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Movie Review: Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone

December 2, 2011

While it’s possible you’ve never heard of Fishbone, chances are at least one of your favorite bands have.

This African American band that formed in a South Central L.A. junior high school in 1979 could easily be classified as punk, funk, ska or a number of other things. The band lacks the ease of any simple classification and seems to subconsciously abhor stereotype. Even though they never gained commercial success their influence can be felt throughout, in fact, Fishbone has become a band that is notorious for their lack of notoriety. Fishbone has not, for a moment, stopped being Fishbone, even if they have no idea what that means.

In Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone, Lev Anderson and Chris Metzler try to figure that it out for them. Featuring interviews ranging from Gwen Stefani of No Doubt to actor, Tim Robbins and narrated by Lawrence Fishbourne, the documentary covers a great deal of subject matter. Focusing not only the history of the band itself, it also delves into the L.A. punk scene as well as racism in 1980s Reagan America. It is a peak into a culture that few experienced, but musically we are still feeling the aftershocks today.

Unlike many documentaries that inevitably become odes to their subject matter, Everyday Sunshine focuses not only on the challenges that the band faced externally, but also their own personal strengths and weaknesses. Sure, this is a band that fought an undercurrent of stereotype in a music scene not prepared for them. And sure, their music was arguably “too good”: too expansive and too complicated than was common for the masses. They are also a band that sometimes just made the wrong decision, a band that throughout the years have had moments of insecurities, heartbreak, depression, alcoholism and just plain naiveté. They may behave as rock stars on stage, but in reality they no different than us facing challenges every day in an attempt to survive.

It is in these moments of character study that the documentary truly shines. The band’s willingness to discuss their shortcomings as candidly as their strengths helps to paint portraits that feel more truthful than most documentary could ever hope to achieve. That’s not to say that Everyday Sunshine dislikes that band, but an objective eye maintains perspective from the first frame to last.

Unfortunately, like the music itself, sometimes the subject matter just feels too big, too complicated and occasionally the film does lose its ways. Overall though it should hold the attention of even a lukewarm fan, and may even spark the interest of a few non-listeners.

It isn’t always a happy story, but Fishbone isn’t through yet and they continue to be compelling, unwavering and innovative, even when they seem to have lost their way. Now consisting of only two of the original founding members, front man Angelo Moore and bassist Norwood Fisher refuse to give up. After 32 years though, there is now something bittersweet in their quest. Angelo reflected at one point that “You never know when the last time is going to be, so you enjoy every show” But when is enough enough?  Their aspirations no longer seem well-defined, but they just continue to do whatever it is that they do, which is truthfully what they have always done. Are they done playing?  Apparently not, and that, in itself, may be the happy ending.

3 out of 5 stars.

Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone directed by Chris Metzler and Lev Anderson is playing exclusively in Kansas City this weekend at Screenland Crossroads Theater

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