Wed. Apr 17th, 2024

Legendary. The Dwarves at the New Parish in Oakland, CA.

The Dwarves-Oakland-13-12The Dwarves have been around for nearly 30 years and have a reputation as one of the greatest and one of the last true punk bands around. They are more famous for their history of outrageous and brutal shows than their music alone. There are stories of violence, debauchery and mutilation at their shows. Their legend was built on outrageous shows, wild behavior and living the punk rock lifestyle. But within the last 20 years, they have started making really great albums with good production coupled with their strong live performances. On Saturday night, I went to see them at the New Parish in Oakland and I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew I probably wouldn’t see the crazier things they are known for, after all, it was an all ages show. But I also was sure I was in for one of the better punk shows I’ve seen and probably one of the most rowdy and crazy crowds.

There were four bands before The Dwarves, NoBunny being the most known one. Through all the opening acts, I was up front and handling the moshing as best I could. At shows like this where there is no security barrier, I usually make my way up front right away to make sure I can get the best shots. As the crowd waited for The Dwarves, I heard people wondering if founding member and guitarist HeWhoCannotBeNamed would be playing with them tonight. He hasn’t been with them on tour as much lately, but considering it was a hometown show, hopes were high. When The Dwarves came out, I was front and center and would stay there for only 3 minutes. Let’s just say with all the expensive equipment in hand, this was not the spot to be in.

HeWhoCannotBeNamed was with them and was greeted with cheers. As soon as the band began playing, I was getting hit from every direction, having guys fall on my head and getting pushed into HeWhoCannotBeNamed’s guitar. Since he wears a jockstrap on stage, I was thankful his guitar was there and I didn’t get a face full of something else. That would’ve really ruined my night. As the first song ended, I retreated to the side of the stage and then the balcony for a bit more of a safe haven. The New Parish is a great venue. They have a small and intimate space and a balcony that is all around the stage and gives great views from up above. The Dwarves played for just 45 minutes, but they certainly did put on a great show. Punk songs are usually pretty short, so that’s still a lot if music in 45 minutes. There was no banter between songs, just fast and furious punk rock. Their set was mostly made up of songs from the last 22 years, omitting the early stuff. They stuck to mostly fast and hard songs including We Must Have Blood, I Will Deny and FEFU, and threw in the extremely poppy Everybodies Girl. Even though there was no banter between songs, the band was still engaging with the crowd. Singer Blag Dahlia was holding his mic out for fans to sing nearly as much as he sang into it himself. The band seemed to really enjoy the rowdy moshpit and especially the crowd surfers. Crowd surfers were prevalent all night, and towards the end of the show, one got onstage and got to sing a few lines with Blag Dahlia before diving back into the crowd. That particular moment is a good snapshot of the show. The band was rocking but still let a fan have his moment. Check out the photo gallery here to see a shot from that moment.

Somewhat surprisingly, the show ended rather abruptly. As a song ended, the band simply left the stage without saying anything. I thought there would be an encore, but then the house lights came on and I knew it was the end of the night.

As I walked to catch the late night bus, I thought about the show and The Dwarves in general. As I mentioned, the show was only 45 minutes, which for a band that has been around for as long as they have and with as many albums as they have, I was a bit shocked by that. For those 45 minutes though, they were nonstop crazy and fun punk rock, one fast and hard song after another for three quarters of an hour. I would say The Dwarves have grown up to being great live musicians and live performers, but still have all the qualities that made them punk legends in the first place. They seem to have found a balance between being the most crazy and outrageous band you’ll find, and being a really tight and strong live band. Their songs could allow for a lot of sloppiness in live performances, but they sound nearly the same as the album, except with all the adrenaline. They are a little faster and the vocals are a bit more intense. A lot of people think true punk is dead, but as long as The Dwarves are around, there is always hope.