The Academy 3 is the perfect intimate venue for this type of night – despite being a holiday gig at a Student’s Union the atmosphere cranks up as we wait for Winnebago Deal to show. Like the White Stripes, Oxford duo Winnebago Deal have taken the brave solution to the world shortage of decent bass players and done without – unlike the Stripes though, the Deal are going for an in-your-face punk-metal belter of a sound and somehow, miraculously, that’s what Ben-the-drummer and Ben-the singer-guitarist manage to produce – while still retaining a healthy bass kick.
It’s a shame, then, that it’s left to a small handful of older punk-rockers and my good self to actually dance whilst the rest of the audience stands about arms folded in Coldplay mode, clapping politely between songs. Kurt Cobain-alike Ben No 1 yelled through the 40 minute set with gusto, but even his enthusiasm couldn’t beat the inane grin on the face of a member of the crew who came on to play with a theramin on the last song. They gave us a big chunk of the recent album Dead Gone, before giving a nod to the headliners by dedicating Taking Care of Business to “the Queens of the Trust Fund” – keeping both these two bands firmly off Josh Homme‘s Christmas list.
On to the Dwarves, and once the intro to the Eminem-esque Massacre blasted out through the speakers the crowd started to respond properly. Guitarist HeWhoCanNotBeNamed strode to the front of the stage butt-naked bar a gimp-mask and proceeded to pose for a flurry of photo messages before grabbing his, er, instrument to kick off a 50 minute blast through the last 10 years of the Dwarves starting with Dominator.
The front rows took action and soon we had human pinball in full effect – by the third or fourth song I was literally staring singer Blag Dahlia full in the face as he crowd-surfed his way around the audience (some of the audience must be hoping ,b>Juliette Lewis does the same thing when she plays her in a few weeks…).and they kept the tracks coming, stopping only briefly for Blag to say “Yeah!”, “F*ck Yeah!”, or maybe “Rock legends walk among you!” or, most incisively before Better be Women , “This one’s about lesbians!”
So the Dwarves are still dumb, and as offensive as they can manage, but they’re also more fun tonight than any band I’ve seen in a long time. 50 minutes is an epic by Dwarves standards, and they must have squeezed in nearly 20 songs by the evening’s close, starting off with the newer, more poppy material like Salt Lake City and FEFU before moving back as the night went on through Back Seat of My Car, Astroboy and the early ’90s hardcore that helped the band to notoriety.
Yes, they might be something of a comic-book band, – the constant poses for those photo-messages and playing sing-a-long Dwarves with Blag simply doesn’t seem very punk – but for a band with over 20 years behind them they put on a belter of a show with more energy than I’ve seen in a long time. Good stuff.