Live: Fishbone at Culture Room, November 6

With Downtown Brown and Ketchy Shuby
Culture Room, Fort Lauderdale
Sunday, November 6, 2011

Better Than: Succeeding at something only once in eight tries.

After funk founders Sly & the Family Stone and James Brown, but before the hip-hop-fused Roots, is the Fishbone era. Unquestionably one of the greatest live bands that fits comfortably outside of the stodgy confines of "rock," the Los Angeles ska-punk-funk collective built a rep over the past three decades for unbridled, uncensored stage antics aimed at stirring the pot until the stew spewed everywhere. And keeping that rep was Sunday's challenge for the band, as many of the original members have drifted away, ska has been pushed back to the fringes, and nobody buys a damned CD anymore.

There were a whole lot of reminders of that final fact, courtesy of the two guys who have been at it uninterrupted since 1979, Angelo "Dr. Madd Vibe" Moore and bassist John Norwood Fisher. With no hesitation hawkimg a new EP, Crazy Glue, any time the band wasn't blasting and smashing through a song from the Fishbone back catalog. "Buy it and a T-shirt and you'll be so glad you did," Moore assured us before delivering a snake-oil salesman's smile.

Now 46, Moore is still in the physical shape to stir up a performance

with acrobatic kicks and wild facial gymnastics. He spent the early

portion of the evening in a striped blue jacket perhaps once owned by a pimp built like

Wilt Chamberlain and rotated through a wealth of ever-larger saxophones and teasing voodoo sounds out of his theremin

when he wasn't vamping on the mic. As the night went on, he dripped with sweat and got down to

just his suspenders, plaid shorts, and a baby-blue tux shirt that was

eventually flapping wide open.

Unfortunately, Moore and his competent band's sales pitches and long regrouping sessions between songs dampened the already low-key vibe in the spotty crowd. Moments within "Alcoholic" and "I Wish I Had a Date" almost got the

party off the ground a couple of times. The undeniably tight and funky musicianship by the seven-piece band kept getting stalled by their own setup. Ideally, a Fishbone show shouldn't be an opportunity to ponder, check messages, and take a breather. Yes, there were circle pits, but watching stage-divers hop into this semi-filled abyss was terrifying. Fortunately, no fedora-covered melons hit the floor and cracked.

Opener Downtown Brown encited a different sort of cringe. Caffeinated frontman Neil Patterson is an undeniable guitar virtuoso -- and his shredding of AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" and the Law & Order theme proved to be far above perfunctory. Yet this trio of pajama-clad miscreants were better at delivering punch lines ("Can we sleep over at your house? Seriously.") and pumping iron onstage (!) than selling their Rage-meets-Rancid-meets-Sublime material.

Annoyingly, Sublime's "Date Rape" has figured into Fishbone's sets of late. Since there's no real attempt to reinvent the song -- aside from its Ritalin pace -- the inclusion posits more like grumbling that "we were doing this long before Bradley Nowell" than any sort of tribute or expansion on the moment. Fishbone still has the mindset of "Party at Ground Zero" when they want to, but this night was more like the preparty than any sort of main event.

Critic's Notebook

Personal bias: Sunday-night shows are generally a killjoy.

The crowd: Skankin' at times, but much moreso when a member of Fishbone jumped in to lather things up. A lot of people left before the show was finished.

From the stage: Downtown Brown's Patterson, "You're not at home watching football right now. Fuck football!"

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Reed Fischer
Contact: Reed Fischer