Shedding light on the scene: GWAR B-Q, metal and sexism

Photo by: Craig Zirpolo
Photo by: Craig Zirpolo
Photo by Craig Zirpolo

GWAR B-Q descended on the Hadad’s Lake, a private park outside of Richmond, for a packed day of metal, moshing and debauchery for the seventh year.

The annual event easily draws hundreds of fans with its line-up, and this year was no exception, but this year’s featured bands did highlight some of the festival’s more glaring issues with sexism and diversity for some attendees.

One of this year’s bands, Eyehategod, a sludge metal group from New Orleans, has received flak in the past for songs that use racial slurs. With their regular singer Mike IX Williams sick, Pantera frontman and vocalist Phil Anselmo filled in.

Anselmo has attracted criticism and controversy throughout his career for being racist — most recently after doing a Nazi salute and yelling “White power” in January at Dimebash, a charity show in California. Despite this Anselmo has seen fairly little backlash, claiming his actions to be just a joke.

GWAR B-Q attendee Marcus Roberts said he’d heard about the accusations against Anselmo, but wasn’t concerned.

“I’m not easily offended, I don’t care about too many things,” Roberts said. “But I’m glad a band that was so accepting (Against Me!)  played directly after them, kind of like a big middle-finger.”

In sharp contrast to Anselmo and Eyehategod was Against Me!, a punk band from Florida. The group’s singer Laura Jane Grace, born Thomas James Gabel, came out publicly as trans in 2012. Since then Grace has worked to increase support for transgender people in a music scene not well known for its diversity and has received support for her actions from other members of the scene.

Anne, a queer fan who asked to remain anonymous has been a part of the hardcore and punk scene as both a fan and a performer for years, but often doesn’t feel safe at shows or festivals like GWAR B-Q.

She asked to remain anonymous for fear of being ostracized or attacked.

“I’m still too afraid to go to some shows, whether or not I’m going to be near the pit,” Anne said.

According to her, female fans regularly get injured at punk shows by male fans who don’t feel they’re doing anything wrong and talk down to women.

“If his first comment is, ‘she shouldn’t be near the pit if she didn’t want to get hit’ then you’re making the space unsafe,” Anne said. “I don’t want bro dudes throwing down and putting other people at risk, but if an accident happens just take accountability for going too hard.”

She also said allegations of harassment and assault toward female fans are also often overlooked by male members of the community, even though many happen in plain view like during Against Me!’s GWAR B-Q set.

“One of the girls asked if I saw what happened next to me. I missed it, but she said that a girl was crowd surfing and a dude straight up fingered her in her shorts,” Anne said. “The scene hasn’t changed because girls still get their tops ripped off or felt up crowd-surfing.”

Anne isn’t the only person who feels this way. Emily, a vendor at this year’s GWAR B-Q who also asked to remain anonymous, spoke about the frustrations she has with sexism and racism within the community.

“I want to remain anonymous because I’m worried about my safety,” Emily said. “I’m not really concerned anyone would do something, but this puts my mind at ease.”

Emily said when she was active in the scene she encountered a lot of sexism and snide remarks and it didn’t really make the area feel like a safe space.

“I used to go to a lot of punk and hardcore shows but over the last year I’ve gotten uncomfortable going to them,” she said. “I had a few reservations going in (to GWAR B-Q) but it turned out alright.”

Emily said she sees punk as a genre that draws people who feel alienated together, which is why it can play host to both bands with accused racists and trans people.

“I don’t think you can pinpoint who exactly looks or feels excluded. Everyone comes from different backgrounds and can feel excluded together,” Emily said. “That alienation brings everyone together and I think that’s why they have a white supremacist and a trans woman on the same line-up.”

Both Eyehategod and Against Me! performed back-to-back on the event’s Slaughterama stage without incident. Each group highlighted their different message via their vocalist, talking to the crowd during their performances.

Anselmo led a chorus of “Fuck SJWs (Social Justice Warriors).” Grace took the stage and asked the crowd to be accepting and loving, encouraging them to accept their differences.

Tyler Hammel, Contributing Writer


  1. What a huge load of crap. GWAR have supported all the freaks and outcasts their entire career. How about you actually do some research into the band and not just go looking for a flimsy angle that fits your forced narrative.

    • What “forced narrative”? The…general covering of two very different bands playing at the same festival? I’m also confused on what you think the “flimsy angle” in this standard format interview article, concerning personal experiences and pretty neutral opinions. Obviously you have to research an entire band to write an article about two separate bands too I guess, thankfully Gwar has a super interesting SJW beginning concerning racial struggle in Richmond. (Confirmed by Bishop in his Ted talk, which you’ve obviously seen im sure)

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