Review: Fishbone go weird, wild at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg
If you were to make a case for Fishbone’s cultural legacy, you might claim it was their willingness to be utterly weird and win people over with said weirdness.
Take an album like 1988’s Truth and Soul, where a faithful cover of Curtis Mayfield’s soul classic Freddie’s Dead is accompanied by chugging hard-rock guitars, and ska, punk, funk and metal co-exist comfortably. The group developed a multi-racial, multi-genre fanbase ranging from frat boys to Spike Lee. They even accrued arguably the weirdest rock-star arrest, when bassist John Norwood Fisher was charged with kidnapping after trying to retrieve former guitarist Kendall Jones from a religious cult.
That legacy could be felt Friday night when Fishbone came to play the State Theatre. It could felt in the genre-hopping openers Sista Otis, who combined New Orleans stylings with a Meredith Brooks-esque twang, and Jacksonville’s Whole Wheat Bread, who mixed pop-punk guitars with relatively straightforward rap. Drummer Joseph Largen recounted seeing Fishbone at Warped Tour ’95 and said bands like his might not have existed without them — and he might’ve been right.
And it could be felt when it was time for the main act. Vocalist Angelo Moore took the stage with an eclectic ensemble of a shiny silver suit, Mardi Gras beads and tilted hat, all of which would gradually be discarded.
Moore was in his element, switching between horns and striking goofy poses that resembled the cover of In Your Face. The setlist included Truth and Soul’s Ma & Pa and Bonin’ In the Backyard and Everyday Sunshine, as a Warped Tour ’95-style mosh pit developed.
After a while, the band’s dynamics started to recall those of Adrian Younge, who played the same stage during Antiwarpt in July. Part of that was a similarly crowded stage, with seven members playing, but also with sets that both felt like one long, funk-filled interlude.
Sometimes Fishbone’s willingness to accept about any music worked. Some songs felt more long and indulgent than anything else, and the band has also seemingly cast itself in with the stoner scene, recording a split with Slightly Stoopid and playing a sincere cover of Sublime’s Date Rape that, if you dislike that band as much as this reviewer, was not exactly welcome.
But with a band this eclectic, sometimes you have to take the good with the bad. And their set eventually ended with Party at Ground Zero, one of their first singles and arguably the song they’ve become most associated with.
By the concert’s close, Moore — now shirtless and with suspenders hanging on for dear life on one side — came upon the phrase “strong and strange” during his banter. He laughed and paused, as if mulling over the words in his mind. “Strong and strange, I like that. Strong and strange, motherf---ers.” It could serve as an unofficial mantra for Fishbone who, after 34 years, are still together and still utterly weird.
-- Jimmy Geurts, tbt*