Opening Bands: Zox
Date: March 15, 2005
Venue: Crowbar, State College, PA
Two bands, a six dollar show, three dollars a band, stir in a little bit of boredom on a Tuesday night along with the curiosity of seeing some band play nothing but Sublime songs and what do you get? A pretty good time is what I got.
I had never heard of either of the two bands that were playing before this show. There wasn’t much to know about Badfish except that they are a three piece, occasionally more, and that they travel around from town to town keeping the Sublime musical styling alive. I listened to some live clips from their website and they sounded really good. A lot better than I expected to hear, actually. This was one reason that I decided to attend the show. The other reason was due to the unique sound of Zox, the opening act. I did a little bit of research on Zox, and stumbled upon their website. (www.zoxband.com) I listened to some sample clips of their songs, and I can honestly say that I had never heard anything quite like them before. The closest similar sounding act, I would say, would have to be My Superhero, and that is a long shot. This is straight from Zox’s website: What happens when groove-laden reggae and frenetic rock meet a violin sonata? The answer is ZOX, a foursome from Providence, RI whose unique blend of rock, reggae, punk, and classical has begun to shake up clubs and colleges all across the United States. Yeah. That’s what I said. Little to say, I was very anxious to check out this band live. And so I was on my way.
The show was a later start than normal…a 10 PM start time. I arrived at about twenty til ten. There were only a handful of people wandering around the floor, keeping the trend going of college kids and tardiness. 9:51 and I’ll be damned. The show started early. Zox was on stage and ready to rock. Right off of the bat, they started off with a fast-paced ska song. As if on cue, people began popping out of the woodwork. It was weird to see and hear a ska song with a violin playing upstrokes, but it sounded pretty damn good. The very next song was a change of pace. For the intro to this song, there was a classical violin part that turned into a string plucking fest. The rest of the band began playing a slow reggae number with the violin sound melting into an organ-like beat soon thereafter. I was enjoying the experience and so was the rest of the crowd. There were already a few dancers in the audience, movin’ to the groovin’. Without hesitation, Zox was already on their third song, a smooth rock number that showcased the classical violin sound even more. I was reminded for some reason of Metallica S&M or symphony KISS. It was a little better than that crap though. Well a lot better than that crap. The band finally paused to introduce themselves to the crowd and received a huge pop in return. Everyone seemed to dig Zox so far. They didn’t let up much after their introduction, showcasing song after song. There were a few more reggae songs, a couple of slower rock numbers, a violin solo, and a very cool cover of the Pixies song “Where Is My Mind”. Zox ended their set with a long jam number that showcased a solo from every band member, including a lightning fast violin piece that could have been mistaken for a metal riff, and then jumped from reggae to ska to country bluegrass. Zox took a bow and left everyone in attendance frothing for more. Only being a two band show, it was already half over, but we all knew what we were in for next. Sublime, yo! Well, you know what I mean.
I have been able to catch a few of the Sublime spin-off bands in the past before such as the Long Beach Dub Allstars, Shortbus, and Pepper. None of these bands could provide me with a complete set of nothing but Sublime songs. Sure, Shortbus and the Allstars are composed of members of the Sublime crew, and Pepper really has no ties to Sublime other than a similar sound, but I wanted a couple hours of classic Sublime songs. Unfortunately, I never had the chance to catch a Sublime show. Where would I ever get the chance to see a show like this? I know that no other band on this planet would be able to put on a show like I heard that Sublime could. Well with Badfish, I felt that this was the closest that I would ever get. I’m not too fond of tribute bands, I mean come on…write your own songs already if you’re that good, but I’ll admit that I do like to hear a good cover song. If the show seemed like nothing more than a cheesy CD of cover songs in no particular order, or an out of place cover at a show that’s played by a band just for nostalgia’s sake and lacking in the energy of the original, then I would be most disappointed. The lights dimmed down and the music started to get loud. What should I expect? I crossed my fingers.
Badfish came on stage and opened up with the opening track to Sublime’s self titled album, Garden Grove. By now the place was packed and the crowd was chanting along at the top of their lungs. This was the closest that a lot of people have ever come to or would ever get to seeing Sublime. The crowd took advantage of this opportunity, making almost every song throughout the entire show a sing along. Badfish had the energy and the talent to almost make you forget that Sublime’s time had come and gone almost 10 years ago. The lead singer of Badfish had a similar vocal style and sound to that of Bradley Nowell, changing his voice from DJ to rasta to punk rocker when the need arose. The bass riffs were right on the money…deep, loud, and gut wrenching. The set list included a wide variety of Sublime tunes spanning their entire career. Get Out, Boss DJ, STP, Seed, Ebin, DJ’s, Greatest-hits, Waiting For My Ruca, 40oz To Freedom, Jailhouse, April 29, 1992, Don’t Push, Badfish, What Happened, Santeria, Caress Me Down, along with the cover songs that Sublime use to play, Scarlet Begonias, 5446/Ball and Chain, Trenchtown Rock, Rivers of Babylon, We’re Only Gonna Die For Our Arrogance, Saw Red, Hope, and Smoke Two Joints. Song after song, the place was rocking nonstop. It didn’t seem like Badfish was just a mere cover band. It was almost as if they were channeling Brad himself. If Badfish had their own stuff, I’m quite sure that they would make it somewhere. Maybe they do…I don’t know for sure. They were just too talented to limit themselves to just another band’s songs. Badfish sure as hell did put on a good show. Their set ended with Doin’ Time followed by an encore of one of Sublime’s best…Date Rape. I was surprised and excited to hear a handful of the songs that were played. Some of my favorite Sublime songs were given their due like Jailhouse, Hope, Santeria, 40oz, and Get Out. Dripping with sweat, the audience gathered their thoughts and left the show pretty much drained on this night. Everyone put a lot of energy into having a good time and it showed. Whew, what an experience!
Badfish played for a little over two hours and had a great mix of new and old Sublime hits. That, on top of the sounds of Zox entering my virgin ears, made for one of the best concert experiences I’ve had in a long time. What more could one ask for out of six bucks and a Tuesday night?