The Bowery district of New York, where Joey Ramone huffed glue while Dee Dee turned tricks, where you likely shouldn’t have ventured without a switchblade to see a vile new band at CBGBs. It’s the birthplace of punk rock. These days, it’s a neighborhood gentrified by definition with chic clothing stores on the same concrete that the Dead Boys spilled bodily fluids. Change is a healthy part of life, but this is a depressing disposition.
The Dwarves and Queers played CBGBs during its tenure—until the Dwarves were banned that is—so the neighborhood holds good memories, but why shuffle through the chiffon and $20 cocktails? Does the Bowery Electric carry on the scene’s torch? Let’s focus on the positives: These bands have both been around 30+ years and still muster a show that thwarts folks into being rabid beasts.
Joe Queer has had his fair share of controversial words through the years that have certainly bummed us out—but let’s continue aiming to focus on the positives today. The guy makes a catchy pop punk song and plays them as sharp live as if they were recording in the studio. As bottles break at the side stage and cans whiz by their heads, nothing could break the band’s focus to play tight. With a three-chord bravado ringing through the speakers, the Queers are about as close to seeing a Brian Wilson-led Ramones as you can get. They even nodded to their heroes on the final song of the night playing, “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker,” with Nick Oliveri of the Dwarves stepping in on vocals.
The Dwarves are never short on controversy either, with output that would make you blush around your mother. Lead man Blag Dahlia has said before that the ethos of the Dwarves revolve around carnal needs. Standing tall with his fighting gloves on, Dahlia throbbed toward the audience, dangling the mic for audience member sing-alongs. It’s a sold-out venue and the punk rock symbol of virility is jumping into the crowd headfirst. Are people grabbing his junk? Post-surf, the smiles are too savage all around for there not to have been some groping. Typically, Blag is shy at the mic for in-between banter. Tonight he was sure to remind the hedonist collective of their late show down the street—and sing self-aimed praise, “The Dwarves, the greatest rock and roll masters, stand before you, after 30 years.” And reminding people of his love for all, “We are your politically correct band from San Francisco. We love you no matter what … as long as you pay to get in.” They’re lewd, greedy, and absurd—that’s why we remain intrigued.
And here’s a gentrified photo of the old CBGBs location…