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Remembering GWAR leader David Brockie, 50, a First Ave favorite

Posted by: Chris Riemenschneider under Music, Clubs Updated: March 24, 2014 - 12:33 PM
GWAR played to another packed club at First Avenue in November 2004, the night the club reopened after a court battle nearly shuttered it for good. / Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

GWAR played to another packed club at First Avenue in November 2004, the night the club reopened after a court battle nearly shuttered it for good. / Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

Twin Cities metal lovers and First Avenue staff and patrons are among the many GWAR lovers worldwide saddened by this morning’s news that David Brockie – aka Oderus Urungus, ringleader of the costumed cartoon – was found dead Sunday at his home in Richmond., Va. Cause of death has not been named yet. He was only 50.

Under Brockie’s reign of blood, GWAR played First Ave 25-plus times in more than three decades, among the most by any touring act.

Oderus Urungus

Oderus Urungus

“Very bummed. I’ve been seeing Gwar and their associated bands at First Avenue since high school,” said First Ave manager Nate Kranz, singling out a ’95 gig by Brockie’s police-attired side band the X-Cops as one of his all-time favorite 7th Street Entry gigs. 

Longtime First Ave stage manager Conrad Sverkerson, who got to know Brockie personally over the years, said of him, "He was just a great guy. Everybody in their crew were good, hard-working guys. They would always be there on the truck pitching their gear with us, including [Brockie]. There was never any ego with them."

The last GWAR show there was just this past October, another highly theatrical affair nicely captured in a photo gallery by Erik Hess. In 2012, the band performed there in tribute to late guitarist Cory Smoot (Flattus Maximus), who died of a heart attack on the tour bus hours after their First Ave gig the previous November.

“I urge everyone with a heart problem to get well looked after, and to let your friends and family and the people around you know about it," Brockie said in an interview before the 2012 show, noting that Smoot had a prior heart condition. If anything, the real danger of being in GWAR is the hard-work that goes into their on-stage performances and not any hard-living off stage, Brockie added: "It's a workout, no question. But we all know that and stay in good shape because of it."

Brockie behind the mask

Brockie behind the mask

Underneath the horns and skull masks and protruding codpieces, the man who would be Oderus looked like a normal, middle-aged, fun-loving slacker type of guy with a sly grin. His smile was especially big backstage in November 2004 when his band of fictional aliens became the first act to headline First Ave after the club shut down for three weeks and nearly closed for good.

“We were breathless,” Brockie said then, referring to how the band was left in limbo not knowing if First Ave would reopen in time for its scheduled date. “The place is a dump, and we love it. … It's been the most consistent rock venue in North America.”

Kranz remembered of that night, “It was so funny watching Oderus walking up and down the sidewalk with his ass hanging out, talking to fans and getting interviewed by the local TV news.”

Sverkerson remembered the first time GWAR played the main room in the early-'90s and pulled up in a school bus: "They didn't have any heat on it, and it was the dead of winter, so they got off and went into the club and proceeded to guzzle coffee. And then they went to work."

Brockie was also fond of Sverkerson, who for many years was easily recognized by the bushel of red dreadlocks atop his head. The GWAR guru said in 2012:

“I love Conrad's hair. I love to touch it and rub it all over me. I've been trying for years to get him to give me a big chunk of it to use in my costume, probably as a codpiece. Let me publicly call out Conrad right here and now to finally give it to me."

The band has not announced any kind of memorial plans or whether or not it will carry on without its leader. GWAR manager Jack Flanagan issued a statement today confirming the death, which read, “My main focus right now is to look after my band mates and his family. More information regarding his death shall be released as the details are confirmed.”

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