For anyone who’s never seen Fishbone live, it’s an irreplaceable, unbeatable musical experience to rival any and all. Just listening to any track off The Essential Fishbone, like the early care-free high-jinks of “Party at Ground Zero” or “Cholly” up through the gritty grunge corner-turn of “Sunless Saturday,” you can tell this band is so tight they could probably slice an onion in the air and not miss a beat.
Bob Marley, another black man who didn’t rap, said “One good thing about music / When it hits you feel no pain.” In my previous post, I took somewhat of an exception to Tommy James in 1956 calling picking up an electric guitar “the ultimate act of rebellion,” seeing as he said this following Elvis’ Sullivan performance.
Bob Marley, as we all know, galvanized, and made palatable and popular what was at this time basically his own style of rock music, reggae, and Fishbone take it a step further introducing “ska” in the mid-’80’s. As Rob Mitchum of Pitchfork once said that the idea of “Everyone who’s ever heard The Velvet Underground has started a band” is overrated, similarly, Fishbone are a wholly original act which has been emulated by white people, but not much by black people, if at all. They come around basically contemporaneous with the equally inimitable Bad Brains, and carry an ensuing crown as unquestionably the godfathers of, and the best at, what they do. And indeed, even as an avid guitar player having started at 14, listing to Live at Winterland has never made me want to actually EMULATE Jimi Hendrix… more like I wanna cry for my mom, that’s how cemented my idea is that I could never do what he does.
But Fishbone are an example of how musical expression can be boundless, can be nothing like you thought it would be, and can unite and elate, in a concert setting. Apropos of this, when I saw Fishbone, after the show, after the couple or so hours of rocking in which I probably looked like a goon trying to dance, after the laughing-fit-plagued drummer declared to the audience “Thank God for mushrooms!” (though I didn’t notice him screwing up any parts), Angelo Moore read a poem to the crowd called something like “The Adventures of the Famous But Not Rich” that had a part about something like “Riding across the stolen country.” Here was a black man expressing every centimeter of his artistic muse, who didn’t NEED rap, who didn’t NEED any wealth status symbols, but clearly had to tour in order to put food in his belly, as their behavior still indicates.
With music that’s as eclectic as it is original, and that’s as benevolent as it is artistically intimidating, Fishbone are sure to give you a show that’s one-of-a-kind, never having been, or to be, successfully copied.