Alex Fredkin, Arts Editor
Most college students today were only toddlers when the band Sublime was around. After the death of lead singer Bradley Nowell in 1996, the band as it was originally known ceased to exist. Yet still today, Sublime is just as popular as ever with the college crowd. For those that missed out on a chance to see the originals, tribute band Badfish steps right up to do the band justice. Badfish consists of Pat Downes (vocals/guitar), Joel Hanks (bass), Scott Begin (drums) and Dorian Duffy (keys/guitar).
The group formed in 2001 at the University of Rhode Island, and takes its name from the Sublime song “Badfish” off of the band’s 1992 debut “40oz. to Freedom.” The group has played in Oneonta before and played a great show on Friday night that surely entertained all of the Sublime faithful.
Opening up the show was special guest, Harx. The band played a great set of hard rock tunes and pumped up the crowd as more and more people were filing in to see Badfish. A surprisingly heavy rendition of Britney Spears’ “Baby One More Time” ended the opening act on a strange but effective note.
The members of Badfish are clearly loyal fans of Sublime, playing not only the group’s biggest hits but also some deep cuts as well. Some highlights were the killer “Pawn Shop” and “Garden Grove.” The mesmerizing bass line on “Pawn Shop” grooved like no other. Maybe the most reggae-dub song in Sublime’s catalog, Badfish’s rendition had everyone in attendance bobbing their heads and singing the lyrics. The similarly down-tempo “Garden Grove” had the same effect, as the band played the song perfectly, emphasizing all the dropouts of the instruments so the crowd could join in for the vocals.
The more hardcore fans of Sublime were undoubtedly pleased when Badfish played some of the group’s lesser known songs such as “Saw Red” and “Right Back.” Off of Sublime’s second record “Robbin’ the Hood” from ’94, “Saw Red” perfectly exemplifies the group’s odd mix of reggae, ska and punk. Starting with an upbeat ska guitar riff, the song switches into a charging punk explosion, with smashing drums and vocal punk yells. Badfish never faltered during the abrupt switches and replicated Sublime’s unique style to a tee.
Of course Badfish didn’t fail to play all of Sublime’s hits. The mellow summer-vibe “Doin Time,” the melancholy “Santeria,” and the one and only “What I Got” all made appearances. Interestingly, all of these songs are off Sublime’s self titled album, its third and last with vocalist Nowell.
Badfish singer and guitarist Pat Downes was definitely the star of the show. He emulated Nowell’s tricky vocal style to perfection. Equally as comfortable crooning on the mellow songs, screaming during the punk songs, and utilizing Nowell’s signature growl and rapping vocal style to perfection, Downes is as versatile on the mic as Nowell was. The singer took a few so called “beer breaks” during the show, swigging down his drink while those of age in the audience followed suit. Besides stellar playing, chatting up the crowd and genuinely being a rockstar, Downes brought Nowell’s flair back to life and made the show what it was. Badfish have the spirit of Sublime in them and proved that they are the next best thing to seeing the original group play back in the early ’90s.