Sometimes the best part of a GWAR concert is what happens outside the venue immediately after the show. Concertgoers -- most of them absolutely drenched in blood -- spill back onto city sidewalks, leaving bloody footprints and shrieking with glee or horror, it's hard to tell. Bewildered citizens look on with confusion and concern. What horrors just happened in there? Should we call 911?
Nah, it's only GWAR, America's long-running, costumed, shock-rock gore-fest.
Once an annual staple of Halloween in Chicago, the notorious and theatrical death metal band revives the tradition this year with another holiday encampment at the House of Blues -- complete with spewing bodily fluids, a giant foam-rubber maggot that devours "hot bitches" from the audience, and the opportunity to watch a "Jersey Shore" star disemboweled live onstage.
with Every Time I Die
◆ 6 p.m. Monday
◆ House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn
◆ Tickets, $25; $27, day of show; (800) 745-3000; houseofblues.com/chicago
"Halloween is the biggest night of the year for GWAR, despite our attempt to make every night of the year a festival of death," said lead singer Dave Brockie.
Or that may have been his alter-ego speaking, the human-devouring alien Oderus Urungus. In our recent interview, he slipped back and forth between the two. "I've completely lost my mind at this point," he said. "I've been living this extended multiple-personality existence so long."
He just finished celebrating that long existence, as GWAR went on a world tour for its 25th anniversary, a tour that went on for two years.
"Oops, we forgot our 26th," Brockie said.
Then Oderus came out. "I didn't know we'd still be enjoying this awful little planet so much," he said.
The GWAR backstory is that they're aliens -- Oderus describes himself as a "pathetic undying chaos demon from the core of space" -- created from the worst filth in the universe, banished here and on a mission to either sexually enslave or simply slaughter human beings. "Enjoy" comes up again: "I didn't know I'd enjoy inflicting suffering on you humans so much. You're so gullible and easy to kill."
Oderus is the one character common to all incarnations since GWAR was founded by collegiate comedians at a Virginia college in 1984. (The band's name does not, surprisingly, stand for God What an Awful Racket but is rather an abbreviation for the original act's name: Gwaaarrrgghhlllgh!) The current lineup also includes Flattus Maximus (Cory Smoot, guitar), Balsac the Jaws of Death (Mike Derks, guitar), Beefcake the Mighty (Jamison Land, bass) and Jizmak Da Gusha (Brad Roberts, drums).
GWAR shows weave the scatological mythos into thudding heavy metal songs. In between, alien rituals are acted out, with fake blood and sexual fluids -- washable, non-staining -- liberally sprayed over, into and on the audience.
Turnabout is fair play. "Some fans threw cups of dog vomit on us one time in Norway," Brockie recalled, chuckling. "That was pretty cool."
Usually, a celebrity is sacrificed during the show. A few years ago, the band blipped on the nation's pop cultural radar when vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin took a dislike to her likeness being disemboweled onstage. This year, the band is apolitical.
"We had a long debate about who to kill this year," Brockie said. "I'm so disgusted in the lack of personality in the current candidates I refuse to even comment on it. So I figured, who in entertainment is the fattest, grossest symbol of how untalented and grotesque you can be and still be a huge star? So we're carving the sh-- out of Snooki.
"She's a tacky, bulbous, ignorant symbol of everything that's wrong with society today. Plus, there's lots of blood and guts inside her. We can carve away on her for a song or two before we even get to the spinal cord. We did Lady Gaga before, but she's just skin and bones. She disintegrated halfway through a song."
Oderus reflected on his favorite moments on Earth during the band's 27 years here.
"Having sex with Joan Rivers," he said. "The Grammys" -- yes, GWAR has been nominated -- "and losing twice. That was big. We played in East Berlin after your puny Berlin Wall was torn down. They rebuilt a section of it after our show."
The next move for GWAR? To television, of course. The character of Oderus stars alongside pop-metal singer Dee Snider (Twisted Sister) in "Holliston," an original sitcom premiering next spring on the FEARnet cable channel.
"It's a cross between 'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia' and 'Evil Dead 2,'" Brockie said. "Oderus is this goofy supporting character, like Kramer from outer space."
So who enjoys GWAR's kind of entertainment, and pays for it?
"Stupid humans," Oderus said. "Only on Earth could we storm into your concert halls, openly advertise that we will punish and slaughter you and feed you to the maggot, and you sheep just stampede through the door."
He laughs ominously. "Come on down!"