I awake this morning to a sore jaw and headache. The pain focuses itself on the outer rim of my eye socket and spreads all the way down my right arm. "What happened to the right side of my body?," I wonder, confused, as I roll over and look at the clock: 1:25 p.m. It's not morning at all! My ears are ringing and suddenly the previous night's memories come flooding back. ...
|Jack's: A strip-mall bar that provided the perfect ambience for fishbone's sonic assault. (Photos by Mark Greenberg)|
It was around 9 p.m. on a Saturday night and I was flipping through the paper, looking for something to do. I was feeling kind of ambivalent and nothing sounded very interesting to me: DJ so-and-so mixing it up at such-and-such club; singer-songwriter what's-his-name opening for funk house band at the bar down the street. I was about to resign myself to a night at home when suddenly the word miraculously jumped off the page from among the endless lines of small print. I couldn't believe my eyes. Was it true? Fishbone, it read. My all-time favorite band in the world was scheduled to play that night at Jack's Patio Bar & Grill. I quickly laced up my hiking shoes (I knew I'd need some comfortable, protective foot wear), pulled back my hair, and jumped in the car heading north for Jack's.
I knew that Jack's hosted a variety of live shows, but I'd only ever sat on their patio for after-work drinks. When I pulled into the parking lot, Jack's appeared how I remembered it: a generic strip-mall bar with a patio overlooking some of San Antonio's finest SUVs and pickups. But my growing excitement at the random opportunity to experience another Fishbone show turned Jack's into my new favorite place (for that night, at least).
I paid the $15 and busted into the joint to find a flurry of Dog Men Poets fans (the popular San Antonio hip-hop/funk-rock band was finishing its set) cheering in front of the stage and the obvious, eager Fishbone fans mingling in the back. I looked around and immediately spotted Angelo Moore, an idol of mine and Fishbone's lead singer/saxophone player. He sat on a stool next to the merchandise table, sporting a bright-orange top hat, classic Angelo-style suspenders, and tall combat boots, staring intently at something on his laptop. I inched closer and began milling around with the others who also wanted to approach him.
"You know it's good luck to shake the trombone player's hand right before a show." I was startled by the deep voice floating over my shoulder and turned to see John McKnight, Fishbone's current trombonist. "This is turning out to be quite a night," I thought to myself, noting the irony in being confronted by a member of my favorite band while I patiently waited to confront a member of my favorite band. I quickly gained composure so as not to launch into the whole annoying, predictable fan speak, and instead asked the man how the tour had been going.
He informed me that I was catching their last show of a three-month tour and that they were all drinking that night. As he left me to set up on stage, I surveyed the place and galloped off to the bar to grab my own drink.
Inside Jack's were two rooms, both graced by the presence of the large wrap-around bar. The main room was non-descript, but the performance room seemed the perfect venue for a Fishbone show: small enough for the kind of inter-crowd mingling that Fishbone is known for and large enough to handle the mosh-pit that I foresaw. Off to the side, a tub of overpriced beer was set up for convenience. But I had my heart set on whiskey and Coke because I knew the bite of whiskey with a little caffeine would be the best medicine for a Fishbone experience. It was the first in a series of drinks and I wish I'd discovered sooner that the $4 drink I bought from the side-bar facing the stage was only $3 in the main room.
Within minutes, Angelo took the stage and launched into a short series of spoken-word vignettes. The audience roared and screamed, drawn to him like moths to a light bulb. I hadn't been to a Fishbone show in a few years, and I noticed that the lines on Angelo's face had deepened, but overall he was the same handsome, animated frontman I had frequently seen. As he spat a diatribe on the conformity of the "desirables" versus the free-spiritedness of the "un-desirables," his eyes bulged, his veins danced and soon he peeled off his shirt and let his baggy pants hang from his finely sculpted, tattooed body.
Before long, every member of Fishbone joined him on stage, and the audience was blasted with the heavy brass intro to "Everyday Sunshine," one of my favorite Fishbone songs. From that moment on, I was leaping in and out of the growing mosh-pit, stopping only to refill my whiskey glass in time to take crowd toasts with the band. As usual, Fishbone covered the spectrum with songs from all of their albums, switching effortlessly from the slower, funkier tunes to the faster ska tunes of long ago.
| Jack's Patio Bar & Grill |
2950 Thousand Oaks
At this point, the entire audience became a collective of hopped-up happy clowns as we melted info a frenzy of elbows and knees.
I had become a part of the music, a wave rising and falling with Angelo's ear-splitting saxophone solos, bouncing off shoulders and sweaty dreadlocks. And then it hit me: An elbow to the eye sent me exiting the mosh-pit wounded and confused. And blind. I reached my fingers to my face to assess the damage and discovered that my glasses were gone. But there was no blood, and relatively little pain (until the next morning), thanks to the whiskey.
The rest of the show was (literally) a blur to me and ended when the bar closed. I staggered, hands outstretched, for the door.
Now, I rotate my jaw slowly, rub my temples. I look down at the brown burn on my wrist where someone's cigarette made acquantance with my flailing arm the night before. I roll over, sink into my pillow, and smile. Yes, all the pain was worth the joy of the Fishbone show at Jack's. •