Distant Family Reunion: When Fishbone Played Lincoln by John M. Ellison IV
On Friday 11, 2011 (or 11/11/11) Fishbone played the historical Lincoln Theater. In some ways, this wasn’t just a concert; this was like an extended family reunion.
On November 3rd, 2011 I checked my Facebook page and saw that I was tagged in a message from a fairly new member of the Afropunk site named CaliforniaAfrican. With that, I was made aware of a screening of the Fishbone documentary “Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone.” I was tagged in along with some O.G. Afropunk comrades. One of them includes a longtime friend of mine that we’ll refer to as Nadira. Nadira is somebody I’ve corresponded with since 2004 and actually it was a surprise because she lived in the area. But due to circumstances on my end, it wasn’t like we could just meet up at any time. But we did meet back in ‘05 and again back in ‘06 in New York at CBGB’s. Needless to say, she’s somebody that I’ve always kept tabs on and is a very dear friend of mine. W.M. helped me realize that even though this was a free event I needed tickets for entry. They gave out two tickets per person for free…Kind of like WCW (World Championship Wrestling) did back in the day. Needless to say, I bolted over to the Lincoln Theater like the Bad Brains song…you know “With the Quickness.”
Although a dreary drizzly day, my mom, sister, my sister’s godson that I call “lil’ dude” and I zipped over to the Lincoln Theater. Mom and sis helped out by picking up some tickets. Since I had extra tickets I thought that it would be cool to invite my other friends. Since most of my other friends are female than male (kind of a 3/2 ratio) I would’ve looked like I had an all girl kung fu army. I said “Babe! Get me a kufi and a loud African print shirt! Dolemite’s back!” The missus and I decided that we wanted to get to know D.C. better and hang around people more akin to our interests. Even though the missus and Nadira knew of each other very well, they hadn’t met each other yet. Originally we were to meet at Ben’s Chili Bowl. Because…well it’s a D.C. institution. Not to eat though, because the food’s kind of greasy. The missus and I walked up and saw Nadira, it was a quick introduction between the two. The missus was a little nervous at first but after some quick banter over the difficulty to cross the street we warmed up to each other. Afterwards, we shuffled into the Lincoln Theater with our tickets in hand. Since I wanted to talk to both of them and I’m used to sitting in the middle of my mom and sister I was next to both of them. The audience was a cross section of young fans who were here to witness the legend that is Fishbone, to the neo-soul crowd who appreciates the eclectic nature of the band and middle age fans who were probably there when Fishbone first appeared at Lollapalooza.
After every one settled in around 7:05 the program started. The curator for Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture was hosting it. After a quick rap to the audience, she mentioned that some project is going to start December 2012. I leaned over to the right and said to the missus “To really fuck with their heads, they should make the start date December 22nd 2012.” She laughed. I told the same joke to Nadira and the same reaction. The movie started…we cheered and some dude in the back kept yelling “Fishbone!” The movie itself was very bittersweet. It was reminiscent of The Wrestler (starring Mickey Rourke) and music documentary “Electric Purgatory: Fate of the Black Rocker.”
If you know the Fishbone story, then you know how in 1979 they were assembled by brothers John Norwood Fisher and Phillip “Fish” Fisher on bass and drums respectively and how everyone met and how the band formed. Honestly, they kind of reminded me and others of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. They also touch on why Kendall Jones (their original guitar player) left the band. Unfortunately, his story isn’t uncommon. It also covered the struggles of the band and how to market them, with a combination of amusing moments to heart wrenching scenes how they inspired a ton of other bands and just an all around token to perseverance and never giving up. After the movie was over, it was a brief Q&A with Directors Chris Metzler and Lev Anderson, Angelo Moore and John Norwood Fisher. The band mentioned how it was an honor to be in D.C. and cited Bad Brains as an inspiration to the band and John Norwood Fisher’s first bass guitar is now in the Smithsonian.
