Date: Friday, September 28th, 2012
Line up: Josh Fischel
Location: The Go Lounge. San Diego, CA
I grew up in a city with one music venue. Let that sink in for a minute. The Mayor gave Puddle of Mudd a key to this city. (same mayor later committed suicide, no word on if it was over this decision.) There are reasons why we San Diegans choose to pay three times as much for rent to occupy even this shittiest of shitholes in National City or a 200 square foot closet in OB. Beautiful climate all year around, the best surfing in the United States, girls from SDSU….we all have our reasons for loving this beautiful oasis of fun filth and portal to access to excess.
If you read The Pier, it is not news to you that Southern California has been the breeding ground for reggae rock music since Sublime made backyard jam sessions cooler than arena cock rock. Sublime, Slightly Stoopid, The Dirty Heads, LBDA, all from the beaches of the best coast and all heavily influenced every band, musician, and fan in the reggae rock scene. On any given night of the week anyone in SoCal can see artists of this genre on the stages of huge amphitheater to the dimly lit corner stages of their local pub.
Friday night, the Go Lounge hosted an acoustic rock show that is the epitome of everything described above. Go Lounge is a very intimate bar that is about as wide as its drink selections. The atmosphere perfectly imitates the stripped down basics of an acoustic show; a mic, a guitar, and PBR tall boys is all you really need.
I arrived at the Go Lounge a little after 9pm. On stage was a three piece acoustic show by the band Something Else. I had never heard of these guys, but I could tell by the crowd sing-alongs that I was in the minority. The chemistry between the guitarist and the bass player was a clear indication that these guys play together a lot. Something Else is definitely a spawn of the reggae rock scene. From the songs I heard them perform, I could tell these guys are probably better suited as a full band and a larger venue. Seeing their already close following of fans and energetic stage presence, I would be excited to catch these guys again with a full live band as support.
Next up on the stage was a singer/songwritter that goes by the name of Anson. Again, another artist I hadn’t heard of, but there is something to say for a singer that stands on stage with only his guitar and uses his voice as the main instrument and the guitar only as a slight accompaniment. Anson had a very wide range in his vocals singing in a soul/R&B style over slick and gentle chord progressions that teased back and forth from reggae to soul.
While waiting for Josh Fischel to take the stage I learned that Sutton Papanikolas (from the band The Wagon) would be joining Josh’s set for the night. I have seen Josh and Sutton perform as front-men of their own bands before and have only witnessed them playing together a couple of times in the wee hours of house parties in Ocean Beach. While their bands are slightly different in style their knowledge of music spanning the last 40 years is quite similar. And epic. Case in point was their Kinks cover “Lola” soundcheck that went right into Pink Floyd’s “The Thin Ice” that somehow flowed beautifully into a Flaming Lips cover of “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.”
This is why Josh Fischel is one of my favorite songwriters and performers. Josh reminds us that music belongs to everyone. Lawyers and labels might own the rights to make money from music, but what comes out of speakers and into our ears belongs to us. It is free to belt it out at the top of our lungs driving down the freeway. It is free to drunkenly sing on our ex-girlfriends voice mail. And luckily, it is free for artist like Fischel to perform in a small rock-n-roll bar in, El Cajon.
Most artist only share their influences on the bio of their facebook pages while Fischel wears them on his sleeve. His acoustic sets may have a comprehensive selection of covers, but the performance never comes off as a cover. It feels more like a celebration of his influences.
Fischel’s passion for his craft bleeds through when playing one of his most well known songs; “Black Eye.” It is teased with Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing,” the lyrics list the band he will never turn off (usually the Ziggen’s), then the reggae downstroke turns into a tight picked rock strum churning the laid back ballad into an all out release of Duran Duran’s “Save a Prayer” and Depeche Mode’s “Somebody” ending with the John Mellencamp’s “Jack and Diane.”
Without missing a beat, Josh and Sutton broke into a cover of Ween’s “What Deaner was Talking About.” Again, Fischel always playing tribute to the artist that inspires him, addressed the crowd about a performance he had watched a few nights prior by singer Jenny Lewis which led to a cover of her song “Acid Tongue.”
With Josh Fischel on stage with a mic and a guitar you never know what you are going to get. His performances are always unique and you are always left with the feeling that your older brother just made you a mixed taped. From his sought after songs from decades as the singer of Bargain Music to the laundry list of new songs and artist for your iTunes playlist, Fischel has never left a crowd disappointed.
After years of only being able to see him perform on large venues, as a fan, it is awesome to watch him perform in more intimate settings. Although I was bummed to see the end of Bargain Music, after catching his solo acoustic performances I feel his range of style and songwriting was being held back by the pigeonholed vibe that was Bargain Music. His insane operatic vocal range and ability to pay tribute to artists in a way that live through him seems to be bursting at the seams of his size 42 plaid shorts. I believe they were izod plaid shorts.
Being the ever busy renaissance man of the West Coast, Josh has formed a rock theater group aptly named “Riot Stage.” They just broke the news that their first performance will be of “The Who’s Tommy” from March 28th to April 14th 2013. When discussing the project with Josh, he expressed his passion for creating a rock theater show that people not only view as the audience but feels the story and becomes a part of the experience. Visit HERE and join the mailing list for updates.
Article & Photos By: Ryan Daley