I met Sublime in 1994 when I was music editor of High Times. They were one of the most supportive bands for the marijuana cause until Brad Nowell's death two years later.
High Times featured Sublime in an article that included terrific photos by Steve Eichner taken in Asbury Park during the 1995 Warped Tour.
"We were in front of the Rolling Stoned header on the bus," Sublime drummer Bud Gaugh recalls about that photo shoot. "We were smoking on the boardwalk and the po-po showed up and decided he was going to be the enemy of fun that day."
Gaugh didn't get arrested, but he would twice later on the tour, which led to several "Joint Venture" benefit concerts for NORML headlined by Sublime in New York (at Weltands) and Los Angeles (at House of Blues).
"It paid for the Get Out of Jail Free card," he says about the concerts.
The Wetlands show also included the Wesley Willis Fiasco and Lordz of Brooklyn, two bands that toured with Sublime under the heading, 3 Ring Circus.
On Oct. 25, 1995, they all played The Palace in L.A. The show was recorded by Gary Davis but has not surfaced until now. To celebrate Sublime's 25th anniversary, that 3 Ring Circus performance is available as a DVD and CD. It catches Sublime just before they would go mainstream with the monster success of their third album, titled Sublime. Songs like "What I Got" and "Santeria" weren't even recorded yet so they don't appear on the new discs (however, it does include their version of "Smoke Two Joints") .
"We had just got back from recording basic tracks (for the Sublime album) and threw together the 3 Ring Circus," Gaugh tells me in an exclusive interview for CelebStoner. "It was kind of a homecoming show. We hadn't played L.A. in a while. We were on fire. We'd been playing a lot in the studio. We were really tight. When we found the footage again, it was like wow, this has got to go."
Davis' footage is pretty basic - no fancy editing or camera angles. "It's gritty," says Gaugh. "That's what we loverd about it. It was real. It was the quintessential Sublime. We didn't have makeup, we had sweat and beer bellies."
After Nowell's overdose death in 1996, Gaugh played with the Long Beach Dub Allstars and also formed his own surf-rock band, Delmar.
"You go through a lot of different emotions when you're grieving," he explains. "If you don't deal properly with those emotions it can really screw you up. I'm not a psychologist. I never went to one and so I didn't grieve right. It kind of screwed me up for awhile. I'm at peace with it now. I just miss him. it's just tragic. It's just a shame. He just couldn't get it together."
In 2009, Gaugh reunited with Sublime bassist Eric Wilson and a newcomer named Rome to play the band's music for a new generation who'd never seen them in their prime. Why has Sublime had such a lasting appeal?
"I think it's just a testament to the music and the attitude," Gaugh says. "We were the kind of band that would sit on the edge of the stage and hang out and talk to the people who paid for the tickets that night. That went a long way. It was a bond between the band and the fans that were there at the time. The people who didn't get to see that wanted to be a part of it. For me it would be like if Zeppelin came around with Jason Bonham, I would love to go see those guys. I never got a chance to see them. It's that and the nostalgia. The fans wanted to relive that. It was the soundtrack to their lives when they were growing up."
Gaugh has since left Sublime with Rome. "I wasn't happy where things we're going," he notes. "I wasn't happy with how management was handling things. They decided to stick with management instead of getting rid of management, which is what I wanted to do."
Right now his main focus is to get the word out about 3 Ring Circus: Live at the Palace - October 21, 1995. This summer he plans to record with another band he plays with, Phil & the Blanks.
A longtime marijuana legalization advocate (Sublime donated a version of "Legalize It" for the first Hempilation album), Gaugh is thrilled with the progress that has occurred since Sublime first started making waves on the West Coast. Does he feel he had a role in all of these policy changes?
"I sure would like to hope so," Gaugh goes. "It's a shame it's criminalized. It is medicine. I've got two friends who've got cancer right now. They need it!"
To order a copy of the DVD, CD or the special deluxe package, go to the Sublime Store.