Then a brief intermission, I saw another Afropunk OG, W.M. Dekooning walking to the back and he noticed us. Dekooning and I met a few times but usually talk online. He was there with his girlfriend. We talked. After intermission was over, the concert started…
A strong set of hits and new material that included “Everyday Sunshine”, “Bonin’ in the Boneyard”, “Party at Ground Zero”, “Lemon Meringue”, “Sunless Saturday”, “DUI Friday”, a Go-Go influenced version of “Cholly” and many more. Angelo Moore is an energetic front man with Stevie Wonder influenced vocals that’s reminiscent of a punk rock Sonny Rollins if he was drawn by Tex Avery brought to life. Rocky George of Suicidal Tendencies fame is the current guitar player and brings that punk/metal edge that he had in Suicidal Tendencies to the current Fishbone lineup. George was rocking an Ibanez guitar and a gigantic afro. Aside from playing metal-influenced solos he can play great clean funky guitar as well. John Steward was fantastic on drums; Jay Armant and Dre Gipson provided great brass work as well. Overall, the closest thing to describe their live act is “P-Funk All Stars on speed.”
Some of the most notable moments during the show included an overzealous middle aged fan jumping up onstage and sang with Angelo for half a bar and stage dived off.
The encore included a surprise performance with H.R. of Bad Brains and the band doing “Jah Calling Dub.” H.R. is a lot more subdued now than he was 30 years ago…because it’s 30 years later. I actually ended up behind H.R.’s old bodyguard. I overheard him having a conversation with another fan. He said “Y’know, I’ve known him for 30 years and I still don’t know what he’s saying *laughs*.” The band also went into an “Institutionalized” vamp as Angelo Moore stage dived again.
After the show was over Nadira, the missus and I chilled in the lobby we talked, caught up and Nadira learned the purpose of wearing sensible shoes. I ran into W.M. again he mentioned that I lost some weight…which was the second time I heard this from another AP’er by the name Polari. Apparently, I was fatter than I thought I was the last time they saw me. In fact just recently Ron White sent me “peaches and a light salad.” We also noticed a lot of Rastafarians there. Nadira and the missus noted that they both smelled incense. I off the cuff replied “…yeah and some other smell that I can’t figure out…anybody hungry all of the sudden?”
I walked over to the merchandise table and spoke with John Norwood Fisher. I told him “Dude, the legends are true. You guys are the best live band I’ve seen.” He was gracious but he’s probably heard that fact a billion times. I mentioned that his band, Bad Brains, 24-7 Spyz and Living Colour are all a huge inspiration to my music. Technically, Fishbone was the first band I got into thanks to the movie “Back to the Beach” and “The Mask” soundtrack. I said “Hey, I’m talking to some peeps but I’ll be right back to pick up a CD.” Five or ten minutes later after talking more with Nadira and the missus, I bought a CD and Fisher signed it. I gave him my card and mentioned that I want to do an interview for my site. By this time he seemed more impressed. I said “I was serious *laughs* you guys paved the way for the kind of music that I do!” I got a picture with him.
Then I noticed Angelo Moore sitting next to him wearing a poncho and signing an autograph. I asked him “Two questions: Are you a fan of Frank Zappa?” He replied “Yes” “Okay 2nd question, ‘is that a real poncho or is that a Sears’s poncho?’ He replied with a smile “I got it in Cancun!” I got some contact information on Angelo Moore. I regret not getting a picture with him though.
We headed back out, my mom and sis picked us up due to public transportation being shut down. We shared some laughs on the way to drop Nadira off back at home. Mom, sis, the missus and I went to McDonald’s and went back home settled in. That was truly a perfect ending for a great night.
In closing, if you’re a musician and you feel like you’re in a rut and get a chance to see Fishbone with some longtime friends of yours…take it. You more than likely wouldn’t regret it.
Off of the Peaceful Journey album released in 1991, “Don’t Curse” by Heavy D & the Boyz is an all star cipher track that features influential rappers such as Kool G. Rap, Grand Puba, C.L. Smooth, Big Daddy Kane, Pete Rock and Q-Tip in a clever concept that plays with using foul language but in actuality doesn’t.
In the early 90’s, the climate for rap was a fairly tense one because of over sensitive parent groups, vote grubbing politicians looking for red herrings and an ignorant to hip-hop culture public who weren’t familiar with rap as a whole felt that the genre was trash and foul because of the content of certain artists. With that being said a song such as “Don’t Curse” proves that foul language wasn’t a necessity to get your point across lyrically.
