WIB Listening Party #34: Giving Thanks


Fishbone, In Your Face

🍺 Sierra Nevada Fantastic Haze Imperial IPA

Words & photos: Vincent Abbate

It’s Thanksgiving week and I’m using that as an occasion to veer from the usual Listening Party format. At the risk of getting overly sentimental, I’ll use this space to give thanks for three things that have not only helped me survive the past year-plus of the corona pandemic, but several decades of life in general.

Those three “things” are friends, family and music.

Along the way, I’ll share a story of what was probably my most memorable Thanksgiving. It’s a while back and foggy in my memory, but I’ll do my best. The music in that story was supplied by Los Angeles, California’s Fishbone, so that’s the music you’ll hear this time around, taken from their 1986 album In Your Face.

If you’re unfamiliar with Fishbone or turning up your nose because it’s not blues – imagine the great band leader Louis Jordan had been a young man in the 1980s. I’d venture to say his music might have sounded like this.

And since no Listening Party is ever complete without a delicious beverage, we will be cracking open a Sierra Nevada Fantastic Haze Imperial IPA.

Between sitting down to write these lines and the day they go online, I will have flown from my adopted home in Germany to my native turf in New York. I’m looking at the flight and everything associated with it – the PCR test, the protective mask, the close-range contact with too many fellow human beings – as a necessary evil. This is the way we’ve grown accustomed to thinking after 18 months of this. I’ve never been a big fan of flying, but usually get through it OK with a Bloody Mary or two. This time around, I am really not looking forward to it.

Seeing my family is worth it, though. I’ve heard about enough messed up family situations to know that I got off easy. There are a few points of contention between me, my mom, my three siblings and their spouses, but the bonds far outweigh them: baseball, classic sitcoms like The Honeymooners and The Odd Couple, a love of nature, an undying appetite for Italian food and the dishes our grandparents passed down to us – but above all, an unspoken belief that love trumps anything that might tear us apart.

I haven’t seen any of them in two years, and now, for the first time in 30 years, I’m going home for Thanksgiving!

Here’s Fishbone with “Turn The Other Way.” Remember what I said about Louis Jordan. This one’s also got a bit of Cab Calloway going on.

Obviously, Thanksgiving is first and foremost a family thing. You gather, eat, watch football together. Growing up on Long Island, we’d usually spend the holiday at home with my paternal grandparents visiting and making a major contribution in the kitchen. I’m vegetarian now, but back then, the turkey with ground beef stuffing was out of this world. The candied yams. The fried potatoes. The pumpkin pie. All amazing.

As I got a bit older and moved into the city, once the eating was done, Thanksgiving seemed sort of dull.

In 1986, Thanksgiving fell on Thursday, November 27th. Fishbone’s debut LP In Your Face was released three days later. That had to be the year.

I was hanging around at my parents’ house late that afternoon. The dishes had been cleared away. We were probably watching the Cowboys or the Vikings or the Raiders on TV. The phone rang and it was for me. Maria was on the line!

Maybe I’ll devote a separate post to Maria. A beautiful Chilean who was one class under me at high school. She’s the first girl I ever fell in love with and the first one who broke my heart. By this time, we had gotten past that and were merely good friends bonded by our love of music. Maria had heard about a show going down that evening at a club called My Father’s Place. “There’s this new band playing, Fishbone, you gotta check them out!”

I initially felt a little guilty about splitting on Thanksgiving, but my parents were cool with it. So off we went. I can’t recall driving the 20 miles to the club, maybe it was me, maybe Maria, maybe we were two in a carload of people. Like I said, it’s all a bit foggy.

The music, though. I’d never heard anything like it.

Oh well oh well oh well I wish I had a joint …

… sang ringleader Angelo Moore toward the end of the song and I’m pretty sure someone standing in front of the stage passed him a lit doobie.

Fishbone was so, so tight. So explosive. So much fun. Talk about giving thanks! Thank you, Maria, for thinking of me that day and introducing me to this one-in-a-million band.    

Let’s raise a glass to music, friendship and family. They were all there that day.

The term “imperial” when attached to an IPA connotes more of everything. Heavy on the hops, high in alcohol. Kind of fits the Thanksgiving theme, when we indulge and tend to go overboard on the food and drink.

As its name suggests, Sierra Nevada’s Fantastic Haze is a cloudy, nearly opaque brew, tannish in color. It says hello with a strong citrus-laced aroma. The airy head dissipates quickly. It’s piney and quite bitter on the tongue, and though I’m enjoying the subtle melony flavors, overall this IPA is a little dry for my tastes.

But who’s complaining? My partners at Bierlager have been supplying me with liquid refreshment – really good beer – since last February. They’ve put the fuel in the tank, so to speak, allowing me to take the Listening Party out for a spin roughly once a week. So, yes, I’m thankful for that, too.

When you read these lines I’ll be in New York. I was up surfing the Internet last night, looking for breweries along the upstate route I’ll be driving. Isn’t it amazing what’s happened the past 20 years or so? There are tiny craft brewers everywhere! I don’t know where to start.

Family comes first, of course. I’ve got ten days stateside and have to make the most of it.  But I’ll sample at least a couple of native beers for sure.

One day you, me, all of us will have to let all of it go. The beer, the music, the food and the baseball, the Converse sneakers and Pop Tarts, the time we spend with friends and family. This week, we give thanks for all of that. That’s a good thing.

It’s somewhat of a stretch, but I’ll let Fishbone’s “Give It Up” – a song about a future in which we transcend divisions – say the rest.

I’ll be back soon with more blues and brews. Bye.

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The Who Is Blues Listening Party is powered by Bierlager, one of Germany’s finest addresses for premium craft beer.

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