Somebody owns just about everything but the sun and the weather maybe, and one day someone will own those too, just as Jason Westfall owns something of the sunniest music Southern California ever produced—the licensing rights to the name Sublime. For years, the Long Beach band created reggae—or maybe punk or ska—that was by turns eerie, frenetic and dreamy, compassionate and pissed off. When lead singer Brad Nowell overdosed in a San Francisco hotel in 1996, the band dissolved, leaving behind some iconic music—including the trippy "Doin' Time"—and Brad Nowell's cap.
Westfall says he and Sublime drummer Bud Gaugh found the cap—a cheap thing a fisherman would wear down on the Balboa Pier, but only if he was a poor fisherman or deeply in love with the hat—deep inside Las Vegas' Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, just past Madonna's bullet bra, in a display case.
It's surrounded by posters and guitars, and it says something of the band's influence. But only something. Westfall says the display is antiseptic. Devoid of context. Terrifying. And he says he and Gaugh worried that someone, somewhere might crank out a similarly vacuous tribute album—the cast of TheO.C.guffawing through Sublime's LA riot song "April 29th, 1992 (Miami)"? MTV queen Jessica Simpson cooing through the raunchy lyrics of "Santeria" in a pair of Daisy Dukes?
"If a tribute went through a major label," Gaugh says, "it would be sugar-coated and cellophane-wrapped. Who wants that?"
Westfall launched a pre-emptive strike, pitching the tribute album to Sublime's old gang. They approved. He put out the word to people who really loved Sublime's music—Mike Watt and fellow OC/Long Beach scenesters No Doubt, Jack Johnson, Camper Van Beethoven, punk band Avail, and the Ziggens among them—and they approved too. And he approached people who likely didn't know Brad Nowell from nothing, but whose participation would surprise listeners; sadly, Etta James passed on "Doin' Time."
The result, LookAtAlltheLoveWeFound:ATributetoSublime,is a reinterpretation of Sublime as big as Nowell's heart, as expansive as the band's musical vision. The artists were given permission to take the sound wherever they wanted, and did. Watt, Petra Haden and Jane's Addiction drummer Stephen Perkins labored on the track "Work That We Do," with Haden's violin and vocals turning a reggae-driven song into something haunting. Pennywise and Avail summon their inner hooligan for growling punk treatments of "Same in the End" and "Santeria." No Doubt submitted a fist-punching live take of "DJ's" from a 1996 concert. Greyboy Allstars take the biggest liberties with an Afro-Cuban-accented jazz reading of "Doin' Time," where the lyrics get whittled down to just one word: "Summertime!"
Gaugh says he's happy with the album and was glad it doesn't slavishly imitate Sublime: "I've heard these songs played my way too many times."
LOS LOBOS, FISHBONE, MISHKA, THE SHAPE SHIFTERS AND BARGAIN MUSIC PLAY THE RELEASE PARTY FOR LOOK AT AL THE LOVE WE FOUND, AT THE VAULT 350, 350 PINE AVE., LONG BEACH, (888) 808-2858; WWW.VAULT350.COM. MON., 7 P.M. $25. TICKETS ALSO AVAILABLE AT MARTIAN CHURCH, 406-B E. FIRST ST., LONG BEACH, (562) 901-0555; WWW.MARTIANCHURCH.COM.