On The Sublime Reunion, Trademarks And The Legacy of a Dead Legend

The statement that Sublime hasn't played a show in 13 years is a bit of a misnomer for two reasons. One, the man (Bradley Nowell) who registered the Sublime trademark passed away thirteen years ago, meaning in a sense, Sublime would never play again. And two, the remaining Sublime posse, which is a very similar group (with less members and new singer Rome Ramirez) to the one that performed at Cypress Hill's Smokeout Festival Saturday, had performed several times under the name Long Beach Dub All Stars and used Sublime material until they disbanded in 2001. However, a band billed as Sublime played said music festival this weekend, and if they just called themselves Garden Grove or something a.) everyone would assume they were a tribute band and b.) this story wouldn't be in the news.

YouTube videos from the festival seem to prove that at least one large mass of people support this pseudo-reunion. But to be fair, if we were blazed at an event called the Smokeout Festival and some dude that sang pretty well crooned over the bassline of "Santeria" and "April 24, 1992" we'd be pretty amped, too.

The whole situation gets touchy when Bradley Nowell's family comes into play, who are taking legal action against bassist Eric Wilson and drummer Bud Gaugh for using the moniker. Says Brad's family in an official statement:

"Out of respect for Brad's wishes, we have always refused to endorse any group performing as 'Sublime,' and now with great reluctance feel compelled to take the appropriate legal action to protect Brad's legacy."

It seems unforunate that with all the cell phones and minute-by-minute e-mail checking in this world, these legacy-tarnishing matters so often come to legal action. But thus is the world we live in. The potential lawsuit brings up much larger questions about musical legacies. But in the individual case of Sublime, it seems these questions may not necessarily be answered right away.

Wilson and Gaugh have already responded to the lawsuit with a statement. "Brad's heirs apparently do not share this vision and do not want the band Sublime to continue and tried -- unsuccessfully -- to file a temporary restraining order to prevent the band from carrying on. Despite those objections, we are pleased that the United States District Court has allowed us to perform as Sublime for all of our fans," read a statement signed "Sublime." And in another note Gaugh even directly hinted at this being a hopefully effective coping mechanism for the band to move on in a sense, musically and personally.

Legally, obviously the trademark is binding. But a band is obviously not just a trademark, and while this obviously tackles a much greyer area, Wilson and Gaugh were just as much a part of the Sublime movement as Nowell was. However, Nowell had achieved a sort of cult-icon status that made him a ubiquitous face of the movement and era.

Therefore, while the legality of the matter may continue to be debated (Nowell's family attempted to have them disallowed from playing the festival under the name, but a U.S. district court ruled to let the band play), the decision of the fans seems like it might logically come from what Wilson, Gaugh and Ramirez do with the name. If they just form a sort of reunion tour and play some festival gigs, it hardly seem different from the Long Beach Dub All Stars project and could easily lead to the cash grab arguments. But if they take a less common path or create new musical material (which yes, would also create more controversy and debate) then it could be seen in a different light. They seem to be approaching the whole situation with a requisite amount of earnesty, but while their words seem to act as a defense and celebration of Nowell's memory, the actions and music in the near future will surely speak much louder on the matter. (Via: SPIN)

On The Sublime Reunion, Trademarks And The Legacy of a Dead Legend