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God spare us the horror! Its Fish People

If you've ever seen the Fish People, you won't even be able to read this. You'll be locked in a posttraumatic-stress flashback: all you wanted to do was catch a nice little hardcore or pop show at Koo's Art Cafe or Chain Reaction, maybe sneak a peek at some cute, besweatered indie girls or emo boys. And then it started. The screaming. The feedback. The sailor suits. And the underwear—dear God, the hideous, take-no-prisoners, things-man-was-never-meant-to-know underwear.

"My Daisy Dukes are my favorite," says singer/drummer/keyboardist/ lingerie model Brian Fish, who for two years has served as the closest thing to a front man the Fish People have. "But people don't like 'em much because I tend to . . ." He pauses, perhaps wondering if his parents will read this article. He continues, ". . . come out. My . . . you know. People refrain from coming to shows if they know I'm going to wear them. So I wear my British-flag Speedos."

But sometimes—some rare, horrible times—the Speedos disappear, taking with them whatever tattered shreds of dignity punk still possesses.

Which is fine with the Fish People, an ever-mutating shambles of flagrantly adolescent instrument abuse—assault, battery, unnatural acts with a synthesizer, you name it—characterized by such popular rant-alongs as "(Have Fun or I'll) Punch You in the Face" and the aforementioned penchant for saucy undergarments.

Is it a joke band? Depends on your definition of "joke"—and your definition of "band," for that matter. But for more than two years, the Fish People have been as persistent and unpredictable as a ragin' case of scabies, flaring up at all the local shows to embarrass themselves and/or others just for laughs.

"Friends will see us and be kinda, like, polite," Brian says. "You know, 'Oh . . . that was . . . good.' But our motto is 'We may not play well, but you won't leave disappointed.' We try to make people have fun. We'd been going to shows for so long, and everyone just sits around all serious."

And so you get Brian yelling and writhing shirtless on the floor, Speedos strained to the bursting point. You get the purportedly Siberian-born Mitya spooning out a bizarre comedy routine that's equal parts Boris Badinov and Boris Yeltsin while he plays or hits or shakes something. Maybe Zuhair Fish is playing guitar, or Danny #2 is playing bass, or keyboard, or harmonica, or anything within arm's reach of the stage. Does it matter, really? You're either right up front, chest-deep in the noise and yelling right back, or you're outside smoking, silently begging for a blackout. But they'd probably just keep playing, even if the power grid collapsed.

Structure? Cohesion? Electricity? All unnecessary; just give 'em a stage and stand back as the Fish People search and annoy. They even took their show on the road this summer even though half the band quit days before the tour started. Undaunted, Brian rounded up replacements and borrowed some saintly acquaintance's RV for transportation. Then they found out that every show they'd booked was canceled except one: Portland, Oregon. So they were off to Portland. Somewhere in the grand Pacific Northwest two or three days later, an hour outside their only surviving show, the RV broke down. Apparently, you're supposed to put something called "oil" in it occasionally. So they missed that show. The RV ended up ditched, its oilless engine fused into a steaming grimy blob, and the Fish People headed home: a 23-hour trip by Greyhound. There was $3 left in Brian's pocket after shipping their equipment back. He bought a cinnamon roll, a hash brown, and some nachos. And thus the Fish People returned to OC: broke, instrumentless, exhausted and full of junk food. "It was," says Brian, "the quintessential Fish People experience."

THE FISH PEOPLE PERFORM WITH JAY BUCHANAN, MATES OF STATE, SUGARCULT AND CHESWICK AT CHAIN REACTION, 1652 W. LINCOLN AVE., ANAHEIM, (714) 635-6067. SAT., 7:30 P.M. $7. ALL AGES.

 
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