The Rockpile – Toronto, Ontario – 7 October 2017
Review and Photos by DeadFly Media
When you’ve been around for 30 years it has to be a tough call to pick what songs to play; you have to bridge the gap between fan favourites and perhaps some tunes you don’t play often. We got that mix and then some. The DwarfNation , from young kids to folks who have followed the band since their inception, filled the venue to brimming. And while some of us have our better crazy days behind, we all banged our heads, raised the horns and screamed along. We’ll feel it in the morning but for now…. we are young again.
“Now here we are it’s been a long time comin’” (Comin’ Through) is a perfect opener filled with raw energy and a lyric that has a double meaning of both having survived and also of still kicking ass in this business of rock.
Front man Russ Graham’s style is a bit Vaudevillian; the Dwarf King of corny jokes, adding a pinch of self-deprecating humour, he is a raconteur of the finest order. He engages with the crowd from start to finish; calling them by name, taking their cell phones for self-portraits from the stage and then taking head spinning video clips for them. High notes and growls are delivered with equal strength. He swings the trike around his head and across the stage like a man possessed, pulling from a source of energy he really should bottle and sell to the public.
Darrell “Dunk” Millar pounds the drums with the power and stamina of a hurricane, with his hair flicking and flying so fast I’d swear that his mane is playing the drums too. He had his full “Pirate Kit” on stage and treated us to his stick-twirling mastery. #Savvy indeed Cap’n!
Johnny Dwarf is Dunk’s right-hand man- together they form the most solid of funky foundations. Nothing makes my head move and bop quite like his groovy bass line through “Stand Tall”, which instinctively gets your fingers twitching and plucking at an invisible set of strings. He stays a little out of the spotlight visually but certainly not audibly. He connects so strongly with Dunk, while also playing off of the rocking guitar and fine finger work of Gerry Finn.
One of the finest axemen in the game, Gerry, his ever-smiling face always communicates his love of what he does. His sonic arsenal contains blistering solos at any opportunity and “Dirty Weapons” is a great example of his mastery. Finn may well be their secret weapon; working the stage with a swagger and a broad grin. He balances control with straight up balls to the wall shredding.
“It Doesn’t Matter At All” was introduced with the understatement of “Everyone knows it’s been a shit week…” where we raised our glasses “To a good life. To rock ‘n roll. To puppies”. Millar left his drum kit for a quick word with the crowd where we paid our respects to the dearly departed Tom Petty, Colin McAllister (a popular supporter of live music in Toronto) and to his own Father, Bill “The Piano Man” Millar.
“Driftin’ Back”, “Union of Pride”, “Burn it Down”, “Can’t Lose” and the great sing-a-long “Keep the Spirit Alive” rain upon the crowd thick and fast, with cheers and screams and sing-a-longs aplenty. All part of a solid rock show.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. This was a special night as the Dwarfs raffled off a pink trike to raise money for the fight against Breast Cancer; something that has impacted some close friends of the band. Dana, who is a breast cancer survivor spoke on stage about her battle, and many of the women there were inspired to share their stories with her. Big thanks go to Russ snarling at the “miserable fuckers” in the crowd to put their hands in their pockets as the pink trike raised over $1200 during the evening. #FuckCancer indeed.
Most impressive of all is the closer “Heavy Mental Breakdown”, where the band, who by this point have been playing so late into the night that it was actually early into the morning, in a very hot packed club, absolutely slayed! Amazing vocals and thunderous drums, bass and finger blistering guitar work showed just how damn good they really are.
This is a much-loved band. A lot of that can be attributed to how they treat their fans; like friends. They are approachable and down-to-earth and are genuinely nice guys. But it’s the music that keeps DwarfNation loyal and eager for more. A live album is due soon, some of it recorded last year at this very venue. “You know us we’re quick on releases,” quipped Russ sarcastically. Well, “We Want it Bad”!
We raised our glasses, we raised our fists and we raised some money for a great cause. Life is short. It often does suck balls, and it can be difficult; but while the Dwarfs are on stage, it’s an ass-kicking party that nobody would ever want to leave.