Fishbone at PearlPalooza Review – Jorel Spain

Written by on September 19, 2023

This past Saturday, the mighty Fishbone took the stage closing out the annual PearlPalooza event to an enthusiastic crowd of festival goers. Fishbone has had a lengthy career spanning four decades, beginning as part of the third wave ska movement and early alternative rock scene in 1980’s Los Angeles. Fishbone brings a spectacular blend of Ska, Punk, Funk, Jazz, and Rock delivered with an unmatched zeal and charisma. They are well-known among fans for their legendary high-energy live shows and their performance this Saturday more than lived up to that reputation.

Fishbone performed a frenetic 12 song set highlighting classic hits and featuring multiple songs from their new self-titled EP (produced by none other than Fat Mike of NOFX). Opening with their rendition of the Billie Holiday classic “Strange Fruit” re-titled “Estranged Fruit”, the lyrics were updated to reflect today’s current political climate, themes of police brutality, racism, and the normalization of extremism. From there they broke into an absolutely epic performance of their 1991 hit “Sunless Saturday”, a funk/rock thrashing masterpiece with singer Angelo Moore delivering a glorious battle-cry that compels us to stand tall in the face of darkness and a world gone mad with the chorus “Chase these clouds away, I hate this sunless Saturday, Freedom come for us now, light the sky, burn away these clouds”. With Moore and keyboardist/Trombonist Chris Dowd taking turns performing as co-front men for the majority of the set, the chemistry among the bandmembers and with the audience was infectious.

Thematically, Fishbone’s songs are often  an eclectic mix of stories and observations about our society, the struggle against greed and oppression,  but they always manage to bring a sense of hope, levity, and fun. The songs they performed that evening ranged  in topics from institutional racism (Estranged Fruit), to dysfunctional families (Ma and Pa), substance abuse (Alcoholic), to much brighter themes such as resilience and hope for the future (Everyday Sunshine, All We Have is Now), hot sex (Bonin’ in the Boneyard), and just the pure joy of dancing (Skankin’ to The Beat). They closed out their set with probably their most well-known song “Party at round Zero”, originally released in 1985 as an ecstatic ska/punk/jazz party song referencing Cold War era fears of nuclear annihilation, but now seems as relevant and energized as ever. Fishbone themselves seem just as relevant and energized as ever. The energy and enthusiasm they inspire in their audience is a site to behold. With the success of their latest release, there could be even more new material down the road to inspire and unite us. After 35 years, Fishbone is still red-hot with no sign of burning out anytime soon.

Set list:

Estranged Fruit

Sunless Saturday

Bonin’ in The Boneyard


All We Have is Now

Everyday Sunshine

Ma and Pa



Skankin’ to The Beat

I Don’t Care

Party at Ground Zero

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