Big outfits, little table: Gwar pillages NPR’s Tiny Desk with heavy guitars, kooky antics

Gwar performs onstage with purple and yellow lights flashing in the background
Metal band Gwar joined NPR’s Tiny Desk to perform an unexpected banger of a set.
(Amy Harris / Invision / Associated Press)

It’s the collaboration that nobody had in mind, but everyone should be glad it exists: Metal band Gwar has played NPR’s famed Tiny Desk.

The over-the-top, outrageously dressed group members made note of the obvious clash of styles at the top of their Monday performance while also acknowledging their familiarity with NPR’s work. (For the uninitiated, the names of these band members are a doozy, so be prepared for some enjoyable ridiculousness.)

“Gwar and NPR, they said it couldn’t be done,” lead singer Blöthar the Berserker said. “We’re actually a little nervous here at the home of Nina Totenberg and uh...”


For the NPR staple, the New Orleans rapper along with producer Mannie Fresh drew out the steamy old-soul roots of Southern rap, with help from some special guests.

June 30, 2023

“Terry freaking Gross!” guitarist Balsac the Jaws of Death chimed in before being cut off.

“Hey, watch your mouth!” bass player Beefcake the Mighty interjected.

“You’re gross,” Blöthar snapped at his guitarist. “Terry Gross is a national treasure, so you shut your trap.”

Blöthar noted that the band was worried its sensibilities were “a little bit lowbrow” for NPR. To alleviate that, he invited esteemed Gwar character/conductor Wilhelm Fartwrangler — a persona playing on the name of the very real and celebrated German conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler — to perform the classic track “Sex Cow” in “G-flat minor.”

The shock-metal band Gwar may routinely decapitate effigies of the pope onstage in an orgy of cartoonish blood and terror, but now some band personnel business has rapidly turned into a genuine -- and tragic -- spat.

May 8, 2015

The quintet went on to perform its very normally named songs “I’ll Be Your Monster,” which they dedicated to “Where the Wild Things Are” author Maurice Sendak, and “Ratcatcher.”

Before playing “Phantom Limb,” Blöthar gave a shout-out to former Gwar lead singer and founding member Oderus Urungus (real name David Brockie), who died in 2014 at the age of 50.

“This is a song that goes out to our late, great singer Oderus Urungus,” he said. “He would’ve loved to be here today. Oderus, we’re always thinking of you!”


NPR’s Lars Gotrich noted in his description of the show that the torrential weather at the radio giant’s corporate headquarters appropriately matched the energy of Gwar’s performance.

The frontman for the costume-clad “extraterrestrial” metal band Gwar died of an accidental heroin overdose, the Virginia coroner’s office told local media Tuesday.

June 3, 2014

“As the band of intergalactic monsters strapped guitars to their battle-worn bodies, thunder and rain pounded the NPR building outside,” Gotrich wrote. “As if the late Oderus Urungus was pissing his blessing from Valhalla, the prophecy had finally been fulfilled: GWAR came to destroy the Tiny Desk once and for all!!”

Originally from Richmond, Va., Gwar formed in 1984 as a metal band that wore mythological warrior outfits incorporating science-fiction elements. The group heavily uses props, explicit imagery and toilet humor as forms of satire. In its highly theatrical live performances, Gwar is known for spraying its fans with fake bodily fluids.

The shock rockers’ long-form film “Phallus in Wonderland” was nominated for long-form music video at the 1992 Grammys. Gwar received a metal performance Grammy nomination for its track “S.F.W.” in 1996.

Watch the band’s full performance on NPR’s YouTube page.