Manic Levity

Angelo Moore needs a condom. Hell, he needs to double-bag it. After 30 years of explosive, orgasmic shows you’d think that the lead singer for Fishbone would be ready for a cigarette and a nap, but it seems as though nothing is going to stop him.

Fishbone began their menage a trois in 1979 while most of the members were still in junior high. They hit the LA punk/ska scene hard, their funky arrangements, biting sense of humor and militant politics immediately building them a cult following, sustained by an exhausting, sustained tour schedule. While they never attained the popularity of other black rock bands of their era like Bad Brains or Living Colour, Fishbone managed to break into the scene enough that they can still pack smaller clubs and tour regularly 30 years later.

Go see Fishbone and you can understand why they can continue to sell out shows. My first introduction to them was at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, a small club with a big reputation and a great vibe. Angelo Moore sauntered out in a brown suit five sizes too big for him held up by suspenders, a Spongebob tie and a bowler, looking like a demented life-sized cartoon character. In the hour and a half that followed Moore exposed himself multiple times, ripped a few mean sax solos, played the theremin like a virtuoso and converted every single person in the crowd. Their show feels like an extended tantric orgasm, a pounding, pulsing, earth-shaking experience. Throughout it all there’s this great sense of humor in his lyrics and his delivery.

You got the prestige status
You’ve got the majority mass
Plus you’ve got a blender by General Motors
And a Tonka Toy Dump Truck up your ass

It’s this levity that makes a Fishbone show so entertaining. His manic energy is both mesmerizing and horrifying, because as good as it feels to see that kind of reckless abandon and to laugh at the jokes he tells, you can tell from his expression that this isn’t just a good time for him. There’s desperation in his eyes, like this isn’t just a show, it’s who he is, and it’s not as simple as it looks.

Give a listen to “Party at Ground Zero” off their first album. It’s an uptempo funky dance party, with a full horn section and a back beat that physically picks ups your ass and shakes it. Under this bouncy, exciting exterior is an song about the consequences of war.

Johnny, Ivan, Ian, everybody come along for our nations need new heroes
Time to sing a new war song

Party at ground zero
A “B” movie starring you
And the world will turn to flowing
Pink vapor stew

It’s easy to mistake Moore’s sense of humor for childishness, but with lyrics like these it seems obvious that the humor is the only thing that makes optimism possible. With all of the injustice in the world, humor is the only thing that keeps it in perspective. What he’s saying isn’t the part that’s funny, it’s the world around him that’s so confusing and backward that it’s ridiculous.

LORENZO WOLFF is a musician living in New York. He can be reached at:


LORENZO WOLFF is a musician living in New York. He can be reached at: