THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"EVERYDAY SUNSHINE: THE STORY OF FISHBONE"
When I told people I was going to be reviewing a documentary about Fishbone, I got a lot of the same response: “I first heard them in Say Anything...!” The appearance of their song “Skankin' to the Beat” in Cameron Crowe's film and on its accompanying soundtrack album earned the band new listeners. My first exposure to them was actually a few years prior, when they performed a song with, of all people, Annette Funicello in the sadly forgotten comedy Back to the Beach. The energy Fishbone gave off in that three minute scene was astounding. It was clear that this group was something very special. Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone is a wonderful celebration of their spirit. It's one of the best rock docs I've ever seen.
Directed by Lev Anderson and Chris Metzler, and narrated by Laurence Fishburne, Everyday Sunshine tracks the history of Fishbone, beginning in 1979, when bassist Norwood Fisher met perpetually-smiling singer Angelo Moore when both were part of a California initiative to integrate schools. Together with Norwood's brother Phillip and friends Chris Dowd, “Dirty Walt” Kibby, and Kendall Jones, they began jamming together every afternoon. Inspired by a variety of diverse musical styles and determined not to be pegged to any single one of them, they created the distinct Fishbone sound. The band broke into the predominantly white punk scene, earning acceptance through their high energy live shows and consummate musicianship. Despite never hitting the commercial heights many predicted for them, Fishbone influenced countless other bands, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers and No Doubt. Members of those groups – Flea and Gwen Stefani, respectively – and other music dignitaries offer their perspectives on what Fishbone meant to them and to the music scene in general.
Everyday Sunshine takes us through the professional and personal milestones of this band. Their story is at times dramatic. Fishbone suffered some of the typical band dilemmas: Dowd resented being pushed into the background by Angelo, “Dirty Walt” got fed up with conflict, etc. It also endured some more unusual ones, including a period where Kendall Jones was seemingly brainwashed by a cult; a rescue effort spearheaded by Norwood led to charges of kidnapping and a lawsuit. Over time, everyone fell away from the group except for Norwood and Angelo, who are still at it. Their partnership is not always smooth. We see Norwood growing frustrated by Angelo's desire to repeatedly pursue personal idiosyncrasy over focused collaboration. (At one point, Angelo becomes enraptured with a theramin, which he insists on playing – badly – on every song.) In spite of some rocky times, neither of them is able to call it quits for good.
As compelling as the band's history is, the documentary does something even more special. Over the course of 107 minutes, we not only get to hear the story of Fishbone, we also come to understand the psychology of it. That, more than anything, is what propels Everyday Sunshine to the head of its class. Through the footage and the accompanying interviews with Fishbone members past and present, it becomes clear that their music wasn't just a job or a hobby, but rather a shared burst of unhinged creativity. The energetic live performances were a result of deeply-held passion for music and a desire to create sounds that hadn't been heard by audiences before. If the fallouts and conflicts within the band were occasionally painful, it was because everyone had so much personally invested in the music. As with any situation in which multiple people of intense creativity get together, Fishbone ultimately caved in on itself as individual ideas clashed. It is no surprise that Norwood and Angelo are the last men standing. No matter how much they may get on each other's nerves, the two key founding members cannot stand the thought of Fishbone being no more.
Everyday Sunshine is fascinating from start to finish, and it is made with great style. The filmmakers use a variety of animation techniques to depict things that were not captured on camera; the “Fat Albert” inspired look given to the account of how the group met as teens is especially cool. There's a nice mix of performance footage and interviews, with the band members showing an astounding willingness to speak candidly.
Fishbone has a special place in the annals of music. They broke barriers, created new sounds, and electrified audiences in unexpected ways. Lots of bands try to do those things in order to sell records or tickets; Fishbone did them because they couldn't not do them. It was a fundamental part of who they were. If you're already a fan, Everyday Sunshine will give you added appreciation for this remarkable band. If you know nothing about Fishbone, it will likely turn you into a believer.
To find out more about the film, including theatrical screenings and DVD release information, please visit the official website.
( out of four)
Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone is unrated but contains adult language. The running time is 1 hour and 47 minutes.