The Story of Fishbone

Fishbone - "Everyday Sunshine"

 “Voyage To The Land Of The Freeze Dried Godzilla Farts”.  It was in my high school photography class that my friend Laura told me about this local band called Fishbone with a song by this title.  This sparked my interest (as it is sparking yours) and I was soon indoctrinated upon attending my first Fishbone show.

These guys continue to bend and burn the boundaries of rock and ska, melt and then mend the notions of jazz and mariachi music, force the funk into the punk, and express their ideas about challenging racial stereotypes, segregation, assimilation, integration, brotherhood, and freeze dried Godzilla farts.  Can you laugh, be angry and be musically stimulated at the same time?  You betcha. 

So when my first professional assignment (for Guitar World Magazine) was to shoot a few key members of this ensemble I was over the moon.  Here are a few images from the session.

Angelo said to me:  “Fish never lets me play his drums.  But when he’s not here I can do anything I want.  Here, take a picture of this, Mitch.”

Here’s Norwood.  He was 1½ hours late to the session.  I love that guy!  It was so worth it just to hang out with this songwriter / bassist / comedian.

When I learned recently that a couple Oakland film makers made a documentary on the band, I flipped out.  “Everyday Sunshine – The Story of Fishbone”, the film by Lev Anderson and Chris Metzler (and narrated by Laurence Fishburne) just made its theatrical debut and is about to be shown on PBS.  The documentary chronicles the band’s seminal years as junior high students while the Los Angeles public schools were actively undergoing desegregation (in the form of mandatory bussing of many students away from their own neighborhoods), to the band’s rise in popularity despite their propensity to actively avoid any one pure genre, to the peak of their popularity in the early 90’s, through the pains of loosing a band member to a cult-ish religion (and Norwood’s subsequent arraignment after trying to kidnap this member back. . . ), then to the declining popularity of the band, Angelo being evicted from his apartment and now living with his mother, etc.

But it’s not as sad as it sounds.  Through it all, these are artists with internal engines that can’t stop creating and performing.  When I saw them last May it was if they were playing these songs for the first time (of course a few of them were brand new).  This raw, celebratory energy was the same as it was when I saw them way back gigging with the Chili Peppers.  And Angelo will stage dive into a crowd of 10,000 - or into a crowd of 200.  Trust me. . .

Angelo swims in “the pool” at 1993’s Lollapalooza.

Anderson and Metzler did a masterful job with this film.  It’s no “VH1 Behind The Music” (or whatever they call it) rock doc.  It’s a work of art.  “Everyday Sunshine” is a living (and very much continuing) story.  It’s funny: it’s hard to simply call the band members legendary because they’re pretty down to earth-ish.  But they are legends in my heart.  Check out the film – and more importantly – see them live.  Here’s a link to the trailer, info on DVD purchases, etc.  And here’s a link to the Fishbone site. 

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