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Fishbone does deserve your respect (and 107 minutes of your attention)

 

 
Overview
 

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Starring: , ,
 
Directed By: ,
 
Release Date: October 7, 2011
 
Length: 107 minutes
 
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Having witnessed more than one off-the-wall Fishbone concert in the late ’80s/early ’90s, we were intrigued when we heard someone had made a documentary film about the SoCal funk/punk/ska band . The movie, Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone, has been making the rounds at festivals and playing at repertory theaters around the country. Last […]

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Posted December 16, 2011 by

 
Full Review
 
 

Having witnessed more than one off-the-wall Fishbone concert in the late ’80s/early ’90s, we were intrigued when we heard someone had made a documentary film about the SoCal funk/punk/ska band . The movie, Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone, has been making the rounds at festivals and playing at repertory theaters around the country. Last night, it showed in Cleveland at the Capitol Theatre, and co-director/co-producer Chris Metzler was on hand to introduce the movie and answer questions after the screening.

The film begins with footage of the band performing in 1992 at the Warfield in San Francisco. In a quick sound bite, the Circle Jerks’ Keith Morris says that if there were 12 levels, the band was on the 13th, and Ice-T adds, “They were on some different type shit.” Flash-forward to Hungary some 15 years later, and the guys are setting up to play to a handful of disinterested passers-by. So how did the band go from underground sensation to a footnote in the punk rock history book? The film provides a thorough examination of the band’s downward spiral.

The band’s L.A. roots speak volumes to the way that is sound developed as a mishmash of styles. Sent by bus out to schools in the San Fernando Valley, the South Central-based core of the band became fast friends with Angelo Moore, one of the only other African Americans at the mostly white high school the kids attended. They began jamming together and quickly found a manager who helped them secure a deal with Columbia Records, which issued their self-titled debut in 1986. That album, which featured tracks such as “Party at Ground Zero” and “Ugly,” quickly caught on with the college-age set and tours with the Beastie Boys and Red Hot Chili Peppers followed.

While the democratic band initially didn’t have a front man, the fashion-minded Angelo Moore ultimately assumed role because of his unbridled enthusiasm – he would often perform backflips and stage dive off of speakers. Not all band members were happy that he had such a huge role in determining the band’s direction, and guitarist Kendall Jones and keyboardist Christopher Dowd eventually quit the band in 1993 (the filmmakers suggest that they took some of the band’s songwriting abilities with them). Although often at odds with each other, Moore and bassist John Norwood Fisher tried to steer the band into the new millennium, but they, too, had conflicts, especially as Moore morphed into a theremin-obsessed character he dubbed Dr. Madd Vibe.

The film covers all this drama (including the ill-fated attempt to rescue Jones from a cult) particularly well, though it doesn’t delve into the band’s discography, virtually ignoring its 2000 comeback attempt, Fishbone and the Familyhood Next Experience Present: The Psychotic Friends Nuttwerx, an album that includes guest spots by Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist Flea and No Doubt singer Gwen Stefani, both of whom are interviewed in the film. The movie ends on a somewhat positive note as Moore and Fisher continue to record and tour and re-connect with original members (trumpet player Dirty Walt rejoined the band in 2010.)

After the screening, Metzler answered a few questions. Some notable revelations: the filmmakers didn’t interview original drummer Philip “Fish” Fisher because he insisted he be paid for providing any commentary; after the band was dropped by Columbia Records, the label allegedly sought to re-sign the group; the filmmakers interviewed members of the African American punk band Bad Brains for the film, but the group didn’t feel it shared a connection to Fishbone and the interviews didn’t make the film’s final cut; Sony was “buying the band up the charts” in the late ’80s and early ’90s; the Red Hot Chili Peppers have offered to take the guys out with them on their upcoming arena tour set to begin in early 2012.

Look for the film to air on PBS in January and be out on DVD in February.


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