Produced by Pete Rock, this is a track with a 12-bar song structure and contains sample of “Hip Hug-Her” by Booker T & the M.G.’s. Interesting enough, the 12 bar song structure is often found in blues and considered an anomaly in rap. To those who are more accustomed to the common structure of 16 bar verse and 8 bar chorus this might be strange to you. With 12 bars each from Heavy D, Kool G Rap, Grand Puba, C.L. Smooth, Big Daddy Kane, Pete Rock and Q-Tip, they say more than most rappers who have 16 bars out now.
Most of the current rappers who are worth their salt can easily trace back their lineage to any of the MC’s on this track. To compare and hint who had the best verse on here would be futile and aside from the point. The track has proven itself and this should be a mandatory for young rappers to study and improve upon the blueprint.
In closing, young rappers don’t take the trails blazed for granted and keep the legacy of all the fallen rappers that came before you alive in your music.
When it comes down to it, every super villain is a bitter superhero. Whether it’s Dr. Doom’s animosity stemming from being scarred after a chemical miscalculation, Magneto seeing the bigotry and hatred of humans against mutants or…well, nobody knows what happened to the Joker. In this case, you have the super villain of ghetto metal, Sutter Kain. From the violent ranting of “Black Nazi”, “Cannibal Ferox” and “Slaughterhouse”, you can say that Kain’s powers include intense production and strong lyrics. In this case, “Where I Belong” highlights the more wounded side of Sutter Kain and making for an interesting story arc.
As with the previous song L.O.V.E. (Life’s Obsessive Violent Emotions) and “Loser 1-9″, “Where I Belong” has Sutter Kain explaining how he copes by immersing himself into his career to numb the pain and to avoid lamenting. Donnie Darko’s verse plays on a similar theme as Kain’s verse but in Darko’s case he uses gangsta analogies to cover up the rejection he’s experienced.
Although at first listen, the verses are a contrast to each other. But after repeated listens, both share a common thread of inner turmoil. The gruffer vocals of Sutter Kain are a counterbalance to the agitated tone of Donnie Darko. Kind of like a distant cousin of the screaming/clean vocal of post-hardcore. That shouldn’t be a surprise because “ghetto metal” is rooted in post-hardcore and metalcore. Production wise, DJ Bless’s use of “Untitled” by “Eyes Set to Kill” sets the mood for “Where I Belong.” DJ Bless’s heavy drums and signature shuffle coupled with the dulcet acoustic guitar and female vocal complement each other.
In closing, “Where I Belong” is a development that documents Sutter Kain’s evolution from super villain to lovelorn anti-hero.
Whenever you get something from Daniel Jordan, as cliché as this might sound always expect the unexpected. Esham protégé Daniel Jordan’s new album “The Stranger” is a concept album that paints a portrait of the struggles of dealing with past unresolved issues, suicidal thoughts, depression. Even though a very personal album, a lot people can relate to the emotion behind it. Sound-wise, the album has elements of punk, jazz, blues. It also contains movie samples and G.G. Allin vocal samples. Seriously, how many rappers do you know that sample or at least even heard of G.G. Allin? Except for Cee-Lo, he posted a reference to Allin on his Twitter page.
Although a very good album, I’m going to focus on the tracks that really stood out to me. I wouldn’t mind doing a detailed interview about this album with Daniel Jordan.
The Illuminati Wants me Dead
At first glance at the song title you would expect that it’s a paranoid rant about hip-hop’s new obsession…secret societies! Where it’s not really about the secret society per se, it’s more about breaking through delusions and facing reality. It also features production by Esham.
I Hate Drug Dealers
This track features Jordan’s punk side. You have Daniel Jordan rapping over a punk rock influenced track about the perils of prescription drugs.
An electro bass, Middle Eastern tinged track that’s accompanied by a collage of film samples that imitates racing thoughts. The lyrics paint the picture of him as an assassin killing his family.
The theme of Isolation plays throughout the song, even though it’s more related to the music industry mantra “its called show business not show friends.” It’s also kind of a warning to artists to not get caught up in music industry politics.
