3 p.m., May 24
The Fleshtones at the Casbah
One of only two shows on a West Coast trip, on June 9 the Fleshtones rocked the Casbah
The Fleshtones played to a small but boisterous crowd at the Casbah on June 9, part of only two dates on this West Coast trip. A planned San Francisco date fell through at the last minute, leaving their appearance on June 8 at this past weekends, Ink-N-Iron Festival aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach as their sole other California date. Traveling light, for the Casbah show the band opted to borrow specific gear from openers Shake Before Us (drums and Ampeg bass amp) and True Stories (Fender Deluxe guitar amp, my band, but not my amp). A farfisa organ was also procured.
Formed in New York during 1976, The Fleshtones still include three original members: manic frontman Peter Zaremba, guitarist Keith Streng and drummer Bill Milhizer. New guy, bassist Ken Fox joined the group in 1990. Though the band has never had major chart success, they’ve released more than two dozen albums since their first EP in 1980.
Live, however, is where the band stakes its reputation and they were on fire this night, with Zaremba dancing up a storm and the band’s signature synchronized stage moves, as well as forays into the audience, going over well with the crowd. At one point Zaremba requested the band to take “it a little bit lower,” with volume decreasing accordingly and musicians slowly dropping to the floor. He soon had the entire audience squatting on the floor as well, handclapping in time to the song. Even Casbah employees were snapping photos.
What the audience lacked in numbers, they more than made up for in enthusiasm and the band responded. There was a set list on stage, but songs were thrown in on a whim or an audience request, all played at breakneck speed, with barely a pause for breath in between. Shouted requests for classics were honored, with songs like “Shadow Line” (1982) and “Roman Gods” (1984) making their first live appearance in decades. They also included plenty of newer material such as the 2011 single, “Remember The Ramones” and choice covers were also featured, including an instrumental version of the Beatles “Day Tripper.” One of the night’s highlights was a hybrid of The Doors “Break on Through” and bluesman Billy Boy Arnold’s “I Wish You Would, ” which found Zaremba leading the band to the back of the club, setting up his microphone and completing much of the song from there before ending up back on stage flat on his back while two audience members shouted along with him. For showmanship, Zaremba is hard to beat.
Post show the band seemed enthused by the response. “Ink-N-Iron was a good show, but this was better, maybe not as many people, but a lot of fun,” Zaremba said. “We’ll definitely be back.”