Badfish: A Sublime Tribute at Revolution Live November 14 | New Times Broward-Palm Beach


Badfish: A 14-Year-Long (and Counting) Tribute to Sublime

Here’s a free lesson for aspiring musicians who want to make it big quick: A) Find a band on the verge of success and become a rabid fan; B) Learn said band’s catalog backward and forward; and C) Pray and hope, and maybe even light some candles to whatever iconographical deity you believe in, that said band’s leader pulls a Kurt Cobain or a Bradley Nowell… Oh wait, that formula’s out already. And boy, has it worked.

But respecting the memory of the departed can be handled in any number of ways. For Cobain and Nirvana, it seems to have been one endless parade of box sets and "essential" releases that's beginning to rival 2Pac's posthumous legacy. For Nowell and Sublime, however, the greatest flattery — and certainly one of the reasons as to why their catalog has remained relevant to subsequent generations — is the existence of Badfish.

Whether you smoke two joints in the morning, think that the path to freedom is only 40 ounces away (32 ounces, depending on which state you’re in), or believe in the gospel of Raleigh Theodore Sakers, the power of Sublime’s legacy — now closing in on 20 years since singer/guitarist Nowell’s death — rivals that of Nirvana’s, in a slightly more frat-boyish way.

For three former University of Rhode Island students, the power of Sublime has meant a pretty solid career path. Formed in 2001 as Badfish: A Tribute to Sublime (not to be confused with the “Jamerican” band Badfish from Southern California), it’s been one long whirlwind for the trio, who've had the privilege of picking and choosing sets from Sublime’s extensive and well-liked catalog.

But while it's cheeky to poke fun and ride these guys for making a living as a Sublime cover band, one should examine whether theirs is not a purer and more honest way of spreading the word among the faithful and recruiting for the swelling ranks than, say, that other outfit that's toured and even recorded new material, known as Sublime With Rome. Sublime With Rome might be two-thirds of the original Sublime lineup, but somehow it's failed to capture the imagination of the established fan base the way Badfish the tribute group has. And, it seems, SWR's ultimate goal has been more on the profits side of things, whereas Badfish still live by and take the gospel to heart. They've drunk the Kool-Aid, and you best believe they're passing that shit around.

Namely because Badfish is not bringing anything new to the masses — fans of Sublime can simply close their eyes and pretend. Hell, Badfish can even go full meta and cover covers by Sublime by now. Why not? Some folks prefer the reggae-tinged flavor of Bad Religion’s “We’re Only Gonna Die” or the transformative power of the Grateful Dead’s “Scarlet Begonias.” The fact that both versions of that song generate the same arrhythmic, seizure-like phenomenon known as “white college girls dancing” is a testament to the cult of both. What we're saying is yes, Sublime has now entered Deadhead territory, and it's Badfish that is leading the way.

For 14 years, Pat Downes, Scott Begin, and Joel Hanks have tried to do it right, even if it becomes juvenile, humoristic fodder for bald, middle-aged guys like me. From their news release: “In paying tribute to one of the most galvanizing musical acts in history, Badfish try to revive the Sublime experience by keeping faithful to their down to-earth, punk rock attitude. Eschewing wigs and gimmicks, Badfish’s philosophy is to deliver Sublime's music faithfully, spread good vibes, and push the envelope of performance to create a concert experience that surges with energy and originality.”

If anything, they’ve done the one thing that Bradley Nowell was never able to balance in life as his coping mechanism (heroin) escalated along with the fame he was thrust into: They’ve remembered the fans. And though they do not live on the millions their muses could’ve collected while active, they are living on their own terms, creating new Sublime fans one frat boy at a time. There are worse ways to live, that's for sure. Worse ways that are nowhere near as fun as this.

Badfish: A Tribute to Sublime
7:30 p.m. Saturday, November 14, at Revolution Live, 100 SW Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale. All ages. Tickets cost $19.50 advance and $23 day of show. Call 954-449-1025, or visit
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Abel Folgar