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Way back in high school, Fishbone‘s self-titled debut EP was the first cassette I ever bought. When I went away to college at UCLA, I got to see the band all the time: opening for the Chili Peppers at CSULB’s cafeteria, playing the massive Scream club at the Park Plaza Hotel, headlining an outdoor festival at UCSB… There were a few Trulio Disgracias shows, too. The last time I saw them was at Raji’s with Rage Against The Machine opening. Talk about bands going in different directions. Fishbone never became an iota as big as any of its peers or bands it toured with (RCHP, No Doubt, Primus, Beastie Boys…) yet soldiers on to this day. A new and excellent documentary, Everyday Sunshine, details the Los Angeles band’s existence–evolving from ska to funk to free jazz and prog rock but always with a punk rock attitude–and the struggles it has faced. Yes, they are a unique and awesome band that could only emerge from the City of Angels’ cultural melting pot and original punk scene, but they have also been cursed by the town’s conservative entertainment industry, unimaginative mainstream media, and very real race issues.
Fishbone should have been one of the biggest bands in the world. In the late ’80s and early ’90s I got to see them play with and stand toe-to-toe with heavyweights like the Chili Peppers, No Doubt, Public Enemy, Rage Against The Machine, and a ton of others who went on to become huge. But being an exceptional live band with incredible musicianship and a totally unique style–starting with ska, moving into funk, and venturing into free jazz but always with a punk rock attitude–doesn’t mean the mainstream will catch on. (Even if we did feature them in Robot Power.) And so the band soldiers on with three original members, including hyperactive singer Angelo Moore and impossibly versatile bassist Norwood Fisher, pleasing a small-but-loyal fan base while barely paying the bills. Their new EP, Crazy Glue, comes out on October 11.
Filmmakers Lev Anderson and Christopher Metzler have created an unorthodox, excellent documentary about Fishbone, following band members around their humble lives, tracking down their famous friends, and filling in the blanks with funky animation and amazing live footage. Everyday Sunshine, which follows its hugely successful film festival run by opening in New York City on October 7 and rolling out theatrically afterward, will appeal to fans of the band, critics of the music industry, and students of subculture. It’s emotional without being sensational and powerful while remaining complex. It will speak to any outsider who struggles personally and financially while dedicating his or her life to something creative and meaningful.