Fishbone played 22 songs last night at the Rebel Lounge over what seemed like half a day.
The 37-year-old Los Angeles-based group played one of the more perplexing sets I've ever seen them play. It was good, even really good at times, but maybe it's me or maybe it's them, but:
It seemed slow and I hate myself writing it.
It also seemed long and drawn out. It felt like the songs were longer than I remember them being, but maybe it's just been too long since I dusted off a Fishbone record. All night long I was wondering, what has happened to a band I loved? What has happened to the guys I once left a Three O'Clock (classic LA psychedelic pop band) show early so I could see two L.A. legends in one night. I wanted to dance and jump out of my skin like I did then, but last night, I was way more content to just bob my head and enjoy the somewhat mellow vibe the band was dishing out.
One thing that definitely happened, due to the overwhelming smell of marijuana coming from the crowd (and from what I heard on good authority, also coming from many of the band) is that everyone except me seemed to be stoned. Most were also well on their way to being drunk which, sadly, fueled some highly entertaining (for the not-drunk or stoned folks in the crowd) but ridiculous dancing. The stone-ishness, though, of the early part of the set was apparent as the band seemed disjointed to start off as they rumbled (and stumbled a bit) through "Forever Moore" (from the 2006 album, Still Stuck in Your Throat) and the title track from 2011's Crazy Glue.
It wasn't until the fifth song of the set, "Everyday Sunshine" (from 1991's fairly epic The Reality of My Surroundings), where the band really seemed to pick up something similar to the steam I remember them generating in the '80s and '90s. Seeing Norwood Fisher play bass is always awesome, even if it sometimes seemed like he was trying to drown out Angelo Moore's theremin with a barrage of bass effects. There does still seem to be some tangible animosity between Fisher and Moore, the only remaining original members of the band, as they didn't interact with each other during the set at all.
In fact, Moore had only cursory interaction with the rest of the band during Fishbone's set, but he still can rule a crowd. During several points of the show, Moore shared his sharply pointed poetry with the audience, who was eating up every word and rightfully so. Moore's words were definitely spot on and at one point, he shared this jab at the entertainment/media industry during a long poem about how Fishbone has never made any real money while watching (and this was strongly implied) less talented people become very rich:
"There's a lot of dummies and rich folks / controlling the media and the radio"
If you have seen the excellent documentary about the band called Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone (2010), then you know how disgruntled Moore has felt over the years about real and perceived slights at the hands of the industry he's been a part of for his entire adult life. These feelings were only apparent once, though, during the set, and Moore seemed to be filled with joy at being back in the building that once housed the Mason Jar and hosted many Fishbone performances over the years.
Fisher is still a great bass player and when he came out with an acoustic bass at the beginning of the set, several of the local musicians in the audience looked skeptically at his instrument of choice, but he sounded great. Fisher switched basses several times during the set and got stronger and stronger in his playing as the night wore on. His influence on the music world often goes unnoticed, but it's really easy to see how his riffs influenced bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sublime (whose song "Date Rape" Fishbone covered, although after hearing the performance, it really seems like it could have been a Fishbone song all along), and No Doubt, to name a few pretty successful Southern California bands.
Fishbone has taken so many cues from James Brown, Parliament, and first and second wave ska that their sound has continued to evolve and become completely unique in the world of rock 'n' roll. Even though the energy was not there as it has been in years past, the groove is definitely still alive and kicking. Overall, good show from a great band and the crowd seemed to love every minute of it, even if it did thin out considerably after the first seven or eight songs of Fishbone's set. Not bad for a Thursday night, though.
Also have to give a shout out to locals Aunt B who had the slot right before Fishbone and set the table nicely. Very cool to see a talented group of folks having so much fun on stage. The lead singer, who one would assume is "Aunt B," has a heck of a voice and their bass player is killer. The whole band, actually, was really impressive.
Last Night: Fishbone, Aunt B, and the 2 Tone Lizard Kings (who I missed, but heard good things about...sorry fellas) at Rebel Lounge.
Personal Bias: I love the early Fishbone stuff ... like, super early. Last two songs were "Lyin' Ass Bitch" and "Party at Ground Zero." They made me smile.
The Crowd: Thursday night party folks who were enjoying themselves quite a bit. Several could give Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus' character on Seinfeld) a good run for her money in a dance off. They also seem to love a good OFF! shirt.
Overheard: "He's outside smoking weed with the band."