Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Meister's Monsters of Rock Cruise 2014 #6-Killed by Dwarfs

We're getting closer everyday to 2014's Monsters of Rock Cruise, the excitement has been steadily building to a near immeasurable level, co-workers are sick of hearing the word "cruise" from my mouth and the day that this article gets posted will mark 52 left until we set sail.  The countdown is rampant on the Monsters of Rock Facebook page, just as it is on my own calendar, with cruisers posting creative photos and captions each day alerting everyone to just how many days are left.  Back in August with a whopping 219 days to go The Meister got together with about 25  Canadians (mostly from the Toronto area) and submitted a countdown photo featuring all of us alongside
The "EH" Team
members of Ted Poley, Bang Tango and Enuff Z'nuff.  For the event we were sporting some t-shirts that we had made for our group.  The idea was given to me that night by one of these "EH" Team members to search for as many Canadian Cruisers as we could possibly find and make the attempt to organize a huge group photo on board the ship.  If you want to join the Canadian invasion just look me up on Facebook through the link at the bottom of this article to The Meister's page.  While this will surely be a difficult task to accomplish knowing the mayhem aboard ship, I'm still hopeful that we may be able to pull off the photo at the pre-party on Friday March 28 as I'm sure that everyone will be in town by then......but I'll keep you the very least the "EH" Team has now swelled to near 50 members and if you see someone wearing an "EH" Team shirt aboard ship you'll know they're from Canada!

After Russ DWaRf's fine acoustic performances during last years Monsters of Rock Cruise I had the suspicion that this voyage might see the addition of the recently re-grouped and re-formed Canadian hard rock/metal band the KiLLeR DWaRfS.  I was not wrong and they were announced as joining the ship's registry back in October.  Wouldn't it be great if we could get them to join the "EH" Team group?

The KiLLeR DWaRfS formed in 1981 in Oshawa Ontario by vocalist Russell Graham, drummer Darrell Millar, guitarist Bryce Trewin and bassist Ange Fodero.  The DWaRfS were not really taken very seriously at first most likely due to their offbeat sense of humor, an example of which saw them all adopting DWaRf as their surnames, creating Russ DWaRf and so on.  The self titled debut was issued in 1983 and spawned the single "Heavy Mental Breakdown" which received airplay on the Canadian version of MTV, Muchmusic.

Three years later the DWaRfS returned with their sophomore effort, Stand TallStand Tall featured a line up change in that Ange DWaRf and Bryce DWaRf and been replaced by Ronald Mayer (Bad Ronbo DWaRf) and Michael Hall (Mike DWaRf) respectively.  The single and video for "Stand Tall (Stick to Your Guns)" was awarded great support in the Muchmusic rotation and also garnered US attention with MTV adding it into their roster.  If you've not seen the video before or even if its been awhile check it out for a peek at the DWaRf humor and a bit of a statement about the record industry that I'm sure holds true today.  This video used to crack me up as a kid in the formative years of my musical interest and always had me eagerly anticipating the next DWaRf creation.  "Keep the Spirit Alive" was also released from Stand Tall featuring another tongue in cheek video proving that the DWaRfS were a fun and
inventive band as well as talented musicians.  The video features Russ contained inside a wooden crate stamped "WARNING: KiLLeR DWaRf INSIDE" as the rest of the band transports him to the next show.  This video is just what I loved about the 80' doesn't make much sense but it's a lot of fun to watch!
1988 saw the DWaRfS issue Big Deal and the video "We Stand Alone" depicting another look at the influences of the record companies of the era and featuring the band being transformed into the "Cuddly Dwarfs".  The attention garnered from Big Deal won the DWaRfS a spot opening for heavyweights Iron Maiden on the English leg of their tour supporting the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son album in 1988.

The DWaRfS turned a little more serious for their next outing in 1990's Dirty Weapons, a personal favorite.  Dirty Weapons saw producer extraordinaire Andy Johns (Autograph, Cinderella, L.A. Guns) at the helm but unfortunately it would be after this release that guitarist Mike DWaRf would depart the clan.  A replacement was soon discovered in Gerry "DWaRf" Finn and with Andy Johns again at the wheel 1992's Method to the Madness was unveiled.  The album did not find much of an audience, mostly due to the explosion of the grunge era and the DWaRfS decided to call it a day.  A first reunion attempt came in 2001 with Russ, Darrell, Bad Ronbo and Mike all in participation, but the timing was still not right and the DWaRfS again went on hiatus.

