5 out of 5 stars
Run Time: 1 hour 34 minutes, Rated R
Narrated by Laurence Fishburne
Featuring: Fishbone, Norwood Fisher, Angelo Moore, Ice-T, Flea, Gwen Stefani, Branford Marsalis, George Clinton
Directed by Lev Anderson and Chris Metzler (Plagues and Pleasures on the Saltan Sea)
If you haven’t heard of the band Fishbone, you’re not alone. Fishbone is not too well-known, although they’ve been redefining music for over 30 years. Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone is a documentary film about the band that should have been your typical Behind the Music-esque exploration of a musical group and their struggles with fame, fortune, and glory. The only problem is that Fishbone is not your typical band, and its members have not gone down the typical path. In fact, there arguably isn’t a more original sound out there. Fishbone has left a mark on the music industry and should be recognized, and with Everyday Sunshine, you are given the argument as to why this is so…a compelling argument that results in what may very well be the most entertaining documentary of the year.
So what kind of music does Fishbone play? That’s one of the cruxes of the film actually, as it is not easily defined. They are part punk rock, part funk, with some hard rock, ska and soul thrown in; a group of black inner-city kids from South Central LA who formed in the late 70s and began jamming. The fusion and sum of the band’s talents – Norwood Fisher, Angelo Moore, Fish Fisher, Kendall Jones, Dirty Walter, and Christopher Dowd – is something truly unique and original, a collection of individual artists rocking out a cohesive sound. Those that have seen them perform live claim they are among the best stage performers of all time.
Their popularity among other artists is evident in the collage of big name entertainers that appear in this film to talk about and to pay tribute to the band – Gwen Stefani, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Branford Marsalis, George Clinton, and Ice-T to name only a few – all of which credit Fishbone as one of their major creative influences.
Directed with energetic pizzazz by the team of Lev Anderson and Chris Metzler, Everyday Sunshine does some multi-tasking by giving us a peek inside the world of Fishbone, as well as presenting the film with a social and racial relevance. There is clarity to the first half of the film where we see the band’s early days, juxtaposed with the social/economic segregation of LA at the time. They create a strong argument as to why Fishbone is important, and what makes them different. They also raise several questions about why Fishbone never found mainstream commercial success…faults attributed to the band as well as other outside factors as well.
But best of all, the directors of Everyday Sunshine effectively capture Fishbone just being Fishbone, both on and off of the stage, and it’s delightful to watch. These are the kind of guys who you can just point a camera at, and something interesting is bound to be captured. On stage, they all jump around and interact with the crowd, and the energy from their live shows is palpable on film. Another example is when one of the more eccentric members of the band, Angelo Moore, just up and decided that he would rename himself “Dr. Madd Vibe” one day, a decision begrudgingly accepted by Fishbone, who truly envision their group as having no real leader, instead opting for a “true democracy.” The story of Fishbone also includes members quitting, some in-fighting and squabbling, money trouble, a cult, and an alleged abduction of one band member by another that further pushes the “weird” envelope that seems to define Fishbone.
We also get to see the enigma of a band described as indefinable attempting to define themselves both individually and as a group. All of the band members bring a unique take on things, while a bit more face-time is given to Angelo Moore and Norwood Fisher, who are the original founders and only original members that make up today’s modern-day Fishbone crew. This internal struggle of creative versus commercial success is an interesting dilemma that many artists face.
Everyday Sunshine is aptly named, as this documentary is a fun, joyous, and optimistic tale of a group of talented individuals who have thus far failed to register on the mainstream pop radar. They seem happy enough through it all, a testament to their determination and will to see their idea of Fishbone through to the end, even if they aren’t sure where that leads them. If not blatantly stated, this film truly rocks, and leaves you with a good sense of what Fishbone is musically as well as who they are personally. The story of Fishbone inspires and leaves you rooting for their future success.
Music critics may not be able to put a finger on what Fishbone is, but movie critics should have no problem declaring Everyday Sunshine a bona fide hit.
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