They don't practice Santeria. They don't have a crystal ball. But they make more than a million dollars a year touring as the world's greatest Sublime tribute band.
Badfish was born in Rhode Island when two college buds taking classes in computer science got together and started jamming. Soon they came up with the idea of playing only Sublime covers. They found a guitar player and packed local clubs and parties like fat buds of skunk weed in tight Ziplocs. That was 2001.
"We didn't really expect to be doin' this still," drummer Scott Begin says. "It was kinda just for fun. We loved the music and playing for our friends, and it just kinda snowballed bigger and bigger till finally we went out on the road and said, 'Let's see if we get the same response as we do at home.' Then we never really stopped."
Sublime's founder, Bradley Nowell, would be proud. In fact, he played the same stage as Badfish, back when Revolution was called the Edge. It was the world's first Warped Tour, Sublime's gear had been jacked from its van, and Nowell played an acoustic set to a rousing response from the audience.
"That's some good Sublime trivia," says Begin. "Anytime that we play a stage that Sublime has played, it makes you think about what they did and how long ago they actually did it, and all these years later, people are still coming out to show that Sublime love. It's an honor to play their music."
And in tribute to Sublime's legacy of experimentation, Badfish constantly try new things to keep the music fresh.
"My favorite song to play changes all the time," says Scott, "But I got some new electronic drum pads on my kit that I can trigger all these sounds with, and I get to do that a lot on 'Caress Me Down,' which the crowd really likes. Sublime was always mixing shit up, and we do too. We keep the songs the way that people wanna hear em' but we mix in the old hip-hop samples, and sound effects live, and that keeps it fun for us too."
Badfish has been playing South Florida since about 2007, always at Revolution. And as a tribute band, their cover songs are legally protected by the statutory fee that the venue pays yearly to ASCAP and BMI, the songwriting organizations that collect and disburse payments to recording musicians.
"The venues kinda pay a due for any band playing any cover song. It's all taken care of. We just go out there and play."
Scott doesn't know how many shows they are on course to play this year. But he estimates it to be somewhere around 130.
He also says the fans most love to hear "What I Got," "Wrong Way," "Badfish," and "Santeria," but "Every crowd is different and usally anything fast, with a lot of energy will get a good crowd reaction."
As for how long they can continue to tour the world playing Sublime's music, Scott says, "I don't see any reason to stop. We love the music, and it's a fun way to pass the time."
And they've even gotten the Sublime seal of approval from the band's orginal drummer, Bud Gaugh. "Yeah, Bud's band Del Mar played with us out in Reno, and in Vegas. He played my drum kit. And he was pretty complimentary about the job we did. I recall him saying that we sounded just like Sublime. We just wanna play the music for the people. He seemed cool with it."
And so Badfish blazes on.
Badfish, Sublime Tribute with Ballyhoo! and Bushwood. 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 27, at Revolution Live, 100 SW Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $19.50 in advance plus fees and $23 day of show. Call 954-449-1025, or visit jointherevolution.net.
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