Heavy Metal Novelty Night
Gwar, The Meatmen, and Brutal Juice at the Big Dog's in Cedar Rapids, IA, May 4, 1996
by: Henry Akeley
A big fan of the Meatmen from way back in their mid-80s days of snot-encrusted glory, I went to this event thinking that it had been quite some time since Iowa had hosted any really great displays of brutal music--since Morbid Angel's _Covenant_ tour stopped in Cedar Rapids, to be exact. Unfortunately, I guess I left this show thinking pretty much the same thing--and I'm certain that I'll never waste my time on a Gwar performance again.

I must say, though, that openers Brutal Juice, whom I had never heard before, impressed the hell out of me. This band's creative, potent style is practically impossible to describe. I wouldn't exactly call them a metal band, since their polyrhythmic and darkly dreamy sound derives equally from edgier "alternative" bands like Jane's Addiction and perhaps from some more artful punk bands as well. Anyway, one thing I -definitely- wouldn't call these guys is wimpy. No, they rocked, no question about it, and they had a great sound, too. By turns they were steamroller heavy, witch-doctor creepy, and rattlesnake vicious, with lots of great-sounding leads, killer percussion, and catchy vocal phrasings. Musically speaking, I think these guys basically stole the show.

But I was there to see the Meatmen, having (mis)spent many an adolescent hour cranking up their obnoxious punk/metal and doubling over in laughter at main meat honcho Tesco Vee's hilarious hardcore diatribes against everything and everybody. I haven't really kept up with their more recent stuff, but this was no problem, as their set was chock full of old chestnuts like "True Grit", "Abba, God, and Me", and of course "We're the Meatmen and You Suck". But, oh, Tesco--where were "Come On Over to Mah Crib" and "War of the Superbikes"?! The 1996 Meatmen lineup definitely rocks pretty hard, and newer numbers like "Morrissey Must Die" sounded great. And Tesco still projects as much attitude as ever, manically prowling the stage decked out in white fur pants, dangling earrings, and a carrot-colored jarhead buzz cut. I was a bit disappointed, though, to hear him recycling old stage banter between songs (references to "your puckered starfish," "diesel flab glaciers," and all that). Actually, I felt a bit let down by these guys in general. They did play a solid, really hard-rocking set, but the overall insanity level just wasn't quite what I'd come to expect from Tesco and the boys.

Of course, in-concert insanity is supposed to be the specialty of headliners Gwar. And I guess they lived up to that reputation on this night--but really I found Gwar to be a great deal more annoying than entertaining. Although they definitely performed it with skill, their music has never done anything for me at all. In fact, I don't like them. Still, I thought it would be fun to check out their stage show, and it was--for about five minutes. See, the novelty of watching geysers of fake body fluids spurt all over the audience from fake latex necks, cocks, and so on, wears off pretty fast. Of course, Gwar try to make up for this by building up their set around a story line involving various monster-suited characters and their misadventures. But the problem is that the mentality level of this whole production is so astonishingly low that it rapidly becomes nothing more than obnoxious, and in the worst fifth-grade-humor-level kind of way. If you crack up over guys in rubber suits telling lame jokes about AIDS, abortion, and child molestation, and if your idea of hilarity includes gags that are really demeaning to women, then you'll bust a gut over Gwar. Otherwise, if you go see them, prepare to have your intelligence insulted--and a lot more than just your intelligence, if you happen to be a woman. Yeah, okay, I know: the whole Gwar thing is supposed to be a big joke. But if you ask me, this joke sucked.

(article submitted 9/6/1996)

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