Party At Ground Zero: Fishbone, Longevity Heroes

31 Jul

One of the films screening at a festival at which I’m working here in Boston is EVERYDAY SUNSHINE: THE STORY OF FISHBONE.  As a music lover, I was offended by myself for not having been familiar with these guys.  I would say that they’re criminally underrated, but the documentary about the band taught me that:

a) everyone making music from 1982-1993 is in love with these guys’ work, and that

b) the band was found “not guilty” of kidnapping guitarist Kendall Jones after he joined a cult-like group, ostensibly to rescue him from the brainwashing perversion of bigamy and big time Christianity that he fell prey to after his mother’s death.  Nolo homo.

From tight, expressive and often hilarious graphics to a narrative flow that really felt for the musicians even as it dealt honestly with the craziness around them, EVERYDAY SUNSHINE was excellent.  Filmmakers Lev Anderson and Chris Metzler neither shied away from nor overdramatized the band’s story (Behind the Music?  You can’t be anything but under and all around Fishbone’s music, with their energetic stage diving and slam dancing antics.)  Groundbreaking, all black, all male Fishbone were at first hard to get a feel for by this Gen Y filmgoer with Gen X taste but less 80s familiarity.  However, years of interviews, concert footage, and animated recreation of pivotal event’s in the band’s history were effectively used to boldly and necessarily illuminate this L.A. story.

I thought Angelo Moore’s theramin dope initially, but later found myself turned off by his self-centered “madd” tics and wrench-throwing dynamic.  Yet the film never leaves Angelo behind as a credible, vital participant in the continuing tale of this funk, punk, never completely drunk heart and soul-pouring makers of music and culture.  I was surprised to find myself left with a ripped dude with a lone dreadlock like a unicorn’s horn as the most solid, reliable band member (Norwood founded Fishbone) and film character.  Ultimately the story of Fishbone to date is one of keepin’ on keepin’ on, in spite of sales-dipping shitty treatment from Columbia and the rest of the recording industry, adverse personal developments, creative conflicts, infighting and jealousy, substance abuse and mental health issues, some pretty bad outfits and a whole bevy of other reasons to break the band up.  It’s really incredible that they would keep Fishbone alive after 25 years, and not a single smash hit.  Yet they soldier on, bringing Fishbone’s hyperunique voice to the masses.  Or, at least for now, to music insiders and small crowds in Eastern Europe.

Watch the video for Fishbone’s 1985 song, “.”

More next week on the experience of being a white chick working for a film fest showcasing people of color.


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