A funny thing happened on the way to the GWAR show…

Richmond, Virginia, 2016:

I am at the 7th annual Gwar-BQ, my third in a row. It’s hotter than it’s ever been, and I may be suffering from some combination of mild heatstroke and beer stupids. A friend and I just caught Against Me!’s set, which we both watched out of curiosity and ended up enjoying until the bitter, sun-soaked end. [Note to self: Listen to Against Me!’s studio work and decide if they’re really that good or if I was, in fact, drunk.]

Gwar is going on next on a different stage, and I receive a text that applies to me but not my Against Me! buddy: There’s an area for VIP ticket holders to the right of the stage, meet him there in ten minutes. We go our separate ways, and I shuffle through the dust and bohabs toward a barricade to the right of the stage. A “staph” member is on guard. I hold up my pass and ask, “Is this the VIP area?” He waves me through without a word, barely a tired glance, clearly suffering from some heat-related impairment of his own. I follow the railing to a wooded area behind the stage and start looking for the friend who sent the text. He’s nowhere. I light up a spliff and ask the guy standing next to me if he’s seen a tall dude in a red Paw Sox hat, “It’s got a ‘P’ on it instead of a ‘B,’ but otherwise it looks like a Red Sox hat… uh… about six-one, six-two, he’s got a twelve year-old with him… ahhhh…”

“Sorry.”

“Shit.” I offer the spliff. “You want some of this?”

“Uh, no. Working.”

“Oh? What’re you doing?”

“I’m the photographer.”

“Oh, cool.”

It looks like the show’s starting. I wander up the stairs leading to the stage where a crowd has already gathered. I search for my friend’s red cap, and ask another staph member if he’s seen him. He hasn’t. I shrug and settle in for the show, setting my bag and beer down next to me, backing against the railing to make way for the last stragglers piling in and a few roadies still unloading crates of equipment from the prior set.

Gwar starts. I’m standing right behind the soundboard. I could, but choose not to count the sweat beads rolling off Balsac’s painted-on six-pack. It’s fucking awesome, and I’m visibly psyched. I turn to a different staph member behind me and scream, “This is the best perk you’ve offered with the VIP tickets yet! I had no idea we were going to be this close! This is incredible, best Gwar show ever!”

He’s grinning. “This area’s for the bands.”

My eyes bug. I blush. It all becomes clear – why I can’t find my friend, why this looks suspiciously like, oh, I don’t know, THE BACK OF THE FUCKING STAGE, YOU IDIOT.

“Oh,” I say. “Oh. Well, that makes sense.”

He’s still grinning.

“Well. Thank you for not immediately throwing me out!”

“You made it this far,” he says.

I humbly return to my spot and quickly think up a backstory in case one of the important people asks me who the fuck I am or why I’m back here. I’m a writer. Sure. They don’t have to know I’m a nobody fiction writer and not a rock journalist. Whatever. That’ll work. If they needle further, I’ll just tell them I wrote Bleeding Gut Blues. What? You haven’t heard of it? Well, it has a cult following. They don’t have to know the cult consists of, maybe, five people. It’s not lying.

The set itself you can probably imagine. I watch “Slaughterama” from ten feet away, cheer as the skinhead is decapitated, laugh as blood shoots up like a fountain from an exposed faux esophagus at the top of his suit. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton battle, both mercifully die. A few other random people who aren’t supposed to be there wander up, one hands me a beer. It’s already open, so I make him chug half of it to prove it’s safe. This vaguely annoys him, but not enough to stop chatting.

I tell him, “This is great, but I miss getting soaked with blood! I mean, I understand the soundboard being right there is an impediment, but damn it, I want to get bloody!”

He cheers agreement (“Yeah! Blood! They could find a way!”), and at the start of the next song, bolts in the direction of the red-soaked people pit below.

Occasionally, I glance at the important people. There’s a beautiful woman with dark features hugging the barricade, wearing expensive-looking, demurely revealing clothes, hair and top waving in the breeze, clutching a Dolce and Gabbana handbag. She keeps turning her head and smiling in my direction. I’m momentarily smitten. I finally smile back and almost wave just as the photographer who must have been standing right behind me saddles up next to her. They embrace. From her wild gesticulations and open-mouthed grin, I surmise that she’s never seen Gwar before, and is having a fantastic time. I can’t help but laugh to myself, happy that even the real-life Megan Draper from Mad Men can dig on this crazy shit.

The set ends. After about an hour of playing it semi-cool, I explode with wild excitement at the first friend I see, then the next, then the lot of them. The next morning, as I’m walking the wrong direction on the way to the Gwar Bar, my friend yells, “S! You don’t know the way by now?”

“You know me. I always go the wrong way.”

“And sometimes it gets you into trouble, and sometimes you end up backstage at a Gwar show.” I don’t know, and I’m not looking, but I have a feeling he’s shaking his head.

Next week: Probably nothing. I’m very lazy.

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