When Fishbone burst onto the Los Angeles club scene in the early 1980s, it was as difficult to label as it was popular. The mashup of horns and guitars incorporated ska, punk, hard rock, funk and soul in furiously wild live shows. The eccentric Angelo Moore assumed the frontman role, but vocal leads were offered by several members. The group opened for bands including Dead Kennedys and Circle Jerks and became fixtures in punk-oriented clubs full of white kids. Meanwhile, black artists in the city's burgeoning rap scene viewed the band with skepticism, according to Ice-T in Everyday Sunshine.
The band was signed by Columbia before the members graduated from high school, and its early albums drew positive critical response. But from there, nothing was easy, and Everyday Sunshine chronicles the early promise and the long strange trip of never fully realizing it. There were both internal and external problems. Columbia never figured out a way to successfully market it, but more troublesome was the saga of losing guitarist Kendall Jones. When his mother died, Jones ended up reuniting with his estranged father and departed on a spiritual journey that ended up in court, with his girlfriend, brother and Fishbone leader Norwood Fisher accused of kidnapping him. Eventually, most of the original members departed, leaving Moore, Fisher and a slew of replacements. The band struggled financially, and Moore bounded into a Dr. Madd Vibe persona, introducing a theremin into the band's instrumentation.
Everyday Sunshine becomes more about Jones' and Moore's personal struggles as they dealt with the frustration and letdown. Moore went broke and moved in with his mother. It's an odd documentary that seems to be about unfulfilled dreams and frustrated artists (and it leaves one admiring Fisher). But the narration, in Laurence Fishburne's deeply somber tone, seems more appropriate to a heroic portrait than the very humbling stream of events presented. Some attempts to place the band in a grand historical context ring hollow. The film seems to buy into the notion the original band should reunite and that Fishbone still has unfulfilled potential, but both ideas seem suspect. Nevertheless, three original members are still leading the band, which performs at Tipitina's on Friday and at the Voodoo Experience on Sunday. Film tickets $7 general admission, $6 students/seniors, $5 Zeitgeist members. — Will Coviello
Oct. 28-Nov. 3
7:30 p.m. Friday-Thursday
Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center, 1618 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. 827-5858; www.zeitgeistinc.net