Recap: Fishbone at Martyrs'

Phil Collins - September 30, 2014


Fishbone played two nights back-to-back at Martyrs' in Lincoln Park on September 19 and 20. I was there for night two. Fishbone, a Los Angeles ska band that has been around since 1979, has earned repeated acclaim over the decades for an explosive live show. They played for longer than two hours at Martyrs' and looked like they could have kept going until sunrise if they didn't know any better. The band's biggest hits come from their first release: a six song self-titled EP released in 1985. "Party at Ground Zero" and "Lyin' Ass Bitch" are the two songs most people would know by Fishbone. They produced some of the biggest reactions from the crowd that night. Fishbone also played "Another Generation," a deep cut from the same EP, if EPs can have deep cuts.

The band's early material came out during the second wave ska revival, but it is not exactly prototypical second wave ska. The Specials, The English Beat and The Selecter were all putting out great albums on the second wave template. Fishbone was a little zanier. As their career went on, they never quite matched the third wave ska template either. Ska traditionally draws from reggae as a baseline. Fishbone's material seems to lean more heavily on funk, pop and hair metal. Lead singer Angelo Moore, bassist John Norwood Fisher and trumpet player "Dirty" Walter A. Kibby II all remain from the band's original lineup. Their set reflected the unexpected, energizing music they have made together during the last couple decades. Angelo Moore mixed in some spoken word pieces in between the bands hits "Alcoholic," "Everyday Sunshine," "Crazy Glue," and their spastic cover of Sublime's "Date Rape."

Fishbone was recently sued for $1.4 million for an incident in which one of the band members stage dove into the crowd. Angelo Moore mentioned this case at the show, pointing out the ridiculous nature of the situation. Someone standing close enough to the stage to come into contact with a stage diver should be aware of what is going on around them. Stage diving is not a new phenomenon. Moshing is not a new phenomenon. Standing right up front at a punk show comes with certain risks. The idea that the band should be held liable for damages running as high as $1.4 million is ludicrous. Angelo Moore said the band will shortly launch a crowdfunding campaign to help cover legal costs.