Now in 2013 with the musical landscape once again broadening its horizons, re-embracing many of the 80's bands and based on the success of Russ DWaRfS' recent release of Wireless (an acoustical recording of select DWaRf classics) the KiLLeR DWaRfS are back!  Blowing the dust off a recording that was made back in 1993 as a follow up to Method to the Madness, but shelved with the onset of grunge and subsequent DWaRf disbandment, they finally issued Start @ One in September 2013, 20 years after recording it!  The 2013 DWaRfS feature co-founders Russ and Darrell alongside veteran Gerry and with Bad Ronbo absent, new inductee Johnny DWaRf Fenton is along for the ride.  Fenton also plays bass in the Darrell Millar fronted post DWaRf project 

Having caught them in a great performance back in October for the grand opening of The Rockpile East in Toronto (Scarborough) it was awesome to see the boys back together.  They obviously still possessed and brought with them the high energy that makes a DWaRfS show a DWaRfS show. (DWaRfS and Diemonds Concert Review).  Just this past Saturday, February 1st, 2014 I was able to catch them again at The Rockpile as they continue their Start @ One tour and let me tell not miss my fellow countrymen aboard ship!

Hoping to obtain a few minutes with the DWaRfS for an interview prior to the show I met with the tour manager and was ushered into the green room (basically just a hallway in the basement of the club that had no heat and was freezing down there).  With the buzz of activity as they prepared for the show I didn't actually get to interview the boys, but did have a few minutes of chat and was able to pass them some "EH" Team shirts in preparation for the cruise.  Wow....I never thought how short Russ actually is, I guess that large t-shirt won't fit him and as Darrell quipped "will serve better as a nightgown"!  Not to worry Russ I'll get you a more appropriate size before the cruise and it would be great to get you guys in on the huge Canadian photo if possible!

Attacking the stage, the DWaRfS were obviously pumped for the show and happy to be up there having fun again.  "Coming Through" very appropriately led the charge for the evening, "outta my way I'm a comin' through"!  We were treated to "Hard Luck Town", "Believe in Me" and "Last Laugh", all inciting me and everyone around me to sing along as were most of the crowd I'm sure.  Russ brought out his electric acoustic guitar for "Driftin' Back" and "Doesn't Matter" with "Union of 
Pride" sandwiched in between.  "All That We Dream" and "Nothing Gets Nothing" took us to the lone cut off the new/old release with the title track, "Start @ One".  Before they launched into it Russ called themselves major procrastinators at it taking 20 years to release, forget Boston and Guns N' Roses!  The video hits "Stand Tall" and "Keep the Spirit Alive" closed out the regular portion of the program.  All throughout Darrell DWaRf Millar was pounding his kit 
reminding me a little of Animal from the muppets as I watched him totally in the zone.  At one point he queried of the crowd "What do you think of my new Pirate Kit?" and after a raucous and resounding cheer Darrell DWaRf proclaimed it "DWaRf Nation approved"!  Gerry was all smiles during the show, expertly wielding his guitar and newest edition Johnny DWaRf fit right into the clan, thumping his bass and displaying a high enthusiasm delivering his thundering bass lines.  It was fairly early on in the show that a thought occurred to me as I watched Russ in a blur of motion
circling the whole stage, using every inch of floor space, sometimes randomly falling to the ground like a marionette that just had the strings severed, crowd surfing, tricycle riding and even a headstand.....there's no way that these guys can perform on one of those smaller club setting stages aboard the ship!  Russ wouldn't have anywhere near enough room....and I wonder if the trike will make it aboard the MSC Divina?  The DWaRfS returned for a double shot encore of "Dirty Weapons" and then a real treat with a song that I never thought I'd be hearing live, the song that started it all "Heavy Mental Breakdown".

After the show the DWaRfS headed over to the merch booth as the crowd converged upon them.  In a chat with the tour manager he told me that they do this every show and won't leave until they've seen, talked to, signed everything and photo op'ed with every fan that wants to see them!  That's something rather rare to find, another that comes to mind as appreciating the fans in this manner is
Photo-bombing Russ DWaRf!
Doro.  With this kind of approach both the DWaRfS and Doro will be welcome additions to this year's cruise as the fan friendly interaction is one of the things that makes the cruise so special for us rock lovers.  I noticed Gerry (who had not been present in the green room at the time) sporting his "EH" Team shirt as he greeted fans behind the merch table and I took a quick moment to chat with him about what to expect for his first Monsters of Rock Cruise.  As an example I told him of the photo of Russ and I (well me photo-bombing him) from the last cruise that I have absolutely no recollection of taking!

I know that I just saw them play but I can't wait until the cruise to get to see the DWaRfS live again.......such an engaging performance, don't miss my fellow country men The KiLLeR DWaRfS!  They are hitting a few select dates through the US on their way down to Miami for embarkation on March 29th, so even if you're not participating in the cruise maybe you can treat yourself to the magic of Canada's KiLLeR DWaRfS.

The Meister ("LIKE" The Meister on Facebook)

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