In Memoriam: GWAR’s Dave Brockie (AKA Oderus Urungus) 1963-2014
GWAR frontman Dave Brockie (AKA Oderus Urungus) was found dead at his apartment in Richmond, VA on Sunday. He was 50 years old. If Alice Cooper invented the rock show, Dave Brockie and GWAR made the rock show infamous. I’d like to think that in a world where Lady Gaga has a performance at SXSW covered in fake vomit, she can do so because GWAR made it okay and blazed a trail for controversial on-stage theatrics two decades ago. When rock and roll is at its best, it is a spectacle to remember forever, and no one did it better than GWAR.
Dave Brockie and GWAR were unlike any other rock band in history. Dave Brockie lived his Oderus Urungus persona, fleshy dangling crotch-monster and all. His appearances on everything from Jerry Springer in the 90s to Fox News’ Red Eye program a couple of years ago, Oderus wasn’t just a costume, but a living thing that allowed Dave Brockie to push the limits of free speech and truly redefine what art can be.
It’s easy to write GWAR off as just some goofy kids dressing up as aliens, decapitating Presidents on stage just to offend people, but behind their satire-bathed lyrics are Brockie’s views on everything from the PMRC and Columbine to politics and popular culture. Not to mention that GWAR’s backstory and on-going shenanigans chronicled on album might be the greatest rock opera ever told.
The reason GWAR is infamous and why even my mother knows of them are their live shows. You may not know the music of GWAR, but you’ve probably been told of “the band that dresses up as monsters and shoots fake blood and semen out into the audience.” Dave Brockie and his band took great pleasure in making sure every single person at a venue was covered, head to toe, in some sort of liquid that (thankfully) wasn’t permanent. I remember making the decision to actually be in the thick of it at their 2010 performance at The Granada and not being able to breathe from laughing so much as I was shot in the face with a squirt gun full of blood.
And I’d like to think that’s how Dave would like to be remembered. He lived his life pushing and redefining the boundaries of free speech and artistic merit. Most bands shyed away from the moral panic aimed at rock bands in the early 90s, but Oderus Urungus openly embraced it and shamed everyone for blaming their problems on bands instead of looking inward. A GWAR show was vaudeville pushed to the extreme and breaking the barriers of political correctness in order to give their fans an experience of a lifetime.
If Dave Brockie is remembered as a pioneer of shock rock who championed free speech or just some idiot kid who liked decapitating presidents and prime ministers live on stage, I’m sure he’d be proud. Rest In Crack, Oderus Urungus.