By DJ Dave Hoffenberg
Badfish: A Tribute to Sublime is finally bringing their show to Rutland, after it got canceled last time for bad weather. Badfish is kicking off the Friday Night Live Concert Series on Center Street this Friday 7 p.m.
Badfish has been around for 21 years, currently in their 22nd year. I remember when I first brought them to Killington in 2003 at the Wobbly Barn. Things have changed a bit since but the band is still rocking along. I had the pleasure of talking to bassist Joel Hanks. Hanks said of their long run, “The band is just totally kickass.”
Joining Hanks are Pat Downes on guitar/vocals and Scott Begin on drums. You can find the band and access their social media at badfish.com.
“The interesting thing about Sublime is it hits a lot of different audiences, with the reggae, the ska, the punk and the hip-hop,” said Hanks.“One of the cool things is even if people don’t know us or who Sublime is, the music is still very enjoyable.”
Hanks said coming out of Covid, the band is still touring strong. “Summertime is better in general and we do a lot of outdoor places and events.”
People love being outside so ticket sales and attendance are often better in the summer. Hanks added, “New England was much worse, overall during Covid, for the concert business. It’s good to see it bouncing back.”
They chose not to stream during Covid because as Hanks said, “This is a live show, it’s a party.” They were one of the first to tour during Covid, a year and a half ago, in Texas and Florida.
The band does a big winter tour every year that’s focused on the Midwest and the East Coast but also gets out to California once or twice a year, where they currently are now. The band does well in Southern California where Sublime originated.
The idea for Badfish was hatched after Hanks was in a touring punk/ska band that was breaking up. Hanks, his brother and the first lead singer, Dave Ladin, came up with the idea in 1998 when Hanks was just starting college at University of Rhode Island.
Hanks said, “We thought we should just play some Sublime songs, everyone around that time loved Sublime.” They bought a Sublime book that showed how to play the songs. It was a helpful guide for them. Hanks said, “We had a few rehearsals and thought it wasn’t that good. I didn’t want to miss out on college, parties and girlfriends to be in a band traveling around. I just did that.”
Hanks’ brother and Ladin started a punk rock band, M-80, and they started touring around. Fast forward three years. He said, “That band was in the same position as my other band. Do they take it seriously, quit some jobs and go for it, or quit?” The latter happened while Hanks met Begin, whose band was also breaking up and he pitched the Sublime idea. He agreed to try it and that’s how Badfish came to be.
Hanks remembered the weeks leading up to their first show, rehearsing every day. That was at the Ocean Mist in Rhode Island. Hanks said of that first show, “It went really well, couple hundred people. It was better than anything we’d ever done in any of our other bands.”
It wasn’t easy. They were still in college, learning the business and learning how to get gigs. It took some time.
Hanks added, “The one thing we did that no one is going to do again, or very few, is really get out there and tour. Establish fans and blend your market and business throughout the whole country. We really put in the work. We were young, we were at the right time. We didn’t care if we made money or not, we were going to do that two week tour. There’s been an explosion of tribute bands and we’re part of the reason that happened. Who’s going to do what we did? Timing in life is a big part of things.”
One disadvantage to being a Sublime tribute band is there is only so much material but fortunately a lot of hits. Hanks said, “One thing we do as we travel the country is to try and give people a slightly different show, not just repeating the same show every year.”
Hanks is the band’s booking agent but also books a wide variety of Tribute Bands with the Providence Music Group which you can find at providencemusicgrp.com. He recently opened a Chess School, in Rhode Island, and is currently running a summer program for kids but does after-school programs throughout the year. He said, “It’s always something I envisioned myself doing.”
He started it during Covid when he wasn’t doing anything. He added, “Covid gave me the opportunity to get something going.”
Hanks is looking forward to coming back to Vermont. Burlington was the first market they played outside of R.I. He said, “There’s a long history of us going to Vt. It’s really awesome.”
After over two decades, they’ve had an impressive run. And Hanks still loves playing with Badfish.
He said, “These bandmates are my brothers. It’s hard being in a band but for us it’s been pretty easy. We still have fun playing the music even though it’s basically the same songs and we’ve been doing it for 21 years now but people have a blast and have so much fun. That’s the main reason we keep doing it. There’s so much shit in the world right now that I hope music will help heal the country, in some capacity. Make people forget about their life for an hour or so, they can just disconnect. We feel very fortunate to have a career with this. We’re proud of what we built but know we were a little lucky. Right place, right time, right people. It’s been a fun ride.”