Go GWAR or Go Home

Remember in years past when concerts were a regular occurrence? Sure, you always ran some sort of risk when going to one: your hearing could be damaged if you forgot earplugs, you might have to suffer through the Russian roulette experience of using a portapotty if the show was outdoors, or perhaps you would accidentally drop something and never find it again among the sea of stomping feet. If you are like me and your concert preferences tend toward the punk and metal side of things, you might even end up in a mosh pit. (Having been blessed with a petite frame and a resting nice face, I always luck out with good samaritans who pick me up and place me outside of the mosh pit whenever it breaks out. Appearing small and dainty has its perks when you don’t like getting punched in the face.) Still, my absolute favorite thing about going to concerts is that I can really retreat into myself and recharge my introverted social battery while also being in the presence of others.

How, you may ask? None of that makes sense. I can explain.

Concerts are underappreciated as an introvert’s paradise. You will be surrounded by people, sure; however, no one expects you to interact with them. You are likely not going to have a stranger come up to you and strike up conversation because neither of you will be able to hear each other. You will have a talking point the next time you do have to make small talk with someone because you can mention that you recently went to a live show. If you are fortunate enough to see one of your favorite acts whom others in your immediate social circle don’t know or appreciate, you will suddenly find yourself surrounded by others who have listened to the same records on repeat. As someone who struggled with fitting in and accepting myself throughout my entire adolescence, concerts aided me in finding my people.

So, once the pandemic worsened in later winter and early spring of 2020, concerts appeared to be going extinct. How could a band in good conscience gather together hundreds if not thousands of people in close quarters while they sang and screamed along, possibly infecting others with respiratory disease? How could the employees of major venues justify endangering themselves and their families by working these events? How could indoor arenas and halls safely gather music fans from near and far without creating a superspreader event? The answer for many months was to postpone or outright cancel everything until further notice. Sure, virtual concerts tried to fill the void, but it just was not the same. While I enjoy having the comfort and privacy of my own commode and not having to stand in line for overpriced beers while watching video feeds, I really missed being able to go to concerts. As time stretched on, I seriously wondered if my last show ever would be the one I attended in February 2019. (It was Coheed and Cambria, for those who might be curious. I’ve been a fan since my emo middle school days.)

Fortunately, a random doomscrolling session on Twitter changed it all. The metal band GWAR was going to hold a drive-in concert. I, erm, gleefully and somewhat sadistically coerced a pair of pals to go to this horror celebration of blood, piss and outright tomfoolery.

Let me tell you guys: it. was. AWESOME.

I have to confess that GWAR had shown up as a blip on my musical radar in my teenage years, but they were not a band that piqued my interest. Instead, I veered off the metal course into punk. Before buying our car’s ticket for this show, one of my friends who had the pleasure of previously seeing GWAR live suggested that I give their music a listen before committing. While the lyrics themselves can be a bit too much for the pearl-clutching conservatives among us, I was unphased. Having lived in the horrorscape of the United States for 29 years, a few satirical songs about alien bodily fluids was far from the worst thing I’d ever heard. Besides, I was 1000% over being in my house but also wanted to be responsible as I went out to have fun.

I’m glad to say that the execution of this drive-in show was fantastic. All tickets and merchandise had to be purchased in advance, cars were limited to four person occupancy, bringing food from the outside was allowed (but no alcohol or illicit drugs, although I suspect that rule was anything but enforced), and each vehicle was spaced out so that attendees were socially distanced. While I missed the closeness of dancing in a crowd as well as chugging an overpriced beer while doing the white girl wiggle, I had a good time. The lights, the heavy sounds and the goofy stage antics were still there. The atmosphere was charged with excitement from the other concertgoers much like the shows of old. My friends and I were too far from the stage to be hit with the fake blood, urine and semen that is a trademark of a GWAR show, but I don’t find myself too upset by that. My hope is that my fellow Richmonders have proven that we can safely party at live music venues even while the world is ending. I have also resolved to budget more money for concerts in the future since life is too short not to experience the things you love.

I forgot to take more photos both because I was slightly inebriated and because I try to live in the moment at concerts, but I did snap this VERY short video right at the very beginning.
(video)

I felt very smol

Next week will be…something. I haven’t decided yet. Please be safe, dear readers.

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