12:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5
with Roots of Creation
8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5
Fate is impossible to control, as the members of Fishbone, a California-based rock-punk-ska group that peaked in the late ’80s and early ’90s, well know. The new documentary, Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone, narrated with extra relish by Laurence Fishburne, makes that much perfectly clear. It’s a fascinating warts-and-all look at the rise and fall of a band that was never easy to categorize and which, despite their unlikely success, seemed to find themselves on fate’s bad side more often than not.
That’s not the case this weekend, however, when, thanks to a tour stop, a wedding cancellation that freed up the Enzian Theater (yes, they occasionally host weddings) and a buzz-worthy doc, members of Fishbone will take the stage for a post-screening Q&A, then hop across town for a musical performance later that night.
It’s that kind of boundless energy that lifts writer-directors Lev Anderson and Chris Metzler’s emotional journey beyond the self-aggrandizing nature of band docs and toward a sort of transcendent humanism. As the A-list lineup of tributaries (Ice-T, Flea, Gwen Stefani, George Clinton) attest, the real power of Fishbone lies in their chaotic yet inspiring live shows, and the film’s perfect utilization of live footage backs them up. Yet a documentary is only as interesting as its subject, and that’s where Everyday Sunshine truly, well, shines.
From their zany origins (former leading man Angelo Moore, then yearning to break from his Jehovah’s Witness upbringing, is described as having been “devoid of hood sense”) to the resistance the predominantly African-American group met from the black community (Damon Wayans’ early-’90s stand-up routine shows the baffled comedian saying “Black people don’t know Fishbone. ‘Is that that soul-food restaurant?’”), there’s little mythologizing needed on the part of the filmmakers. Footage so intimate that it must have been provided by the band members reveals the collective as genuinely interesting, disarmingly funny and overflowing with explosive egos.
Matched with present-day footage that admirably doesn’t shy away from embarrassment (one painful autograph session merits few attendees), the result is a travelogue full of twists, turns and unguarded emotion.
That’s particularly true of Kendall Jones, the charismatic guitarist who, in 1993, reconnected with his hyper-religious father only to be sucked back into the very thing Jones hated in him: a cult-like obsession with angels and demons. When Jones’ sanity started to become a question, the rest of the band attempted to forcibly pull him into an intervention, which led to charges of attempted kidnapping and Jones’ eviction from the group. It’s in passages like this that Fishbone’s hard-won brotherly love for each other becomes obvious.
In a marketplace brimming with “where are they now?” band docs that succumb to slavish glorification (Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest), VH1-style has-been exploitation (Anvil! The Story of Anvil) and appreciation pleas met with indifference (Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?)), Everyday Sunshine is an uplifting entry that rises to its task rather than letting the music do all the talking.
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