- Photo by Esther Segara
- The Dwarves
EVERYTHING legendary that the punk band The Dwarves embodies can be summarized in the name of their definitive record: Blood, Guts, & Pussy.
Founded in the early ‘80s, the Chicago-born and California-bred band has been shocking, scandalizing, and stimulating their audiences for over 30 years. In the early days, the infamous live show (clocking in around 15-20 minutes) left the band and audience members covered in bloodstains (and not GWAR’s theatrical stuff), gashes and bruises, blurring the line between the stage and the pit.
Shows were often cut short due to audience injuries; guitarist HeWhoCannotBeNamed frequently broke free of his signature jock strap, and bass player Salt Peter favored wearing women’s lingerie onstage.
Bands priding themselves on “stage antics” are at the Dwarves’ mercy: aside from the king of filth himself, GG Allin, little compares to the earth-scorching experience of a Dwarves’ show. Savannah gets its own taste this weekend with the “Gabba Gabba Blood and Guts” tour.
At its core, the Dwarves is vocalist Blag Dahlia and guitarist HeWhoCannotBeNamed. They’ve had numerous bandmates over the years, but Dahlia has a loose idea about “who” is a member—though some players may have left the touring lineup, many still assist in the Dwarves’ songwriting process.
In the early stages, playing at places like Chicago’s Cubby Bear Lounge, Dwarves were writing ‘60s garage-inspired songs and covering psychedelic trailblazers like 13th Floor Elevators and The Chocolate Watchband. Those songs can be heard on Lick It (the psychedelic years 83-86).
Even in its young form, the Dwarves were notorious for their performances and getting thrown out of venues for fighting. When they released Toolin’ For A Warm Teabag in 1988, punk influences started to break through their garage roots.
The Dwarves are nothing without their mythology. There’s the time bassist XXXXX, on a bender, (allegedly) completely vanished in Detroit during a 1992 tour, or most famously, the time HeWhoCannotBeNamed died and rose again.
The latter was a decidedly elaborate affair. The band was signed to Sub Pop Records, the historic label that released Blood Guts & Pussy in 1990. They were poised to release a new album, Sugarfix, through the label.
In a press release, issued by Sub Pop, the band announced the untimely death of HeWhoCannotBeNamed, claiming he had been stabbed in Philadelphia. Sugarfix was dedicated in his memory. It didn’t take long for Sub Pop to learn that the deceased was, in fact, alive and well and cackling right along with the joke. The label was none too pleased, and the band was dropped from the star-studded roster.
The Dwarves took a break after that, reforming in 1997 with the album The Dwarves Are Young and Good Looking. The Dwarves Come Clean, The Dwarves Must Die, The Dwarves Are Born Again, and The Dwarves Invented Rock & Roll followed over the next 14 years.
Most recently, the band released a live album, Radio Free Dwarves. Recorded live in one take for Estonian radio in 2012, the LP includes definitive Dwarves tracks, rarities, and alternative version of classic cuts.
Richie Ramone joins the “Gabba Gabba Blood and Guts” tour as support. The Ramones drummer from 1983 to 1987, Ramone contributed to the records Too Tough to Die, Animal Boy, Halfway to Sanity, and Smash You: Live ’85. He left the band in 1987 after a dispute with Johnny Ramone over T-shirt sale profits (could any quarrel better predict their over-merchandised future?). He was replaced by Blondie’s Clem Burke, er, Elvis Ramone, who stuck with the band for two gigs before Marky Ramone rejoined.
Ramone released his first solo album in 2013, Entitled, which showcased his childhood arena rock influences and an affinity for punk and metal. His latest album, Cellophane, came out in 2016.
Tickets are selling fast for the “Gabba Gabba Blood & Guts” Jinx stop, and with good reason. It’s difficult to imagine that a band as wildly irreverent and divisive as Dwarves can still exist in 2017, but Dahlia claims the band will continue to celebrate sex, nudity, humor, and profanity as long as they can.