Badfish offers energetic ska punk concert

Sublime’s ska punk popularity continues long after the death of the group’s lead singer, Brad Nowell, inspiring the creation of Badfish. On Sept. 21, a small crowd of all ages gathered to welcome the band to Mr. Small’s Theatre & Funhouse. And “small crowd” really means small crowd — maybe 15 people deep in a venue that could have easily accommodated three times that number of fans. The energy the crowd gave off, however, enhanced the atmosphere tenfold.

Badfish had three opening acts: Tropidelic, Full Service, and Scotty Don’t. Tropidelic’s loud guitar and faux rap vocals did little to rouse the crowd at the start of the 8:30 p.m. show. The self-described reggae rock all-stars were high in energy, but because no one could hear a word of what they said, and because their guitar screamed without any distinguishable riffs, much of the crowd remained in the bar area, waiting for the headliners to take the stage.

The next opener, Full Service, successfully set the stage for an audience-involved concert. Similar in appearance to an ’80s hair band, Full Service could easily become as popular as Sublime in the near future. The group’s members came on stage with a giant surfboard while throwing kazoos and copies of their CDs into the audience. Who knew kazoos were all that an audience needed to get amped up? It was this quirky, laid back, and friendly attitude that attracted the attention of the audience.

Their songs mixed a head-banging hard rock with harmonizing vocals in songs like “Hi-Ho” (which, like the title suggests, has a similar rhythm to the catchy Seven Dwarves chant), “Rocketships” (where high pitched harmonies provide an extraterrestrial feel), and “Boons with Boards.” Ten minutes into their set, Bonesaw, the group’s guitarist and vocalist, tore off his shirt. Fellow band members Hoag, Twink, and Smell followed suit shortly after. Perhaps it was simply the lack of clothing or the beaded dreads and shoeless feet, but Full Service’s music was the perfect lead-in to Badfish.

Badfish, whose name is inspired by a song of the same name from Sublime’s 1992 debut album 40 oz. to Freedom, was nominated by the Boston Music Awards in 2008 for Best Tribute Band. This is for good reason — Pat Downes, the lead singer, embodies the reggae, hip-hop, and California feel that heavily influenced Sublime. His voice has the same lazy, relaxed resonance as Nowell’s, yet Downes manages to add strength to his voice that had the audience screaming the lyrics along with him. Sublime’s popular hits — “Santeria,” “Doin’ Time,” and the group track “Badfish” — not only remained popular among the small but animated crowd, but led into high-energy moshing among adults and teens alike.

The Badfish concert was an eerie experience, as the sound and atmosphere was that of a Sublime concert with a little something different, as Downes’ lead vocals brought ska punk back into popularity. It’s difficult to accurately emulate the “sublime” experience delivered by the ’90s band of the same name. Badfish, however, were able to not only pay a tribute to the band, but to stand strong by themselves as artists as well.