I understand why Fishbone’s fans call themselves Fishbone soldiers, a show of the almighty band may be a fun epic battle, but you will need all the stamina of your entire body to stand up till the end of their gig! Fishbone had a show at the Echoplex on Saturday night, and they played till the wee hours, till 2 am to be exact! Their sporadic tour (they still have a few upcoming dates from June to September including Chicago’s Riot Fest) was announced as ‘Chim Chim’s Badass Revenge, the return of the monkey tour’, and is featuring original Fishbone members reunited for the first time in 25 years… and nobody could resist to such a proposition.
I had no idea which band was on stage when I arrived at the Echoplex, the first act hadn’t been announced on line, but they got to be very entertaining, mostly because of their frontman’s hilarious and very personal antics. It turned out they were a band from Long Beach called Law — sorry, LAW in capital letters as they want it to be — and their hard rocking pop tunes were animated by the theatrical presence of Jakob Nowell, who was kneeling down, begging at the feet of his bandmates, who were playing loud and thunderous rocking songs. ‘You see, just like a boy in a girl’s body, our band is in a transitional phase’, said the funny man after a few expressive melodic tunes and mad solo guitars, They had some delirious passion, a bit of hair metal guitar, and plenty of fantasy to get noticed, even before an act such as Fishbone.
Who needs lyrics when there is expression of such power? It’s funny, I had already seen the power trio Tabitha last weekend at Save Music in Chinatown and they were here again, opening for the LA fusion band in full force! I still don’t know if they want to hire a singer at one point, but what they do now is so mighty, that they could just continue as an instrumental band. Jane’s Addiction drummer Stephen Perkins beats his drums with mad power while the two Okai sisters deliver thunderous and loud riffs on bass and guitar. The result is heavy as hell, and their presence transmits badass rock ‘n’ roll, and despite Stephen on drums, it’s very female,… just listen to their moniker! All the guys in the crowd were rooting for these two women, who looked like guitar-bass superheroes, when they were flying their long shiny hair, kicking their riffs in the stratosphere, while reaching new levels in the sky of heavy metal. Their set was a wild rock ‘n’ roll ride, an exercise in heaviness and virtuosity, surely destined to play a few arenas and stadiums near you in the future.
Fishbone took the stage way after the announced set time, and at the sound of their army of soldiers chanting ‘Fishbone is red hot’. They immediately installed such a mad fusion of everything, with such an insane energy, that I still feel disoriented,… in a good way. Terms like fusion, buoyancy, hybridization have to have been invented for Fishbone, the oddball crew mixes all kind of sounds from mighty horns (they have a lot of them on stage) to ska lines, turning to reggae steps, with a soul and funk inspiration…. and beyond. Nothing makes sense while everything falls eventually at its right place in this magic eclectic soup… Of course, the main character in this effervescence is frontman Angelo Moore, who kept switching saxophones, exchanging a medium sax for a bigger one till he got to play a ridiculous giant one, while running the show like a mad man, as he was already dripping sweat after the second song . ‘We have a new president and he ain’t mine’ he said right away, and unsurprisingly, it was question of ‘Trump devil man’ a few times during this music marathon, which lasted between 2 hours and 3 hours… I am not sure, I lost my sense of time during their endless jams, captivated by the complexity of their meandrous musical detours, which were crossing over genres and engulfing decades of music history. They were touring ‘Chim Chim’s Badass Revenge’, their 1996 album (and probably their least successful recording) and if they played it in its entirety, they also added many more songs, including an encore of 6 songs… ending up playing 26 in total. Almighty? This seems like an understatement, they looked unstoppable with a powerhouse lineup featuring Norwood Fisher on bass, “Dirty” Walt Kibby on trumpet and vocals, John Bigham and Rocky Johnson on guitar, Jay Armant on trombone, Paul Hampton on keys, and the returning Fish Fisher hidden behind his drums… all behind the astonishing and all-fired-up Angelo Moore of course who, when he was not blowing his sax, was rocking a theremin, adding high-octave trembling weirdness in the middle of a barrage of honking horns and loudness.
After a few Rasta-funky horns and beats, here was a James Brown inspiration in a song, then a Prince and the Revolution vibe in the next song, before a few aggressive punk tantrums. As a band which breaks all the rules, the members of Fishbone feel comfortable at anything they do, each musician is as flexible as Moore’s acrobatic leg kicking, and if they never reached mainstream in the 90s as they may have, people around me were die hard fans and the entire crowd was following every swirl of the band’s sonic elastic combo.
Of course Angelo Moore crowd surfed during ‘Swim’ and was followed by a few girls who ended on stage for a minute or two of dance, of course there was a giant mosh pit behind me during ‘Beergut’ and ‘Riot’ and a few other songs,… don’t ask me, it was chaos and tumult on stage and behind my back, and as the night progressed, it got more and more arduous to realize what was happening. Was it their ska song? Why are they suddenly bluesy? soulful? What is happening? Is that funk? Punk?
There wasn’t any nostalgia from my part, I had never seen Fishbone beside a short set a few years ago inside a record store, but Fishbone is certainly a phenomenal live act, that keeps on giving. They were some unstoppable underdogs fueled by beers and the themes of racism which are all over their songs, and if they were written in the 90s, the Trump era surely brings back a new meaning and mission to Fishbone’s ferocious war. At the end of the show, Moore advertised the band’s merch and in particular the famous ‘Fuck racism’ shirts.
But as we thought it was almost over they invited on stage a special guest, Atlanta’s funk/R&B diva Joi, aka Tennessee Slim, who sang a few tunes with passion and sexiness… As I said, they kept on giving all night long, and beside Springsteen, I don’t see any other performers who can put up such a music marathon. ‘They brought the punk in the funk’, I have heard, they also put the epic in the funk-rap-R&B-soul-ska music amalgam of theirs, and there is simply no equivalent to Fishbone anywhere in time and space.
Pray to the Junkiemaker
Chim Chim’s Badass Revenge (album in its entirety)
Chim Chim’s Badass Revenge
In the Cube
Fight For Nutmeg
Fishy Swa Ska
Skankin’ to the Beat
Ma & Pa
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