8 p.m. March 24 at Buster's Billiards and Backroom, 899 Manchester St. $20 advance, $25 day of show. (859) 368-8871. Bustersbb.com.
Last year at this time, Jamison Land was making a living driving a truck. A hard-rock enthusiast and a Louisville native (his family moved to Lexington for a year during his early childhood), he found that venues and opportunities for full-time music employment were scarce. Then came GWAR.
The veteran Richmond, Va., metal band is heavily costumed, theatrical, satirical and, at times, topical in its music and performance. Think KISS but far more outrageous. When a vacancy in the GWAR ranks became available last August, Land — who was already friends with the other band members — got the call to join.
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"I had already known the guys for maybe 10 years," said Land, who makes his Lexington debut with GWAR on Saturday at Buster's Billiards and Backroom. "It was still a pretty big deal, though.
"I had a band I was working with in Louisville for a while called The Burial. We did pretty well, but some of the guys moved away. I was driving a truck for a while after that and wasn't doing a lot of music. Then I got the call."
GWAR members don't go by their real names. Each is a specific character with a mythology that has been built on since the band formed in 1984. Among the character names, at least the ones we can print, are Oderus Urungus (still played by lead vocalist and founding member Dave Brockie), Balsac the Jaws of Death (portrayed by rhythm guitarist Mike Derks since 1988) and the role that bassist Land landed: Beefcake the Mighty.
"I've been listening to GWAR and going to GWAR shows since I was 15," Land said. "So I knew the character. But the first day, especially, I was kind of nervous. The first day, we played a big show here in Richmond (Va.). That was my first time wearing the costume, and we were doing all of these meet-and-greets. I didn't really know what to do exactly. But, hey, I can't complain because I could still be driving a truck. I'm actually making less money now, but I'm way happier."
Album titles — Scumdogs of the Universe, We Kill Everything, You're All Worthless and Weak and Lust in Space — are good indicators that GWAR is not exactly G-rated fare. Neither is one of the more extreme (but undeniably amusing) theatrical trademarks of its live show: the onstage ridicule (which extends to faux-disembowelings and beheadings) of stagehands dressed as newsmakers of the day from politics and entertainment. Simulated subjects have included Sarah Palin, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hillary Clinton, Michael Jackson, Snooki, Paris Hilton and Lady Gaga.
"We pretty much think anything is up for us to make fun of," Land said. "That's the way it should be."
But the effect was decidedly different when death hit GWAR in very real terms last fall. In November, guitarist Cory Smoot, who had played the role of Flatus Maximus for nearly a decade, died on tour from complications of coronary artery disease. The remaining members of GWAR have since retired the Maximus character and are touring as a four-piece band (drummer Brad Roberts completes the current lineup).
"After Cory's death, we had to come together. It was awful, but we still had to make things happen. We wanted to make sure Cory's family was taken care of but we also had to make sure we didn't go out of business. We had songs to write for the next album. We had a tour to get through. We had a lot of stuff to do. But we're doing the best we can.
"We're all in good spirits. We're doing better than some bands could have done under these circumstances. That's for sure."