Funk Masters Fishbone Return to The Grey Eagle

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Review by Breanne Smith Fishbone_poster

The Grey Eagle hosted a crowd that we saw when George Clinton and Parliament came into town.  Soon after the Fishbone concert concluded, we realized that Fishbone is this generation’s Parliament. This was my first experience with the legends of Fishbone and hopefully won’t be my last.

The opener for Fishbone was The Mike Dillon Band. A vibraphone was on stage along with keys, drums, and accordion. Their guitarist played bass notes on his guitar which left me puzzled but also in complete admiration.  Mike Dillon would rap on occasion and play percussion or xylophone throughout his set.  Their music is a mixture of so many genres you can tell they are influenced by many types of music from jazz, to hip hop, punk to funk. Everyone was swooning over their trombone player, Carly Meyers, that would dance feverishly when she wasn’t playing. The band played a lengthy set which included their keys player busting out a hula hoop and she gave the crowd a dance number with it. Their set also inhabited a drum circle-esque feel as Mike and drummer bounced back and forth. The band delivers a cache of his new songs, infuses fresh life into his classics, and features Mike Dillon (vibraphone, percussion, lead vocals)His individual projects include: Critter’s Buggin’, Garage A Trois, Billy Goat, Mike Dillon’s Go-Go Jungle, Hairy Apes BMX, Malachy Papers, the Dead Kenny G’s, who regularly open for Primus. Adam Gertner (drums), Cliff Hines (guitar, bass and keyboards) and Carly Meyers (trombone, vocals), whose raw talent, enthusiasm and infectious dance moves created quite a stir in the crowd. After the 3rd song, Mike introduced his band and explained, “I like these guys because they’re like me. They don’t say, “Oh, I’ll be right back, I have to call my wife! They just play fucking music! I love it!” This was my first time seeing them and I am currently awaiting their next tour.

Fishbone has been around since they formed in 1979, and slowly gained a slight recognition through loyalties of other huge names in the California music industry such as members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, No Doubt, and Sublime. Fishbone first assembled with John Norwood Fisher (bass); his brother Phillip “Fish” Fisher (drums); Angelo Moore, who sometimes uses the stage name “Dr. Madd Vibe” which is the name of his solo project (vocals, saxophones ranging from sopranino to bass, theremin); Kendall Jones (guitar); “Dirty” Walter A. Kibby II (vocals, trumpet); and Christopher Dowd, who sometimes uses the pseudonym “Charlie Down” (keyboards, trombone, vocals). Founding members John Norwood Fisher, Angelo Moore, and Walter Kibby remain with the band as of 2013.

Critics have noted of the band: “Fishbone was one of the most distinctive and eclectic alternative rock bands of the late ’80s. With their hyperactive, self-conscious diversity, goofy sense of humor, and sharp social commentary, the group gained a sizable cult following during the late ’80s, yet they were never able to earn a mainstream audience.” This unfortunate occurrence doesn’t stop the band from gracing stages and playing for their die-hard, smorgasbord of fans across the country. I was lucky enough to catch them for the first time at The Grey Eagle.

With 7 studio albums and 4 in studio, it’s strange to think this large group of incredible musicians never made it mainstream. Sometimes I think those 100 long standing, superfans that know the tunes and are there til the end are better than that ephemeral million that were there then gone. You can see the love in the numbers that came to the show.

Members of the band constantly hit vaporizer pens that hang around their necks before songs. This seems to be a new trend in the music industry. They played the favorites such as, “Everyday Sunshine”, “Ma and Pa”, Sublimes, “Date rape”, “Give it up” and “Party at Ground Zero.” The energy was non-stop and Angelo was on fire the entire evening.  For the most part, the crowd was in it to win it complete with mosh pits, stage diving, chanting, and singing along.  But as the night progressed, Fishbone outlasted the crowd as it began to thin out as the night wore on. Angelo’s voice held up for the entire evening and he is truly a master showman. Bass player John Norwood Fisher or very simply Norwood, was also in exceptional form during the show playing amazing licks and thumps that had all musicians slack-jawed throughout the evening. His powerful presence on stage even with minimal movement is very simply a commanding performance. You almost can’t take your eyes off of him if you’re any bit musically inclined. Walter Kibby aka Dirty Walt (trumpet) stayed notably set near the drums during the entirety of the show and only coming forward during his bit part performances, but he kept the continuity in tact during the show and his showmanship in a supporting role was very noteworthy and admirable.  Rocky George was tearing up the guitar solos with ease and he seemed laser focused the entire evening with not a missed cue.  And lastly, trombone player Jay Armant stayed shirtless for the evening and did a lot of hopping around, bouncing, stage diving and crowd surfing, during which he kicked the dust off the low lying can lights and looked as if he has truly found his place in the band even after a mere 6 months on the job.

John Norwood Fisher began chanting before the encore “Let’s get fucked up, let’s get loaded, the Fishbone party exploded.” A calm Thursday night had reared its ugly head and we realized, it was now out of control. Mohawk wielding fans began circling the crowd in anticipation for the encore and as fans began to climb onstage, it was obvious it was time for them to take stage again. Needless to say, fans got what they came for and everyone left, sweaty, satisfied and ready to dream of the legends that we witnessed play that night.

Even after 25 years of playing, Fishbone is still a band finding its legs and continually finding its identity. Their new EP “Crazy Glue” is a great collection of new songs and refreshingly quite a few of the songs found their way into the set and was very well received, and rightfully so. While they’ve been on the road for a large part of their lives, it does finally appear that they’re gaining great traction and that we may be seeing an underground resurgence for them in the states.

Aside from any possible fallouts, which the band has been known to survive many a time, I hope to see Fishbone setting themselves into a situation that will plummet them into the books of funk-rock history.  I’m going to make a bold assumption here that Fishbone has at least another 20 years in them, even though they have had some tired moments. Hopefully the new generated interest in them will rejuvenate the band. If they come through your town, I highly suggest you take it in. It’s an experience unlike any other.

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