“Badfish”… an iconic song on Sublime’s 40oz. to Freedom album. Badfish is also one of the arguably most prolific tribute bands touring today. And, if you ask music fans in Northeast Ohio and beyond, the band represents a semi-annual festival that many liken to a holiday weekend.
At Nelsons Ledges Quarry Park in Garrettsville, thousands of people set up campsites nestled in the woods and meadows of the park’s 250 acres. A biannual tradition for many, September 24th and 25th of 2021 marked the return of a festival sporting the same name as the band — Fall Badfish. In addition to being a campground with over 400 campsites, a quarry, a beach, several fishing ponds, cliffs to dive off and more, NLQP is also a unique music venue, hosting numerous festival weekends throughout the season.
Starting over a decade ago, Badfish mini-fests garnered popularity to be twice year, in Spring and Fall, as well as quickly growing into the two-day events they are today.
Two sets of Badfish give the band opportunities to play some of the b-sides and less notorious tracks that they don’t otherwise get to play often. “The festival’s popularity is, of course, a testament to the timeless music of Sublime,” Badfish member Dorian Duffy shares. “But, it’s also a testament to the family-style dynamic between the management, bands and fans. Families have literally been started there! Ohio definitely goes hard and has a great music scene.”
Spring and Fall Badfish have featured many other great talents from the reggae rock scene, from Ohio and beyond. Tropidelic and Columbus-based Quasi Kings are veterans of the fest, with other bands from far and wide such as Ballyhoo! and Bumpin Uglies. Fall Badfish 2021 welcomed The Elovaters and Fayuca to the woods for the first time. This year was certainly special to the members of Badfish, after a long hiatus due to COVID. While fans still overtook the park on what should have been Badfish weekends during the pause in live music (which many referred to as “Sadfish” in lieu of the usual festivities), the return to the Ledges seemed surreal to some of the Badfish members. Yet, their first set was well underway and running smoothly.
The event is a lot of work for all involved, for NLQP also lends itself to a fair share of tomfoolery, as well. “Performing there for over a decade now, it’s a joy to annually connect and hang with the friends we’ve made,” Dorian adds. “The Quarry is truly beloved and I feel that the vibe there is what rock shows must have felt like during the Golden Years. [It’s] run by family and community. No corporate entities to suck the fun out. Scenic surroundings with adequate space to get into trouble. A place where folks can be their most authentic selves. The dream, really. I’d like to extend my gratitude to everyone involved for making it happen and the continued support.”
Badfish is looking forward to getting back on the road, starting with shows in Florida in mid-October. Following that, they have a few shows in the Northeast around the holidays and will be kicking off the New Year with a couple dates in the Southwest. Stay tuned for details on their national tour, which starts in February 2022. Visit the links below for the most up-to-date tour information and more.
Photography by Maddeax Khole