Badfish returns for ska punk party
Sublime formed in Southern California in 1988, but as its frenetic ska punk sound began to take hold at a national level in the mid-90s, front man Bradley Nowell died of a drug overdose. Thus, most fans never got to see the band perform live. For many, the closest they’ll get is Badfish – A Tribute to Sublime.
In 1999, a group of URI students decided to devote a night to Sublime’s music and scheduled a show, which sold out. They booked a few more, which did the same. By the turn of the century, Badfish had gone from a fun idea to a full-time gig.
Drummer Scott Begin recalls when it looked like Badfish might last beyond college.
“We were just students living toward graduation and not sure as to what was going to happen,” he said in a recent phone interview. “There were opportunities to do this in more than just a Northeast regional sort of way, and that was basically the point where we said, ‘We can do this, we can go all the way down the East Coast and we can make this happen in the Midwest … we can support ourselves.’”
Badfish was the only live Sublime act on offer until the original band re-formed with a new lead singer in 2009. Begin believes two touring acts — Badfish and now Sublime with Rome as well — help the Sublime legacy.
“We’ve been doing it for so long … people kind of know we’re a tribute band,” he said. “When Sublime with Rome started their thing, it was pretty clearly a reincarnation [and] they have two albums, I think, under their belts. I know they obviously play older Sublime stuff [but] I don’t think there is any confusion or much of a conflict. They are still able to keep things going and play shows, as are we.”
In fact, original Sublime drummer Bud Gaugh, originally part of the reincarnation of Sublime with Rome, once sat in with Badfish. Begin called the gig his most memorable, even though he ceded his drum kit.
“I guess, strangely, that was a show I didn’t play,” he said. “I was able to sit up in the balcony and watch the band that I play in perform. … I think I hopped on and played guitar on a song real quick, but that was it. For me, that was an absolute trip.”
Badfish grew out of bass player Joel Hanks’s ska punk band. A tribute act was an obvious choice, Begin said.
“Those years for us — high school, early college — any radio station, any party you’d go to, you would be hearing Sublime songs. It was a ubiquitous kind of band. Unfortunately, with Bradley Nowell’s passing, they weren’t performing.”
Their show sticks mainly to a catalog — five years, four releases — that yielded favorites like “What I Got,” “40 oz. to Freedom,” “Santeria,” and the much loved though lesser-known song that gave Badfish its name.
“We’ve covered other people, from NOFX to Tom Petty to Led Zeppelin to Chili Peppers … but more often than not, we’re just going through the straight Sublime set,” Begin said. “We do stretch the songs [and] jam out a little bit at times, and anything can happen at those moments.”
Local reggae band Roots of Creation will return to open the Casino Ballroom show.
“They’ve probably done a couple of the previous Hampton Beach shows and we’ve done some other shows with them,” Begin said. “I’ve kind of lost track but they are good friends of ours now, and we’ve done quite a few shows with them in the area. They put on a great show; it’s always fun playing with them.”
They enjoy the annual Fourth of July trip to New Hampshire.
“It’s definitely one of the coolest and most fun and most rocking shows we play all year long; I really look forward to it,” Begin said. “It’s a great room and the crowd is great. … You can hear the fireworks going off sometimes during our set, and as far as being a beach kind of music or whatever you want to call it, it doesn’t get much better than that.”
— Michael Witthaus
*Featured photo courtesy of Michael Witthaus.