The music industry continues to collapse, but booze sales are holding steady. In the last decade, there has been a marked increase in the number of musicians peddling their own alcoholic products. Sammy Hagar blazed the trail with Cabo Wabo tequila. Diddy has Ciroc vodka. Train offers a line of wines. (I'm "calling all angels," praying that the new 2011 Soul Sister Pinot Noir is as brawny and full-bodied as the 2009 Drops of Jupiter Petite Syrah, am I right, you guys?) The list goes on: Willie Nelson, Whitesnake, the guy from Tool.
Marketing food products is a less explored revenue stream for bands. But Gwar, a satirically grotesque thrash-metal group that regularly stages beheadings at its shows, is getting in on that action. It has a new barbecue sauce, Gwar-B-Q. And there's a local angle: Its guitarist, whose parents named him Balsac the Jaws of Death, created Gwar B-Q at Original Juan's, the sauces-and-spices manufacturing operation on Southwest Boulevard. On Monday night, Gwar debuted Gwar-B-Q on the back patio at Grinders, in an event billed as a "Meat and Meet." I didn't have a whole lot else going on.
Turnout was strong — easily more than a hundred people! Many were clad in black; some wore jackets with pins and patches on them; one guy donned a T-shirt that read, "Gwar: A Bloody Good Time." (Fake blood abounds at Gwar shows. Also common: fake jizz.) The crowd sat at picnic tables and chatted, waiting for Gwar to arrive. I got in a line and bought a bottle of Gwar-B-Q for $10. I found a bench, flagged down a waitress and ordered an "Intergalactic Gwarbage" sandwich — non-Gwar fans might call it a "pulled-pork sandwich." It came with chips.
According to info on the side of the Gwar-B-Q bottle, "Whether you slather it on ribs, chicken, seafood, or roadkill, it makes all dead things taste better." I poured some onto my sandwich. It was spicy, and it did make my sandwich taste better. But there was a bit of cognitive dissonance going on. Everything about Gwar is repulsive. We're talking about a band that dresses like mutant barbarians. They have an album called This Toilet Earth. Enjoying the sauce requires the clearing of those facts from one's mind.
As I ate, I eavesdropped on a conversation four metal nerds were having nearby. A few highlights:
"I'd definitely see Trouble over Saint Vitus."
"Fuck [Slayer guitarist] Kerry King. He turned his back on everybody."
"[Megadeth frontman] Dave [Mustaine] is not a pussy."
I snickered to my friend. A guy with long gray hair, a Batman T-shirt and an artillery belt gave me the crook eye. I was wearing an oxford button-up with a seersucker pattern. I hung my head, returned to my Intergalactic Gwarbage sandwich.
About an hour into the party, Gwar emerged in full monster regalia from its tour bus. One of the members got down on his knees and pretended to vomit on his way in. As he spit and coughed hideously, another Gwar member said, "Somebody help him." A fan walked over and patted him on the back. "Don't fuckin' touch me," the Gwar guy roared.
"You guys make my dick hard!" another fan screamed.
"Get the fuck away from me," said drummer Jizmak Da Gusha. Then he called a woman, who was attempting to take a photo with her iPhone, a "gaping sore." She swooned.
As Gwar set up behind tables to autograph posters and bottles of Gwar-B-Q, I tracked down Jeff "Stretch" Rumaner, owner of Grinders. It turns out that Rumaner and Gwar go way back — they attended Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts together back in the 1980s.
"Oh, yeah, I was in the 'Phallus in Wonderland' video. I would go on tours with Gwar in the late '80s," he said. "I built their second tour bus. I was a welder and I taught sculpture at VCU to Bobby [Gorman], who's one of their main artists. I used to get checks from Slave Pit Inc. — that's the name of the company they do business as."
Rumaner pulled out his phone and showed me a photo of his seven-week-old twins being cradled by grown men wearing spiked helmets and loincloths.
"I heard they wanted to do their own barbecue sauce, so Brad, or I mean Jizmak, and Balzac came down to Juan's awhile back, and we scoped everything out," Rumaner continued. "And I figured, what better way is there to start a Gwar tour than here at Grinders, debuting the barbecue sauce? Did you get a sandwich? It's my meat, my rub, and Gwar's sauce."
"There's other stuff happening, too," Rumaner said. "There might be a Gwar Bar opening in Richmond. And they do a huge Gwar-B-Q gathering in Richmond every year, with food and music, and it's possible they might be bringing a second version to the Midwest."
An employee working the event came over. "The band wants Jäger shots," he said.
"Will you get a round of Jäger shots for the band?" Rumaner asked a passing waitress. "In plastic cups."