR is sooooo rad!