Badfish at Greene St. Club

by David McGee

One of the nicer parts about going to a tribute band is you have a pretty good idea of what’s coming. Whether the band nails the lyrics or not, you halfway know what to expect and there aren’t any nasty surprises like a love ballad in the lineup where the rasta-punk riff belongs.

Badfish, a tribute to Sublime, is a nonstop touring machine that knows how to deliver a memorable performance. As a fan of Sublime I was a bit hesitant to go to the show because of the possible letdown that could accompany so much hype or sloppy renditions of personal favorites. I guess my concerns would be comparable to going to see an Elvis impersonator perform in Vegas only to find out he’s too fat and high to get out of his dressing room.

The band was able to get out on stage in front of a couple hundred fans and play with a skill mastered after hundreds of performances. They looked totally relaxed, professionals hyped up from doing what they have accepted as a calling. Badfish displayed confidence and openness to the audience. Throwing CDs to the crowd and at one point they gave a girl birthday shout-outs and a CD just for screaming along to the song.

To make this music experience even better is that Badfish actually sounds pretty damn close to Sublime. I know the die-hard loyalists will get out their guillotine for me for saying it, but the band keeps favorites like “Badfish” (obviously) and “Smoke Two Joints” jumping out of the speakers in a great way that breaks through to whole new audiences that would otherwise be clueless about the tunes made famous by Brad all those years ago. The sounds might not be spot-on, but at least the vocalist won’t nod out during the chorus. The band stays true to the spirit of Sublime, which was to make fun, relatable and genre-crossing music.

Badfish is made up of Pat Downes on vocals and lead guitar, Joel Hanks slappin’ the bass and Scott Begin pounding out beats on the drums. They bring a good rock show with songs that never get old and an attitude that feels like it would fit into a raging house party. It’s even more satisfying to be surrounded by throngs of people who feel the same way and are just as happy singing off key obnoxiously loudly with you. And it would be unfair not to mention the strategically mumbled bits of lyrics no fan is ever quite sure about. Don’t think I didn’t notice, girl two rows up and a couple to the left, ya lost it there for a second in the middle of “40 oz. of freedom.” We’ll let it slide this time.

With Scotty Don’t, the Badfish guys playing nontributes, you get to hear some original material that is also pretty good. The new stuff was enjoyable and got the crowd warmed up and calibrated, our hearing a couple decibels louder to prevent faces from being melted into a bubbling ooze on the tiled floor. The songs come off their newest album, Songs From the Back Porch, with tracks that produce plenty of fun and have power behind them, but it didn’t feel as polished or ring the same as the covers they were nailing under the Badfish title. On the brighter side of life, impersonator Elvis’ fat jumpsuit days cast a pale embarrassment compared to what Scotty Don’t brought to the crowd. It could be the transition between sets where something changed, perhaps crowd reaction or maybe just dumb, old personal taste but I’m sticking with the covers that felt so right.

More than 10 years after Brad Newell’s death from a heroin overdose,Badfish continues Sublime’s SoCal vibe at Greene Street. (photo byDavid McGee)