Saturday, Oct. 8

Etched in the big book of rock 'n' roll is the idea that unique and influential bands never get the recognition they deserve. And so confirms a recent documentary about the kings of the short-lived "funk-punk" genre.

For more than 25 years, Fishbone have played a unique hodgepodge of underground styles, melding punk, ska, soul and heavy-metal riffs into songs that convey a message of unity through partying. The band's appearance at the Rialto was part of the sixth annual Tucson Film and Music Festival, and it included a screening of a new documentary about the band that examines the ups and downs of another of rock's stepchildren. The performance that followed the movie proved that when the energy is present, there is nothing like Fishbone.

Founding members began dropping off in the mid-'90s, but despite Fishbone's succession of revolving players, the musicianship was flawless: The band consistently employs musicians who can pull off their complicated arrangements effortlessly. Ex-Suicidal Tendencies guitarist Rocky George has been performing guitar duties in the band for the past six years. The band broke into the signature opening of Suicidal Tendencies' "Institutionalized" during Fishbone's sing-along ska favorite "Alcoholic."

As for the founding members, it is hard to deny a claim made by the film that singer Angelo Moore is one of rock's great frontmen. Beyond his gravity-defying dance moves, Moore has achieved a gospel level of quality with his vocals. As good as the band is, most of the onstage energy radiates off of Moore. His emphatic grin rouses the crowd when the band is in full swing, but is sorely missed when he appears fussy about his saxophones or disappears altogether. Many of the band members took turns leaving the stage; this casual attitude made the performance appear unfocused at times, but accentuated the segments in which everyone was in synch.

As with many pioneers, the band boasts only a sparse and eclectic fan base, but the audience did their best to dance, make noise and raise fists for the people who did not show up. These moments bonded the band with the meager gaggle of attendees.

Standbys like "Skankin' to the Beat" and "Ma and Pa" showed the band in their best form: seemingly hovering a foot above the stage.

More by Billups Allen


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