To judge from my impromptu survey of several Missoulians I know, most everyone has at least heard of the band Fishbone. Not as many have actually listened to their music. This Sunday night, as many people as can fit inside the Top Hat (and anyone within two blocks) will have that chance. This L.A. band’s unabashed groove and impenitent attitude have widened the playing field and cast the original mold for their outspoken, shoot-from-the-hip musical attack. Although the phenomenon of Los Angelization has already brought wind of Fishbone to Montana, on Feb. 17 they’re going to hand-deliver the goods.
Fishbone was spawned by a group of kids in an L.A. high school more than 20 years ago. They started hanging out on weekends banging on pots and pans and covering songs of the time but apparently had so much fun that they just kept doing it—and they’re still at it. That is, they’re still making music and still doing it according to their own dictates. It is obvious that the band does not care much for convention or reservation. These guys let it all hang out, including their disdain for cheesy, uninspired rock and pop. On their new release, The Friendliest Psychosis of All, due out this month, band members are joined by Primus, Buckethead, Blowfly, Mega*nut, J-Ro and styles of Tha Lik-Wit Crew, George Clinton, David Baerwald and some other friends in a harsh appraisal of the music industry and the pop music machine.
Fishbone makes music that provokes and incites. It does not pass by unnoticed. Fishbone is a band with a fat “Parental Advisory” sticker on it. However, the punchy lyrics are delivered in a musical package with a style all its own. The not-always-mellow lyrics are softened by the voice of bandleader and vocalist Angelo Moore. His voice is smooth, he hits the notes, and he puts them in just the right places, tucked in between tight horns and syncopated bass lines. In his dedication on the band’s last album Moore gives props to both Jah and the Pope. The rest of Fishbone consists of Norwood Fisher, Spacey-T, John McKnight, John Steward and Dirty Walter A. Kibby II, and Dog King of the Freaks. This crew has been playing together for a long time, doing battle with New Wave hair bands and opening for the Beastie Boys back in the early ’80s.
With all this history, theirs is a polished product. Its unique mixture of funky, hip-hugging-hop has reached an intuitive level where the band really shines. Fishbone has survived as long as it has because of their high-energy live shows. They have a devout group of fans on the road referred to as “the familyhood,” and by all accounts Fishbone puts on a wild show. Band members themselves identify one of the constants in their music as motion—and for good reason: They make music to shake and grind to. Their 2000 release, The Psychotic Friends Nuttwerx heralded the arrival of two positive trends in their music: Getting over the anger that tainted some of their earlier work, and taking their live and improvisational jams to the next level, where intuition becomes telepathy.
If you make it to the Fishbone show, you’re there to move. They play dance music—frenetic and celebratory music for getting your groove on. This show won’t be the most politically correct evening of entertainment, nor is the way it makes you want to move. Temperatures at the Top Hat should reach the boiling point. Wear sexy pants and, as the band cryptically states in their press packet, “Feel free…”
Fishbone plays the Top Hat Sunday Feb. 17 at 10 PM. Tickets on sale at 8. Tickets are $12, available at the door.