FESTIVAL REVIEW: GWAR BQ 2016 Live At Hadad’s Lake, Richmond, Virginia
Upon stumbling off of the parking lot shuttle to the main gate, I questioned myself as to what expectations I had regarding covering the 5th Annual GWAR BQ 2016, at Habab’s Lake, Richmond, Virginia on Saturday August 20th. The sun was already blazing in the mid-morning sky and the extreme humidity didn’t seem to damper the spirits of those who patiently waited in line to enter this paradise of sorts. Two stages which consisted of the Slaughterama Stage (main) and the Scumdog Stage (second), were also accompanied by the Slutman Pavilion Stage, positioned between the two. In retrospect, it was the Pavilion that hosted some of the most memorable and outrageous performances of the day, which I’ll elaborate more throughout my review.
Starting out this glorious day, Richmond based Progressive Jazz metal band Brain Tentacle’s Bruce Lamont on horns, vocals and keyboard literally had this small pavilion hopping with their single “The Sadist” from the soon to be released upcoming self-titled album (September 30th). Accompanied by Dave Witte on drums and bassist Aaron Dallison, this collaboration of seasoned performers will consume, evolve and then regurgitate ambiguous noise upon it’s more than receptive listeners.
Next up on the Slaughterama Stage were Ra
Scrambling between all three stages, I found myself in total awe as August Burns Red hit the main stage close to 1:00 pm. An American Christian metal-core band hailing from Manheim, Pennsylvania, they’ve been nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance, graced listeners with “Baby One More Time” (Britney Spears cover), “White Washed”, and “Martyr” with explosive vocals from Jake Luhrs, electrifying guitar playing by both JB Brubaker (lead) and Brent Rambler(rhythm). Hardcore punk band American Nightmare, (formerly Give Up The Ghost) based out of Boston, Massachusetts, displayed they could bring forth their A-Game to the stage with “The Sun Isn’t Getting Any Brighter” and “Dead and Gone”. After several break-ups and reunions, lead singer Wesley Eisold displayed breath-taking control of this up and coming (again) band.
Back at the pavilion stage, yet another Richmond, Virginia punk metal band, Occultis, founded in 2010 and comprising of Kerry Zylstra (
Dillinger Escape Plan formed in 1997, based in Morris Plains, New Jersey brought their hardcore punk metal to the Scumdog stage, tearing in such singles as “Milk Lizard”, “Fix Your Face”, and a crowd favorite “Black Bubblegum”. Comprising of Ben Weinman and Kevin Antre
Back at the Slaughterama stage, Eyehat
Judging by your escalating anticipation and nail-biting impatience, I can hold back no longer in presenting both headliners GWAR and Lamb of God. Closing out the Scumdog stages was the highly praised Richmond native band has been labeled as “shock rock” and displays barbaric over the top sexually explicit stage shows ever since forming in 1984, and this show exceeded all of my virgin expectations (yeah, my first). Dressed in foam in planetary garb, members Mikael Bishop (Blothar) on vocals, Brent Purgason (Pustulus Maximus) on lead guitar and back-up vocals accompanied by Matt Mcguire (Sawborg Destructo) and Bob Gorman (Bone Snapper). Pounding the skins is Brad Roberts (Jizmak Da Gusha), Mike Derks (Balsac the Jaws of Death) belting out some serious rhythm guitar with the help of non-stop chest penetrating bass of Jamison Land (Beefcake the Mighty). And of course, I can’t leave out the emcee of the evening, Sleazy P. Martin (Don Drakulich). The show simply wouldn’t be the same without his showmanship qualities. These theatrical thrashers with thirteen discs under their belts, including the 2013 release of “Battle Maximus” brought forth everything from blugeonings, be-headings, Minotaur battling and let’s not forget the continual spraying of the fans with a multitude of colors.
Opening their 13 song set list with “Madness At the Core of Time”, it was apparent that they captivated everyone’s undivided attention, in front of stage and within the whole venue. Ear-splitting renditions of fan favorites such as “Bring Back the Bomb”, “Nitro-Burnin’ Funny Bong”, and “Hail Genocide” were a few of several hits leading up to their closer – “Slaughterama”. Never have I seen such an electrifying and energetic crowd, in such extreme heat in the late afternoon, as I witnessed here at Scumdog stage.
I was left unequivocally mesmerized for quite some time afterwards, but came to my senses in time to beat feet over to the main stage, as Randy Blythe and Lamb of God were about to create new precedence in the ever so dry and dusty mosh pit. Shredding the faces off the anxious fans with opener “Walk With Me’, Blythe showed who was indeed the boss of this 15 song mosh extravaganza. I witnessed quite the transition of a mild mannered author/photographer, to a vein-popping raging maniac burning with passion and able to incite one of the most intense fan reactions I’ve ever seen. By the time band members Mark Morton and Willie Adler (guitars), bassist John Campbell and drummer Chris Adler ripped into their third song “512” (which they received a Grammy nod for this year), followed by “Engage The Fear Machine”, the dust cloud had grown to such a degree from pit activity it enveloped the fans heads and slowly drifted towards stage. As all great things must come to end, Blythe and crew ended their show with “Redneck”, and proved without a shadow of a doubt that the Richmond heavy metal band dating back to 1994 can come, conquer, and leave all in their wake of rock and roll destruction.
In closing, would I go to my second GWAR BQ? Absolutely! Not only did all the bands literally outperform themselves regardless of which stage they were booked on, but the crowd as a whole was as epic yet uneventful as a Woodstock gathering, which in and of itself seems odd, given the lineup of some of the heaviest thrashing bands. But yet it was. A contributing factor which needs accreditation, is the fine men and women of Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, all the event staff/volunteers, and abundance of reasonably priced fantastic food vendors, to which a high five needs to be given for a job more than well done.