Ken Leighton 5 p.m., Jan. 24
Sound description: Powerful punk, with a twist of pop.
RIYL: Jello Biafra, Rollins, Fear, Fugazi
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- Cover Story: "Real Hardcore True Punk" · Oct. 17, 2002
Inception: San Diego, 1990
Influences: Dead Kennedys, Jello Biafra, Black Flag, Fear, Fugazi, Drive Like Jehu, the Melvins, Jawbox, Melt Banana, Tanner, Kerosene 454, Hot Snakes, Jesus Lizard, Helmet, the Frogs, Metallica, Slayer, Quicksand, Testament, Bastro, Bitch Magnet
Although Fishwife had its roots in '80s hardcore, the schizoid post-hardcore zaniness that the group unleashed on its audience no doubt had any straight-edge kid running for the nearest exit. Lead singer Ryan Foxe's crazy stage antics included, among others, things like getting naked, a dildo ventriloquist act, leaping from a six-foot-high Marshall stack and landing on a cup of the favorite Mexican rice drink horchata, as well as handing out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at a local club that got them banned from playing the joint forever.
Fishwife was opening for the Pixies at a large, administration-run venue at UCSD, a campus known for its rigid, conservative policies. That night the usual uptight crowd was in attendance when Foxe came out in a girl’s cheerleader outfit. The show began with the singer running back and forth on the stage singing, shouting, cheering. After a short time he broke into cartwheels, though under his short skirt he wasn’t wearing any underwear.
Across the stage, according to band member Matt Reese, “Face, nuts, face, nuts — before you knew it he’s playing nude,” which was a fairly regular occurrence at Fishwife shows.
The group initially released its self-tilted 7" EP on local hardcore punk label Nemesis. Not long after, Canadian indie label Cargo Records opened its new headquarters in San Diego and started a new label, Headhunter. Fishwife was the first band signed to the new Cargo imprint. In 1990, Snail Killer hit the shelves, with tunes like "Postcards from the Planet of the Apes," "Dumb Indian Songs," "Eggs," and "Chiva."
Fishwife was pushing the boundaries of hardcore punk with its hilarious punk-fueled lunacy. Foxe's vocals were somewhere between Jello Biafra's nasal croon and the cartoon growl of Cookie Monster. The group's sound easily shifted from frantic spazz-outs to mosh pit dirges to tripped-out acid-rock chants in the blink of an eye. The group gained a large following, occasionally making its way up the West Coast.
1992 saw the release of the group's second CD, Ritalin, which perfected the group's unique sound. Tighter and more focused, Ritalin grabs you by the jugular and the funny bone simultaneously with such memorable classics as "Doggies Nightmare," "Almighty Wurlitzer," "Poopy," and "Hukilau." Fishwife recorded more than an album's worth of material before they broke up, releasing it in the form of their third CD, Poquita Rosada Mona, as well as a 7" single, on Goldenrod Records.
The group called it quits in 1993 when Foxe decided to move to New York and pursue school, while the remaining three quarters of Fishwife — Gar Wood, Matt Ohlin, and Chris Prescott — re-formed and took shape as the math rock trio Tanner, releasing Ill Gotten Gains for Caroline Records in 1995, 1997's (Germo) Phobic for Headhunter, as well as several singles.
Eventually, Foxe moved back to San Diego and joined the garage rock group the Let Downs.
Guitarist Gar Wood went on to play bass and guitar in Beehive and the Barracudas and Hot Snakes, while drummer Chris Prescott played in No Knife. Bassist Matt Ohlin, owner of Rt. 44 Skate Shop in San Diego, played bass and sang in the group Hiatus, while singer Ryan Foxe went to work and live in Los Angeles.