In the late 80s and early 90s, Fishbone was a band of raging maniacs whose music defied categorization. It was funk, punk, reggae, jazzy, chaotic, focused, and filled with harmonies that could screech. They were smack in the middle of the Alternative Music Lollapalooza explosion. Yet while many of their contemporaries became millionaires, they never had a lightening strike hit even while gaining many loyal fans. Cut to about a decade and a half later and the two remaining original members still keep the home fires burning, even while one of them had to move back in with his Mom.
This rises above many other rock documentaries. The inner dynamics of a band filled with strong personalities is shown warts and all. Whole ranges of emotions are displayed. There are similarities to “Anvil! The Story of Anvil” in how it’s very much like a family with love and resentment intermingled with heavy drama and long standing respect. But elements unique to Fishbone are just as interesting.
The original six members met in junior high school. Some of them were transported from the ghetto of South Central Los Angeles to the suburbs of the San Fernando Valley. There are hysterical Fat Albert-like animations in this section. The history of Los Angeles is very much intertwined with the band. The riots after the Rodney King acquittal had a profound affect on them. Their history is chronicled very well even though some instances of cutting between past and present day could be clearer. Fishbone’s story is a fascinating example of defying race and class as much as defying music pigeonholing in an industry hell-bent on homogenization.
These guys are funny. There is never a long stretch where a joke isn’t cracked; the whole is made very entertaining as a result. There are some sections that drag mid-way through perhaps due to too much attention to present day agonies. The religious nervous breakdown of one member in the mid-90s, which led to an attempted kidnapping trial, is an upset spectacle to behold. Regarding probably every band member, it’s obvious there was alcohol and drug abuse. But directors Chris Metzler and Lev Anderson wisely do not dwell on this, seeing how the subject been done to death in so many other places. “Everyday Sunshine” pours in beams from the screen in what should be a fun experience for both fans and non-fans.