Diving into Sharkmouth at Rivertown
Nobody wants to get into a shark’s mouth, but you’ll want to get into Sharkmouth. I finally got to see “California’s funkiest jazz punk trio” at Rivertown Revival at Steamer Landing Park on the McNear Peninsula in Petaluma on July 14th. Members Joshua Jackson (bass, vox), Libby Cuffie (drums, vox), and Nate Dittle (keyboard, vox) were joined by tenor saxophonist Chaco Amazè and trumpeter Zack Thorne.
I had been looking forward to the day when I’d see this band live ever since I saw them featured on Beatbox Drums last December. They performed an original called “Dewey Decimal System”. Who sings about library classification systems? Who ponders the question: “Do we do away with the Dewey Decimal System?” and writes a song about it? Sharkmouth!
It’s not just Sharkmouth’s unconventional lyrics that make them stand apart in the music scene. It’s their sound. When you think about what’s hot in music right now, jazz and funk probably don’t come to mind. Sharkmouth incorporates these foundational musical genres and adds eclectic punk elements to create a sound that stands out like the yeti crab on a hydrothermal vent at the bottom of the Pacific. It’s obscure, but once you see it, you’ll never forget it! And you will dive to the bottom of the ocean to see it, just as I made the voyage to the McNear Peninsula to see Sharkmouth.
There are plenty of other fish in the music sea(n), as it were. But Sharkmouth doesn’t swim by the audience’s ears, thereby perpetuating passivity in our lackluster culture. Sharkmouth jumps out of the ocean like the hologram image of Jaws in Back to the Future III. At first, the unsuspecting listener may crouch down and cover their heads in bewilderment. But then, they listen, stand up, and begin to sway in satisfaction on a funky musical wave.
I think “Dewey Decimal System” is more than a quirky song with a sick beat. If you just stop at that, through the baleen you go, you passive plankton! The song asks the question, “Do we dismantle and abolish?” and demands, “Don’t burn the books!” Books are like killer whale sonar to help us communicate and navigate through life. So, please don’t burn the books. More importantly, don’t be passive and disengaged, doing away with your own agency while apathetically watching the destruction (book burning or otherwise) around you.
After performing one of their songs, Joshua thanked the crowd for coming out “in the midst of all the crazy things happening. It means a lot to hold your attention.” Paying attention to the one in front of us is a great virtue and vital in defeating the forces behind the crazy things happening in our society.
As the funky beats filled the open air like bubbles under the sea, I was grooving on that musical wave under the big white tent full of people along the Petaluma River. We were like a school of fish, unified in our collective musical enjoyment, paying attention to what was in front of us.