On April 13, 2001, Badfish, a Tribute to Sublime, played its first concert in Matunuck, R.I., to 500 fans. Celebrating the music of a band whose run ended far too soon, after the tragic death of lead singer Bradley Nowell in 1996, Badfish has since broken attendance records up and down the East Coast. After 13 years, the band is still going strong, and will return to State College for a show at Levels Nightclub April 15.
The band’s members include Joel Hanks on bass, Scott Begin on drums, Pat Downes on vocals and guitar, and Dorian Duffy on keyboards and guitar.
Originally formed in 2001 at the University of Rhode Island, the band’s members, who were computer science majors, began playing local clubs and soon began selling out shows.
As they toured the East Coast and Midwest, the group became popular on college campuses among Sublime fans who were never able to see the band perform. Since then, Badfish has toured nationally every year, and in 2008 received a nomination for best tribute act in the Boston Music Awards.
“Our first performance went incredibly well, and we decided to keep it going as a band,” Begin said.
Though Badfish has gained a significant following across the U.S., Begin and his bandmates do not take credit for the group’s success.
“As we’re a tribute band, the sound isn’t really our own,” he said. “The credit goes to Sublime and Nowell for ingeniously fusing the styles of reggae, rock, ska, punk and hip hop. We just do our very best to do justice to the awesome music that Sublime created.”
When not performing the songs of Sublime, Badfish members also contribute their efforts to their very own band, Scotty Don’t. Playing their own music is gratifying in its own way but also a challenge when trying to balance out their time between both bands.
“We’re currently taking some time off from Scotty Don’t, but we’re playing a few shows here and there,” Begin said. “It’s a challenge to create music as a band and it’s especially challenging when we’re already used to playing all these great Sublime songs that people know and love. At some point, we hope to get the creative juices flowing again and continue to write some new material.”
Over the past decade, Badfish has become one of the biggest club and theater acts in the Northeast and Midwest and has consistently sold out shows at some of the most prominent venues throughout the country.
Although the band would love to have success with their own material, for Begin it’s enough to just bring a smile to someone’s face or turn their bad day around by playing music that they love.
“It would be wonderful to have some success with our own material, so we can continue playing music for many years to come,” he said. “But we’re lucky enough that people want to come out to see us play Sublime’s music.”