Photos by Lori Sky Twohy
About twenty-five summers ago, when I was only ten years old and still somewhat innocent, I attended my first summer camp at Camp Wesley Pines back near my childhood home in Mississippi. Somehow I ended up with the coolest counselor any camper could possibly have. His name was ‘Slick’. He owned a Camaro. He was into martial arts, and he had the best mullet still stored in my memory.
Slick would let us boys have wrestling matches. Slick would let us keep forbidden snacks in our cabins. Oh, and Slick introduced us to Fishbone.
“U-G-L-Y, YOU AIN’T GOT NO ALIBI! YOU’RE JUST UGLY! “The lyrics still ring in my head, bringing all of these memories back. I drifted, though. Like a prodigal son, I fell hard into Heavy Metal, then back into Alternative, to find myself at The Grey Eagle in Asheville, NC, on Sunday,Sept.9th,’12,to hear the band that Slick had introduced some innocent camp kids to back in that virgin summer of 1987.
“…I’m hanging by a thread, and that’s not all; I’ll bite off your head!” lead singer Angelo Moore exuberantly shouts into the microphone while playing hardcore on the theremin. Mixing punk and soul is Fishbone’s specialty. “Frey’d Fuckin’ Nerve Endingz” is ska/punk insanity pushed about as far and as dissonant as it can go. There’s no real pause in this song for the horn section to breathe. It is a constant assassination of short-lived melodies and mad key changes, as well as a book’s worth of words in one four and a half-minute long song. Let me be clear, though these fells know exactly what they’re doing and follow each other with precision. Their music is like a rainbow.
“Everyday Sunshine” is a straight-up funk and soul number with some sweetly rocking keys. Sounding like a Southern-style church jam, I had to wonder if I had wandered into some kind of funky service where the audience was the choir and Fishbone was the clergy. Lead singer Angelo Moore sang to the moving ‘congregation’, and the ‘congregation’ sang back. Even the church scene from the “Blues Brothers” movie didn’t feel this damn good!
“Oooh-ooh, alcoholic! Oooh-ooh, real good liquor!” Alcoholic starts out with John Norwood Fisher on some smooth bass, while drummer John Steward keys in on the hi-hat. It doesn’t take long for this live number to go from a groovy reggae song to raging ska, and then back again, something Fishbone is known for. Guitarist Rocky George ripped out a fine, off-the-wall solo before one last chorus brought it to an abrupt ending, to which the crowd responded with unrestrained cheers.
Covering Sublime’s “Date Rape” as a tribute to the late Brad Nowell, Fishbone still maintains their own madness. Angelo, though, plays it slightly more restrained than with their own material, as if he’s performing with respect to the late Sublime lead singer.
Having endured three line-up changes since their beginning in a Los Angeles high school in 1979, Fishbone today is Angelo Moore on vocals, saxophones, theremin, and percussion(1979-present), John Norwood Fisher playing some very unapologetic and bad-ass bass, “Dirty” Walter A. Kibby the 2nd killing the trumpet(1999-2003,2010-present), and John Steward steadying the ship on drums (1999-present). Next we have the afro-wearing Rocky George hammering out some really solid guitar licks (2004-present), Dre’ Gipson calling out to the crowd on the keys, while Jay Armant crowd-surfed and partied hard on the trombone. Out of this highly talented and very experienced seven piece, only George (guitar) and Steward (drums) did not take part in the vocals. This is a singing Alternative rock band; make no doubt about it.
Being the incredibly nice guy he is, lead singer and multi-instrumentalist Angelo Moore took a lot of time for the fans (new and long-time), and a little time for this fortunate writer. All of his influences he says deserve mention. From funkmasters James Brown and Sly Stone, jazzmasters Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Louie Armstrong, Lewis Jordan, and Frank Sinatra, to rock and punk acts like Led Zeppelin, The Germs, The Dead Kennedys, and the insane punk/reggae outfit Bad Brains. Angelo has no short list of names on supply when it comes to what artists have affected his life and Fishbone’s music the most.
“Don’t get discouraged,” he says while sipping some wine. “When others don’t respect what you’re doing as an artist. Stick to what you believe is right for you” Being an early and major pioneer in Alternative rock, I believe Angelo Moore’s simple advice is about as true to the heart as one can get. As a singer/songwriter myself, it’s the only good advice I ever heard.
Keep on keeping on Fishbone, as you amass new fans through every show, sharing with them the colors of your funky music rainbow….
Hey, Slick! I finally got wet!!!