Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Dwarves at Le Poisson Rouge

Blag Dahlia reaches extended his microphone to a fan
The Dwarves formed in Chicago, Illinois, in the mid-1980s as a garage rock band, Suburban Nightmare, before relocating to San Francisco, California. The band moved in a hardcore direction before settling into an eclectic punk rock sound. The band became notorious for its graphic lyrics and shocking album covers, as well as for its history of wild behavior on and off stage. Guitarist HeWhoCannotBeNamed often played on stage wearing only a jock strap or nothing but his guitar. Whether or not the stories were true, the Dwarves gained a reputation for self-mutilation, on-stage sex, and taking hard drugs; the band is also known for its self-grandiose humor and hoaxes, however. Live shows could end after only 10 minutes, and so-called albums could last only nine minutes.

At Le Poisson Rouge tonight, none of the past mattered. A fair number of songs repeated the f-bomb in the reprise, and several songs were about sexual encounters, but there was no real matter for controversy tonight, just 45 minutes of mostly raw punk music. The microphones had been a problem for the opening bands, and continued to plague the beginning of the Dwarves show. With the vocals inaudible for the first two songs, vocalist Blag Dahlia (born Paul Cafaro, aka Julius Seizure and Blag the Ripper) told the audience that the band was going off the stage until working microphones were found. The Dwarves returned a few minutes later to resume the set, and Blag sang many of the hardest banging songs from the band’s albums. Le Poisson Rouge has a large stage for a small club, and Dahlia and the band used its open space to the max. Dahlia usually sang from the edge of the stage, often poising his microphone in front of a singing fan; he also crowd surfed twice. Tonight, the nearly 30-year-old band lived up to its reputation as one of the last true punk bands, but now based on its music alone.