A cold Berlin Thursday night. The streets of Kreuzberg were quiet, filled only with the occasional clink of beer bottles or the brisk wind rustling papers along the bike path. The area around the entrance to Lido echoed these muted sentiments: a handful of people smoking, rather unremarkable. Quiet. The only thing that warned of the spectacle to come were the bold black block letters on the marquee: The Dwarves.
The audience was dispersed between the smoking area and the venue itself, milling about with beers and peering at the merch table, just as one expects before a show. Resting on a seat nearby, shining through the nicotine-laced fog, was a button that read “Teach Children To Worship Satan,” perhaps a reference to Swedish death metal band Dark Funeral.
It wasn’t long until the sounds of feedback came streaming into the secondary room. Following the sound, the still modest-sized crowd meandered toward the stage, where a rather petite—in stature not in presence—woman stood clenching a microphone. Jumping from the stage, rather than being enrobed by the crowd, the singer inspired audience members all to take one (or three) steps back. The drone-like punk rock energy of the band’s setlist emphasized the seamless whirlwind that it delivered. Olga, the frontwoman of the band, punctuated the set to say with a Russian-accented snarl: “We are the Svetlanas. And if you don’t like us you can go fuck yourselves.” And she backed up this statement, pushing every man in the audience within reach of her microphone cable. No one dared push back, even though she barely reached shoulder height. Her kill-or-be-killed stare was enough to win that fight. Olga dropped the microphone abruptly and exited the stage, pushing through the crowd, and signaling that the set was over, and her band casually followed suit.
Over the next few minutes, the crowd seemed to double in both energy and size. There had been a cloud of palpable expectancy, and when the four members of he Dwarves attacked the stage, the air opened as the audience was given what it craved. An audience that was previously separated into clusters of seemingly unrelated cliques was forced to retreat from the corners and join in the spirit of simplistic debauchery. Instead of looking to neighbors to see how to behave, everyone was now going to take cues from Blag Dahlia, The Fresh Prince of Darkness, Dutch Ovens, and Rex Everything (who wears nothing).
It took the first song, “How It’s Done,” before the signature bravado of Blag Dahlia kicked in. After the initial shot of applause and testosterone, the band, which has been putting notches in the punk rock bedpost for more than 20 years, found its stride. After unapologetically claiming The Dwarves to be the inventors of rock’n’roll, Blag screamed, “get high, get high, get high with me,” and unsurprisingly, someone nearby lit a spliff and alternated between sips of his beer and puffs of marijuana. The moment when The Dwarves climaxed was when the band slowed things down and found a rhythm with audience: “You Gotta Burn.” The crooning, atypical of punk, proved that The Dwarves will not be confined by one genre.
The rest of the set was a blur. In less than an hour, The Dwarves managed to smother the audience with its trademark brand of shock value. From Rex Everything’s legendary genitals to two buxom-blondes clad in Luche Libre masks, lingerie, and studded bras, there wasn’t a moment to catch a breath. They left the stage with a wall of feedback and stage lights, just as suddenly as they had entered. The crowd lingered, waiting, chanting for just one more song, staring at the stage and seeming confused at what had just happened and why there wasn’t more.
Then the house music came back on before anyone had time to sigh; it was oddly languid—or maybe everything seems that way after The Dwarves perform. Some fans lingered with albums they wanted signed, and others drunkenly screamed at friends how much The Dwarves had changed their lives. But one thing is certain. In the cold brisk night that awaited the audience members, they had the image of Blag Dahlia, center stage, screaming “I am the Jesus Christ of Sin and Vice,” and that moment when they realized they might just believe him.