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Saturdays with Siskel & Ebert - P.M. Magazine Profile (1987)

Film Review - Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone


As a musical entity, Fishbone was unlike anything seen before. A fusion of funk, ska, punk, and metal, the band blazed the music scene sharing frantic, glorious sounds, sold with some of the most animated live performances around. They’re legends, yet never quite achieved the worldwide popularity required to shape raw talent into a viable business. Instead, the crew scrapped and slugged their way to the middle, creating an intense, intriguing narrative of backstage creation and erosion, captured superbly in “Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone,” a documentary that probes the current state of the group while tracking their origins and industry challenges.

Formed in 1979 in Los Angeles, Fishbone was comprised of Kendall Jones (guitar), Norwood Fisher (bass), Chris Dowd (keyboard), Phillip “Fish” Fisher (drums), “Dirty” Walt Kibby II (trumpet), and Angelo Moore (de facto singer) -- a ragtag group of young men eager to express themselves in a time of racial exclusion. Instead of following traditional African-American options for musical discharge, the boys chased their own vision, inspired by the punk movement, brewing their own brand of sonic vibration, effectively erasing color barriers but also confusing audiences used to racial boundaries. They worked tirelessly to create an aura of musicianship and manic stage prowess, building an underground reputation as one of the premiere live acts of the 1980s. All that was missing was a record deal and worldwide domination.


Directed by Chris Metzler and Lev Anderson, “Everyday Sunshine” essentially contrasts the rise of Fishbone in the 1980s with the band that remains today, still struggling to keep the creative fires lit despite a dwindling following and in-house hostilities. Employing narration by Laurence Fishburne (an apt choice), the feature manages an intriguing juggling act, deploying customary rock-doc formula to spotlight a career that’s carried on for over three decades, but also chopping up the viewing experience, displaying the rise and decline of the company, often in the same breath. It’s Fishbone 101, a magnificent tool for outsiders curious about the dynamic of the group and their achievements, but it’s also unnervingly intimate, observing the gentlemen use their time in front of the camera as a confessional of sorts, unloading their troubles as the dream of Fishbone gradually dissolves on their watch.

“Everyday Sunshine” mixes interview and concert footage (imagine a snowball fight with a horn section) to explore Fishbone, also employing clips from the band’s heyday, where Spike Lee-directed music videos popped up on MTV and cameos in films such as “Back to the Beach” were offered. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Fishbone was poised to explode, hungry to make a righteous mess of the music business. However, the hits never happened. Despite a loyal following and celebrity admirers (Tim Robbins, Gwen Stefani, Ice T, and Flea are some of the interviewees who share effusive praise), Fishbone couldn’t reach the next level of success, trapped as a cult act where the accolades are endless but the pay is minimal. And then things became really strange, with Jones exiting the group due to mental illness and religious delusion, resulting in an intervention that turned into an attempted kidnapping charge, bringing a few members to trial (a traumatic event Fisher seems to appreciate). Also of concern were the uncontrollable antics of Moore, who rechristened himself “Dr. Madd Vibe,” fell in love with the Theremin, and alienated Fisher, his partner in crime.


Today, Fishbone still remains a sonic force, though one that’s fallen on difficult times, permitting the filmmakers to capture few Spinal Tap-esque moments, including a music store record signing with low attendance. Financial hardship and the democratic nature of the alliance have helped to divide the unit, leaving only Fish and Moore as the two remaining founding members of group, and even those guys act they don’t want to be around anymore. Still, the music compels them, possesses them, drives them to the brink of sanity where they’ve grown accustom to the view. “Everyday Sunshine” seizes that tumultuous spirit, that sheer history of Fishbone, rolling it into a tremendous, informative documentary that avoids tracking footprints, instead exposing the raw nerve sensitivity within this legendary band.







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