Musicians spending as much time in the mid-air split as on the stage . . . a trombone flying out of the wings into the hands of a musician who throws it back off-stage . . . a stream of audience members doing back-flips off the stage . . . and at one point, a speaker tower tumbling down (luckily no one is hurt). All in a night’s work at the John Anson Ford Theatre last Friday for Fishbone, the anti-gravity sextet.
Like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fishbone--coming off Friday like post-nuclear Cab Calloways crashing into Sly Stone on Mars--is a pioneer of L.A.'s brand of frenetic frat-funk. But for all the group’s ability at laying down skanking rhythms, punk energy, loopy vocal harmonies and three-part horn workouts, the band’s songs--messy hybrids of familiar riffing, spiked with cartoonish breaks--never quite add up to a memorable musical whole.
Surprisingly, Fishbone’s weakest area is it’s attempts at funk grooves. An example is how they handle Curtis Mayfield’s “Freddy’s Dead.” The original was soulful, very cool, syncopated and slightly sinister: In Fishbone’s hands the hooks, melodies and lyrical impact become one big, loud chopped up blur, just another freaked-out overload for a generation that’s had so much it can never get enough.