LIVE: Fishbone @ the Hollow Bar + Kitchen, 9/16/15
Review by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Watching Fishbone tear through their trademark, sweat-soaked amalgam of ska-punk-funk-rock for two hours at the Hollow Bar + Kitchen in Albany last month, it was difficult – if not downright impossible – to believe that the core of this band has been together for more than 35 years. They seemed utterly, Dorian Gray-like ageless, their bouncing-off-the-ceiling energy intact, even on the Hollow’s relatively small stage.
Of course, ultimately they couldn’t be confined by the stage, and halfway through their show as they launched into “Ma and Pa,” trombonist Jay Armant launched himself into the crowd and was carried along by the fans’ upstretched arms. The crowd-surfing had begun, and throughout the remainder of the show, audience members frequently jumped up onstage and then off, carried aloft as they traversed the club over the heads of the audience. Yeah, this was a party – from the Chuck Berry-goes-ska of “Ugly” to the shifting time signatures of crowd favorite “Alcoholic” to bassist John Norwood Fisher’s thunder-thump through the vintage Curtis Mayfield classic, “Freddie’s Dead.”
Frontman Angelo Moore sounded as good as he looked – and he looked mighty dapper, indeed, whether he was manning the mic, howling up some unholy saxophone riffs or spiking “Give It Up” with an eerie theremin solo. While he often delivered spitfire raps, he also sang masterfully on gems like “Everyday Sunshine” (which shifted gears from Sly Stone-like funk to an old-school gospel call-and-response rave-up) and the new “Unstuck” (riding a decidedly jazz-based swing groove as the first of a half-hour set of encores).
Fishbone wasn’t resting on their past glories, either, and new songs like hoedown-gone-Dixieland “Whipper Snapper” held up just fine alongside old favorites like the galloping “Sunless Saturday” and the cautionary “Pray to the Junkiemaker.”
The high-octane Detroit quartet Downtown Brown proved to be a perfect opening act for Fishbone. They were musically locked in telepathic sync, while also being outrageous and hilarious. They leaned more toward the Zappa-esque end of the spectrum than Fishbone, but guitarist-vocalist Neil P. charmed the pants off the crowd by their 45-minute set with a disco-funk-freakout cover of Lorenzo Lamas’ theme from his 1984 break-dancing film, “Body Rock,” followed by a metal-prog-rock-hip-hop song about “white girls who go tanning.” Original tunes like “Live Today (TWT)” melded well with offbeat covers that included a reverb-soaked rendition of David Bowie’s “Within You,” culled from the soundtrack of “Labyrinth.” Utterly unpredictable…