AAfter several years living in foggy San Francisco, I’d forgotten all about swamp ass. Then I went back to Richmond, Virginia, in the middle of June, and it all came back.
I’d arranged to spend a few days in my old hometown hanging out at The Slave Pit, which is both a physical workspace and the name of the artist collective it houses. While I was there, the studio’s overworked AC fought a losing battle against the sweltering humid air, but that didn’t stop the artists and musicians from showing up to prep for GWAR’s upcoming festival dates and fall tour.
What you should know about GWAR is that they are foul-mouthed, over-educated, under-civilized, heavy-metal-playing monsters from outer space who dismember and decapitate effigies on stage, and make human sacrifices to a giant creature they call The World Maggot, while spewing effluvium over crowds of adoring fans. You should also know the people who make it all happen are members of The Slave Pit, and GWAR just happens to be their most popular art project.
Despite their physical location in the former capital of the Confederacy, the name of the group has nothing to do with Richmond’s shameful racist heritage. It comes from the group’s work ethic, their historic insolvency and from the plot of the unfinished film that helped start it all.
Back in the mid-1980s, Richmond was seedy and violent, full of crackheads and abandoned buildings. Between the dirt-cheap rents and the fairly-affordable tuition at Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts, Richmond was prime location for a bunch of punk kids to make art, play loud music and invest serious time in stupid ideas.