Pride is Stronger than Love
A song that’s subject matter is about dealing with a crazy girlfriend and the struggles that come along with it…complimented with a sample of a sermon from Bishop T.D. Jakes. Seriously, where else can you find an album with vocal samples from Bishop T.D. Jakes and G.G. Allin?
In closing, if you’re into albums that play more like a movie then “The Stranger” would be considered an indie classic. Keep an eye out November 1st 2011 for “The Stranger”
Check it out on
On January 1st 2011 Hank Williams III was released Curb Records. His time on Curb was a frustrating one and closer to a prison sentence than a record deal. After his release, he started his own label called “Hank3 Records.” On September 6th, 2011 Hank Williams III released four albums. One being a traditional double country album with a zydeco/Cajun disc, one in a genre he calls cattlecore and a doom metal album. In this case, I’m going to focus on his two disc country album Ghost of a Ghost/Guttertown.
Riding the Wave
This is a banjo, fiddle, guitar and accordion driven song with lyrics that paint a picture of a crew of rowdy outcasts.
Don’t Ya Wanna
There’s not really a way to sugar coat it, it’s pretty much a song about trying to get laid. The language of “Don’t Ya Wanna” might be offensive to more traditional country fans who abhor swearing but it shouldn’t offend anyone that has a copy of the “18 X-Rated Hits” album by David Allan Coe.
The Devil’s Movin’ In
It isn’t a country album without at least one heartfelt, melancholy tune about a lost love.
Cunt of a Bitch
This is a hard driving outlaw tale that involves stolen cocaine that would probably offend more prudish listeners. If Hank III was a rapper, he’d be considered gangsta.
Ghost to a Ghost
With an all star cast of Tom Waits, Les Claypool, Alan King, Dave Sherman and Troy Medlin. “Ghost to a Ghost” is a song that shifts from traditional tango to a double kick hard driving tango from Hell. Aside from what I could call “demonic tango”, the dual gravel vocals from Dave Sherman of metal bands such as Wretched and Earthride to Tom Waits really caught my interest. If you ever wondered what Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead would sound like if he did Tango…this could be the closest example.
This is the second disc that’s rooted more in zydeco. Hank Williams III is singing in a Cajun patois as homage to the people of Louisiana and Cajun music.
A Cajun duet with Hank Williams III and Tom Waits that will make you pine for New Orleans…even if you’ve never been.
With the Ship
A sparse almost a capella number with Hank Williams III and Les Claypool that kind of sounds like a barbarian war song.
In closing, if you’re a fan of pop driven southern minivan music style of modern country, you would enjoy hate this. But, if you’re looking to get more into outlaw and more traditional country, this should be of interest to you.
I got this album by rapper Creature a few weeks ago. The album is named after crime novelist “Chester Himes.” Since I haven’t read anything by Himes, I’m not exactly sure of the correlation.
Not to label Creature’s style, but I would describe it as abstract rap. If you’re confused by the term or concept of abstract rap, think Kool Keith, MF Doom or now Shabazz Palaces. Could you imagine all of them on tour together? That would be awesome.
Here are the tracks that really caught my attention.
Embrace the Day
This is more or less freeform rhyming around the concept of taking chances and well…embracing the day.
Frying in the Sun
The concept to me is kind of vague, but from what I picked up it’s a freeform rhymes relaying around the theme of contradiction. The beginning is reminiscent of Devo’s cover of the Rolling Stones “Satisfaction” with an electronic 8-bit-ish production.
Afraid to Fly
This features Creature’s ability to speed rap over an electronic beat that sounds like an acid trip with old school Atari blips and beeps during the hallucination.
In closing, “Chester Himes” is an EP that’s ahead of its time and if you’re interested in something outside of the traditional rap mainstays, this could be of interest to you.
From the rapper who brought you “Slaughterhouse”, “Cannibal Ferox” and “Kain Made Me Do It” I bring to you “Sutter Kain L.O.V.E. (Life Obsessive Violent Emotions).” Instead of the expected blood splattered nightmares of previous titles, Sutter Kain shows an emotional yet still infuriated side over being heartbroken. Instead of the usual sampling of the endless array of “suffix-core” subgenres he samples “I Remember” by singer/songwriter Damien Rice.
