Viva La Bands 10/23/07 at Congress Theater

Tuesday night I went to see the Viva La Bands tour at the Congress Theater in Chicago. This tour was put together by Bam Margera of Jackass/Viva La Bam/Skateboarding fame. The tour features four bands; Gwar, Cradle of Flith, CKY, and Vains of Jenna, though it would turn out that one of them wouldn’t play this evening.


Vains of Jenna


Vains of Jenna


Vains of Jenna

When I finally got to the Congress after a long battle with rush-hour traffic, I was handed my passes and I could hear that a band was already playing. It turned out that band was Vains of Jenna and the 6pm start time listed on the website was 100 percent accurate. I quickly unpacked my gear and went to snap some photos. When I got up there and I started paying attention to what was happening on stage, I had wondered if I was in traffic for so long that I fell through a time rift to the late 1980s. This band looked and sounded like every hair metal band I remembered from being on MTV. At times they reminded me of Guns ‘n Roses. The singer/guitar player had that trashed out metal junkie kind of look about him and the rest of them had a similar MTV hair metal look. It was fine for a song or two, but then their stuff all started sounding the same to me and I had my fill of flashbacks for the evening. They played about a half hour or so.


Bam Margera

After they were done, a screen was lowered and there was some Bam-made videos being shown while the stage was being prepared for Gwar. The video was Bam and his friends up to various hi-jinx and was fairly entertaining. The preparation for Gwar consisted of all the monitors and security guards being covered in plastic. I had a rain cover for my camera in preparation of Gwar but failed to bring one for myself and I was beginning to think what a huge oversight this was. I noticed the security guards wearing plastic ponchos and trash bags and asked them if they had any more of them. They had a big roll of trash bags so I fashioned a poncho out of one which ended up being the smartest thing I did that evening.

The videos stopped and Bam Margera came out on stage mostly to the approval of the younger folks in the crowd. He was with someone from CKY and they explained something regarding CKY not being able to play the show due to injury. I wasn’t able to really hear the whole story. He then introduced Gwar.


Gwar


Gwar

The lights went out and some creepy low-end music started playing and one by one the characters from Gwar strolled out on stage. Their intro was very dark with occasional flashes of light, then it led into their first real song and carnage quickly ensued.


Gwar


Gwar

I took a minute slowly snapping pictures and assessing where the attacks could come from. At first they were playing “dry”. There was yet to be any fluids dispensed onto the stage or the people. But that was about to change. Suddenly a disfigured Arch Bishop looking character came out and one of the Gwar Slaves attacked him and hacked away at his chest. The chest started spraying blood all over the crowd, and all over me. The creature moved left and right for nearly the rest of this song making sure to saturate as many people as possible.


Gwar


Gwar

During another song, one of the slaves had a blood cannon that looked like one of those 50 caliber machine gun stands made out of bones which he used to flood the crowd in Gwar blood. I got a head full of this stuff at one point, the guy was quite thorough in his firing of the blood! Shortly after, a demented facsimile of our president came out on stage and spoke to the people. While he was speaking, one of the members of Gwar came and beheaded him! Blood went everywhere, but mostly at me. The headless W was aiming for me! I moved to the other side of the stage but was followed. Headless W was determined to make my job very difficult and very messy. Eventually he relented and resumed soaking the crowd.


Gwar


Gwar

The crowd seemed to be loving this spectacle of carnage, and they also seemed to enjoy being doused in various fluids. At one point during the show they had both Bam and Uncle Phil characters on stage who they poked fun of, and eventually dismembered. One of them turned around to expose his large prosthetic ass that started spraying shit all over the crowd (brown water). I was glad to be out of the line of fire for the Gwar shit! It went everywhere and was pretty hilarious. The grand finale was a large dinosaur coming out and that was attacked and cut to pieces in a huge bloody mess. It was a lot of carnage and a lot of fun. The hour they played seem to go by very quickly and I was a bloody mess.


Gwar


Gwar

The floor was a pool of blood and the stage was a mess. I was really surprised that Gwar was playing before Cradle of Filth for a couple of reasons, the biggest being that how were they going to clean up the mess and have a band follow them? I’m sure that somehow Cradle of Filth is a bigger band than Gwar, but that sure is a tough act to follow! It took them quite a long time to clean off the stage and then prepare Cradle of Filth’s equipment. I want to say it was close to an hour had passed before Cradle of Filth were ready to play.


Cradle of Filth


Cradle of Filth

Since the last time I saw Cradle of Filth (when they first came to America after Dusk and Her Embrace came out), things seemed to have changed. I didn’t see any familiar faces on that stage other than the singer Dani from what I could remember of them nearly 10 years ago. They had two guitar players, the drummer, bass player and they had two ladies on the band; one who played keyboards and piano, and the other who sang the female lines in various songs. These two ladies were positioned pretty far back on the stage and were kind of hard to see, and photograph! The drums were very far back on stage on a very large riser covered with barbed wire and camouflage netting.


Cradle of Filth


Cradle of Filth

I don’t recall what they played first, but within the first three songs they played, “Dusk and Her Embrace” which sounded really good. The one guitar player looked kind of menacing and seemed to be playing his axe practically vertically the entire time while staring at the crowd and sometimes banging his head. Dani ran about the stage quite a but, but also spent a lot of time up on the drum riser singing from that platform. In between songs he’d sometimes play up to the crowd, telling them to form a pit and sometimes announce what the next song would be.


Cradle of Filth


Cradle of Filth

They played a set that consisted mainly of newer songs. The older songs I was hoping for were very few and far between. The sound was mixed a little odd, at least from my vantage point. It seemed to be heavy on vocals and drums and the guitars really seemed like they could be a little louder. They played about an hour and 15 minutes total, which included one encore. The last song they played was “The Principal of Evil Made Flesh” which was the best sounding song of the evening in a lot of people’s eyes as it got the biggest reaction from the crowd. Musically it sounded like it was played the best out of any of the songs too, it just seemed to have a lot more energy going into it than many of the other songs. Overall they were pretty good, but I thought their shows were a lot better the last two times I’ve seen them.


Cradle of Filth

The Viva La Bands show in general was a pretty good time, and a pretty good lineup for the rather low ticket price compared to a lot of other shows of this stature. Throughout the show Bam Margera was sitting up in the balcony and he had a non-stop sea of kids throwing things up to him to autograph and toss back down to him. This seemed to go on nearly the entire show and it seemed he was getting nearly as much attention as the bands on stage playing at times. He was a good sport and just kept signing away as the stuff kept coming. I was also glad to finally get to see Gwar, it was a long time coming and it was a lot of fun to shoot. On their entertaining show alone this show was worth it, it was just a bonus that there was another band on this bill I was interested in as well, making Viva La Bands a fun evening out.

More photos from Viva La Bands can be viewed on MXV’s Flickr Stream.

Want to know how I managed to capture the Gwar photos without ruining my gear? Dark Dave took a “before” and “after” photo of me in my dorky getup with his little point and shoot camera which can be seen after the jump…
I was also the only photographer brave enough (or prepared enough) to shoot Gwar this evening!


MXV before (dorky rain ponch formed from a trash bag)


MXV after (the pants were pretty soaked lower than
this photo shows and the stuff running out of my hair
turned my neck red more after this was snapped)