The Dwarves' Blag Dahlia might have broken a bottle over your head, or perhaps his skull swallowed the glass. He probably has a scar by which to remember the band's most chaotic concert in Orlando, but tracing his stage wounds back to their performance of origin has become impossible. So much mayhem, so many intertwined memories.
"I have these dim recollections," Dahlia says. "It's like being a Vietnam vet."
The current Dwarves bear little resemblance to those fuzzy flashbacks to gigs from a decade ago, around the time an Orlando appearance turned into a "strange brawl." Guitarist Hewhocannotbenamed still wears a mask, occasionally as his only item of clothing, and Dahlia still spits epithets that march in time with quick-twitch drumbeats. But while early Dwarves concerts lasted 10 minutes or less, due to appalled audience members who would incite riots, sets now stretch to 19 songs. These days, the people who confront Dahlia are masochistic fans who want to be part of the act.
"In the early years, people thought we were coming in to trash their club and fuck them up," Dahlia says. "Now people get the joke and know what to expect. At those older, more antagonistic shows where people went to the hospital, the crowd didn't really get it. Now it's a lot of fun, which is all I ever wanted."
Other than Dahlia, the only founding member left is Hewhocannotbenamed, who remains spry despite the group's insistence that he's deceased. (The Dwarves once staged his death as a hoax, a stunt that got the group dropped by Sub Pop.) Filling out this touring lineup are guitarist Fresh Prince of Darkness, bassist Clint Torres, drummer Wreck Tom and singer/bassist Rex Everything (also known as Nick Oliveri, frontman of opening act Mondo Generator).
"Mondo is just destroying," Dahlia raves. "It's the nasty underside of stoner rock, with elements of garage and punk and that nasty low-bass rumble that Nick invented. He'll be doing double duty, like the insane three-way sex orgies I often engage in."
Dahlia takes a shot at Oliveri's former band Queens of the Stone Age as well as Good Charlotte and other Warped Tour-friendly acts on "Massacre," a funked-up hip-hop track on the latest album, The Dwarves Must Die.
"In rock & roll, there's this unwritten rule that people don't dis each other, but instead talk trash behind each other's backs," Dahlia says. "The Dwarves came out and said what everyone else was thinking. Most of these bands aren't very talented. They're the result of major-label marketing maneuvers."
Thanks in part to producer Eric Valentine, who twirls knobs for many of the Warped Tour groups Dahlia despises, the Dwarves' recent records sound crisp. By contrast, the live show lacks sonic clarity. Hazy psychedelic melodies choke on feedback hiss, and velocity grinds multigenre experiments into an indecipherable blur.
"In the studio I can't rest until everything's amazing, but live we just let it go," Dahlia says. "It's just been punk rock-style all along."
Modern punk isn't especially sexy, given its roster of austere political acts and nice-guy whiners. Blink-182 toyed with onstage nudity, but its antics played like a streak through a sprinkler. By contrast, there's nothing "cute" about Hewhocannotbenamed's seedy exhibitionism. Dwarves classics such as "Back Seat of My Car" and "Skin Poppin' Slut" simultaneously parody rock-star hedonism and revel in it.
"I got into rock to have sex," Dahlia explains. "Music is all about sex, and I just hope that we communicate that to the crowd."
Twenty years into a career that rivals the Rolling Stones for cumulative debauchery, Dahlia finds himself an unlikely icon, someone to whom young independent-minded musicians might look for advice.
"I don't know if music would be what I would do now," he says. "It's gotten perverted to the point that had I not come up in it, I might not be that interested in it. I might say the best thing for young people to do would be to remain untalented, take the money and run. If you value the music more than the career, that's a good thing. It's not necessarily going to put you in the back of a limo, but you might sleep better."
with Mondo Generator, Turbo AC's, Wanted Dead
8 pm Sunday, Nov. 6