If you were raised on Dub baselines from Southern Cali like myself, then you probably dig Sublime. But then again, if you had the slightest hint of a heart in the mid-‘90s and weren’t a total stuck-up music snob, you probably dig Sublime. And if you dig Sublime enough, you’ve probably heard of Badfish. And you probably wondered if they put on a good show. Well, let’s just say there’s a reason they’re the only Sublime cover band you’ve ever heard of. And it’s mostly because they’re really fucking good at playing the majestic creations of the late, great Brad Nowell.
I never saw Sublime before Brad Nowell tied off the dinosaur for the last time, but I imagine Badfish is presently doing Sublime at least as good as Sublime ever did Sublime, which, granted, feels blasphemous to say. But when I closed my eyes at the show (which wasn’t often because they did an incredible job), I was back on the roof at my momma’s house in high school in the summertime with “Doin’ Time” on the stereo, leaned back in a lawn chair with aviators on. This was the music that soundtracked my realization that some weeds are better than others.
The Cali vibes were thick at this party.
A giant Badfish banner fell down behind the stage just as Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” started to play from the speakers. This was their intro. And they let the entire six-minute song just ride. The lights were dim and lighters were in the air. I could tell this was going to be a good time.
Starting out with “Garden Grove,” my first thought was, “Holy shit, this lead singer sounds exactly like Nowell.” Almost creepily so, and his guitar work was just as energetic, specifically their rendition of “Date Rape.” That was smokin’.
From the lobby, I could’ve sworn it was the album playing. The bass player/keyboardist (Joel Hanks) looks a hell of a lot like Flea, and I swear he threw a Chili Peppers run or two in between songs. The keyboard/guitarist/drum machinist dude, Dorian Duffy, who was kind enough to introduce himself to me after the show, kept the old-school samples coming — not to mention, he helped the drummer (Scott Begin) out with some 808 pad-triggered kicks.
The band that opened for Badfish, Shrub, wasn’t bad either. In fact, they had some g-funk royalty among them. Their guitarist, Kevin Oliver, a member of the legendary P Funk crew, played on “Gz and Hustlas” from Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle. And their other guitarist, Josh Altfater, knows his way around a wah pedal himself. Both super nice dudes. A cool mix of midwest funk, hip-hop and reggae. Shrub and Badfish together are proudly flying the Sublime flag high for the next generation.
And you can tell their hearts are in the right place. I’m sure they make a healthy profit off ticket sales from old Sublime fans like myself, but you don’t get as good as they are at playing those songs unless you LOVE those songs. And they obviously do. Cover bands get a bad rap sometimes, but I feel like these guys are doing a service. The lead singer of one of my favorite bands overdosed on heroin in 1996, and Badfish is as close as I’m ever going to get to seeing his music live. Like I said, they do a damn good job.
Guitarist Pat Downes told the crowd mid-show that, “We love the music of Sublime and we love hanging out with people that love the music of Sublime.” That’s a good, fun time with some good, fun people. Badfish is a badass show. So if they’re coming through your town, and you love Sublime, go see ‘em! They do a bang-up job. You won’t be disappointed.
P.S. – Only one request, guys. Could you do a little more from “Robbin’ the Hood” next time? That will eternally be my favorite crack house record. But that’s nit-picking. Thanks for the awesome night, dudes! See ya next time you come through.
To check out a gallery of photos from the night, spend some time on this Flickr page.
This post was written by Tyler McConnell, Blue Note contributing writer.