Kain’s usage of Rice’s “I Remember” sets the tone for a heart-felt break up letter over what some would consider an unlikely sample. But, judging from his past productions an unorthodox sample should be expected. “L.O.V.E. (Life’s Obsessive Violent Emotions) compliments the meaning of the Damien Rice. What I’m fascinated by is how he pasted a song that has a 3/4 waltz beat over a 4/4 beat.
On 10/9/2011, I got a link from fellow writer/wrestling fan Darryl Jackson that was a video of a guy with an acoustic guitar and a loop machine. Since Darryl and I have similar if not identical taste in music, I trusted his judgment. I’m glad that I did too. When I first saw the name Berhoft and he was from Norway, I thought “Bernhoft? Did Darryl send me a video of some dude about to sing acoustic black metal or something?” Well, instead of doing music about the blackest part of your soul, he just has “soul.” Jarle Bernhoft is a Norwegian singer/songwriter whose use of acoustic guitar and smooth vocal is a surprise to say the least.
To others that know music, it probably shouldn’t be that big of a surprise. Europe actually has a history of appreciation and love of R&B, blues and soul music. Don’t believe me? Look up the Northern Soul sound of the U.K.
Honestly, Bernhoft’s setup isn’t exactly innovative to me, I remember seeing comedian Kyle Dunnigan use a loop machine but in Dunnigan’s case, it was more in the vein of a novelty though. Also, to say that K.T. Tunstall’s use of a loop machine on “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” was notable would be an understatement. But, it’s not always the tools; it’s the ability of the artist. In this case, Bernhoft definitely has that.
Konichiwa folks! As I was checking out my timeline on Twitter I got a link from wrestler/friend to the site, MVP to a funk band out of Japan! Yes, I said Japan. Honestly, I’m not surprised that Japan would have a funk scene though. I remember finding a YouTube video of this group called “the Low Lows” covering Stax duo Sam and Dave’s “Soul Man” and another deep funk band called “Timos” back in ‘07.
Is there anything the Japanese can’t do? I mean whether it’s animation, wrestling or …*ahem* other forms of entertainment…they seem to surpass us! I’m not mad though. I’m excited.
Kenta Hamano (Vo & Leader),
Keita Murakami (Ba),
Akira Ohgi eon (Gr),
Makoto Nagata, T. (Ds),
Yoshihiro rear seat (Sax),
Forest Kubota (Tb),
based on Murakami (Tp)
“Scratch” is a deep bass grooved, brass heavy, scratchy guitar throwback to the 60’s Stax sound but at a faster pace that although has contemporary edge it doesn’t stray too far from its American predecessors. After repeated listens, I noticed that they kind of reminded me of No Wave band James Chance and the Contortions.
In closing, if you’re a fan of bands like The Heavy, James Chance and the Contortions and Fitz and the Tantrums, you would probably enjoy Zainichi Funk.
You ever see a video really late at night that has a song so out of your realm of possibility that you thought you dreamt it? Well, this is one of those moments. Let me explain, I can’t remember how old I was exactly but I woke up out of a deep slumber and somehow I stumbled onto MTV2. The video for “Epic” by Faith No More was on. After watching it, I fell asleep without realizing it. For two weeks, I thought I dreamt the surreal mix of rap, pseudo-neo classical guitar and Bjork’s goldfish. After watching the video for Muthawit’s “Wasted (Fill my House with Salt)” I got the exact same feeling I did then.
The video is kind reminiscent of Jamiroquai’s Virtual Insanity video…well minus the part where the whole room being moved. I admit that I’m a sucker for videos that add concert footage. Bighead Scientists directed the video, I’m not exactly sure who “Bighead Scientists” are but they did a good job.
Musically, how can I describe “Wasted (Fill My House with Salt)?” A maniacal mix of saxophone, horn hits, distorted bass, swinging drums, subtle string, flanged out guitar and this shift from jazz to blues vocals or in other words UrbAlt.
In closing, if you’re a sucker for videos that have a direct to the point concept and interweaved with live footage, you’ll enjoy the video for “Wasted (Fill My House with Salt).”