In front of San Francisco’s Warfield Theater, winding a full block down infamous Market Street, and turning about a hundred feet into the rundown Tenderloin District was a thick black snake speckled with the occasional dot of brightness. No, there was no reason to alert Animal Planet. This was no anaconda, but perhaps something much more vicious. Each scale was an adrenaline-fueled fan of gore and goth. It was the admission line for the Viva La Bands Tour featuring Vains of Jenna, CKY, and GWAR, headlined by Cradle of Filth. Each band, along with many others, are featured on the second volume of Jackass star Bam Margera’s hand picked music compilation Viva La Bam.
To start the night the doors opened more than an hour past their scheduled time. Unfortunately this meant shorter sets from each band. Vains of Jenna barely got through four songs about drugs, enemies, and presumably sex (I couldn’t make out all of the words) before their hybrid sound of Murderdolls and skeletons from Guns n Roses’ closet was brought to a close. Although they barely shared any DNA with the likes of GWAR or Cradle of Filth their energetic and fun-loving SoCal glam rock made sure the crowd was worthy enough to be sacrificed for the inevitable massacre yet to come.
CKY rushed the stage after engulfing the entire floor section in a veil of thick fog. Their industrial strength smoke machine was barely able to match the plumes of pot smoke mushrooming up from all over the pit section. The light show – a brilliant wash of reds, blues, and greens – was impressive given that they were only the second band on the bill. Their following was rather large (plenty of “fuCKYou” t-shirts were on display) and loud, but again, their shortened set left the hall feeling a bit unfulfilled.
In between sets a huge projector dropped down and showed short films about Bam Margera and the various antics he and his group of – for lack of a better word – jackasses were getting into. One was about the dangerous world of BMX biking and chronicled a serious accident at a GWAR video shoot in explicit detail. Along with that were other random video clips; a Children of Bodom video, fake commercials for garbage juicers, plenty of dumb skateboarding stunts, and even a somewhat forced tribute to how much of a skating god the Pennsylvanian-born Bam Margera is to all of us. Right. It actually was a hell of a lot better than making small talk while listening to Nickelback and Saliva singles coming out of the loudspeakers.
When GWAR came on, the serotonin level of the entire audience shot through the ceiling. I had heard a couple enticing tidbits about what they offered in a standard performance but had never seen one live. Simply put they did not disappoint. Unbelievably bulky costumes and set pieces aside, the grotesque parodies they acted out between each song had the Warfield in hysterics.
Let’s see, who did they kill on that particular night? First a none-to-spectacular Nazi skeleton draped in swastika flags and a long red robe was decapitated sending a geyser of red “blood” raining onto the crowd. After that they also decapitated George W. Bush, which ended with the lead singer using the spurting neck wound for fellatio. Satan came out for a little while and ejaculated blue semen from wall to wall. Oh, then they tore the arms off of a blue demon and killed Hitler. Basic GWAR stuff, you know. The wheels kind of fell off towards the end when they botched a pre-recorded skit with a baby Bam doll (birthed from the eviscerated stomach of a life size Don Vito puppet) that of course ended in the doll pissing blue urine everywhere. But they rebounded nicely when the main villain, a 10 foot tall goblin named Jewcifer had to be vanquished so he wouldn’t be able to control the entire world media via Bam’s radio show. I can’t even guess how many gallons of food-colored water they went through with that battle alone. By the time their set ended the crowd was quaking sea of pissed off, drunk Smurfs.
Entering with the main theme to Bram Stoker’s Dracula playing, Cradle of Filth strut on stage cum medieval cloister. While they ripped through favorites like “Nymphetamine” and “The Principle of Evil” they also mixed in songs from their new album Thornography. At first it was all greeted with welcome appreciation, but there was just something about them that wasn’t connecting with the crowd. The sound quality was excellent and the vampiric videos playing behind them fit the gloomy mood nicely, but it was a bit anticlimactic with a band as entertaining as GWAR preceding them. The crowd wanted to step on the accelerator harder, but that’s not CoF’s style. They’re not fast and wild, rather loud and layered.
Personally, I believe GWAR should’ve headlined. They had just as many, if not more, fans there just to see them play. After the first 20 minutes of CoF’s performance people were filing out of the venue. Don’t get me wrong, everyone seemed satisfied, just uninterested in seeing the rest of the show. What doesn’t come off as uninspired after a live episode of GWAR? In all the night started unexpectedly late by force and ended unexpectedly early by choice.