with Fishbone and Dub War at The Middle East
by Margo Tiffen
It’s a warm Friday night and downstairs at the Middle East, the Fishbone show is sold out, and the line outside wraps around the block. The show’s opening band, Dub War, from South Wales, U.K., will tour with Fishbone for a while in support of their album Pain (Earache).
When Dub War took the stage, I was up on the raised bar platform next to the speakers. After about a minute, I’d have to throw down a dollar for earplugs or I wasn’t going to make it through the show. Dub War started the show off really heavy and from then on, it didn’t let up for the next five hours. Benji, the singer, came out in full army fatigues, dreads flying. A friend said they reminded her of Rage Against the Machine, but I think that was only because of their energy, more like some of Fishbone’s harder stuff – a little reggae, a little funk, a little hardcore, you get the point. The band was really tight, Jeff (guitar) lending an almost surreal, experimental sound. The rhythm section held it all into a kind of controlled chaos. When Angelo from Fishbone came out to guest on tenor sax, the show really started to kick in. The crowd kept building during Dub War’s set and by the time they left the stage, the place was packed, a hot layer of sweat hanging over the crowd.
Snot came out, and to be honest, I don’t know these guys all that well and it was one of those situations where I recognize that a band has talent, I just don’t particularly dig their music. I will tell you this, though, the music didn’t much matter to me, because they definitely had a huge advantage in the the-band’s-okay-but-the-lead-singer’s-really-fucking-hot category. The guy had a better body than I’d seen on any lead singer in a while, the letters “INSECURE” tattooed across his stomach. Oooh, boy. But enough about the Snot guy, it’s Fishbone time.
First of all, they played for two and a half hours straight, no lag in energy from them or the crowd, leaving the room a sweaty, swimming, mass sauna. Clouds of smoke filled the hot air, pleasing the Fishbone boys (“Smoke the weed, people!”). They started out with the funk stuff and around the end of the first hour, slid right into the noise stuff. Les Claypool from Primus came out to play bass on “Alcoholic” and it just didn’t stop. Angelo pulled people onstage, let them sing for a bit, then let them loose to swim back over the crowd. People were hanging from the low pipes on the ceiling, a girl ended up onstage with her top undone twice during the show. Angelo came out into the crowd a few times, once climbing over to the railing on the side where I was, walking the length of it like a cat. I’ve never see a band that works this hard, keeps a crowd going for so long, has so much energy and is still so damn tight and good. They played most of their ska stuff towards the end and as much as I wanted to sit and rest, I couldn’t. It just wasn’t going to end and I really didn’t care. We were about to leave around two a.m. when “Swim” broke out. I watched, amazed, at the energy they still had. These guys had been up there, running around like crazed animals for two and a half hours straight, and they were still going strong. They do this almost every night. I would like to put forth the suggestion that Fishbone is a bunch of alien impostors. What these guys do is inhuman.