Only Norwood can pull off a baby blue velveteen baseball cap
I knew I wouldn't be able to catch Fishbone at Bumbershoot—or anybody, for that matter—so I was pleased when I noticed that "the band" would be appearing at the Northwest Film Forum for a Q&A after a one-time screening of the fine and forthcoming documentary Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone (I also knew that the guests would be founding members Norwood Fisher and Angelo Moore; the full and ever-changing line-up seemed a pretty unlikely prospect).
The film is available on DVD—you can also stream it via Netflix and iTunes—and it's played Seattle at least twice, so I wasn't sure what kind of crowd would show up at 2pm on Labor Day, but I gotta say: it was a good one. Not just because the house was full, but because attendees came armed with plenty of questions.
More pictures and notes below. Plus, a very SPECIAL guest!
That's a water bottle; Norwood confirmed that he's done with the drink
Although it would've been nice to see and hear the inimitable Mr. Moore, the bass player arrived alone, but this development wasn't as disappointing as it sounds, not when the Q&A proceeded to last for about an hour and a quarter, making it one of the longer ones I've ever experienced, and I've attended hundreds over the years. (Heartwarming aside: before he entered the theater, I heard Norwood take a call on his cellphone. "Hi Mom..." he began. It was Mama Fish! Live! On the line!)
Also on the agenda: a cookbook (unless he was joking)
Since I've seen the film three times now, I didn't have any questions—the DVD includes two commentary tracks—but it was interesting to hear what other people had to say. Although fans love to compare Fishbone to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the exercise appears to hold considerably less appeal to the involved parties. After all: the bands emerged from the same So-Cal scene (Norwood described them as "a little older," since he was underage when Fishbone began).
The funk aficionados hung out together, supported each other, and appeared on a lot of the same bills. If anyone is expecting Norwood or Angelo to say, "I don't like those guys anymore" or "We deserve to be just as popular," they'll be waiting a long time. Fisher, in particular, emanates genuine positivity. If the documentary makes his precarious financial situation abundantly clear, I got the impression that he's more concerned about creating a viable future for himself rather than wasting tears over the mistakes, missed opportunities, and misfortunes of the past.
Thankfully, no one actually broached the subject, but one fellow did ask, "Is it true you taught Flea how to play the bass?" (Or he might have asked, "Is it true you taught Flea how to play the slap bass?") The answer turned out to be more complicated than a simple yes or no. Norwood says he was in a music shop one day, and he saw an Asian guy playing slap bass (he thinks the man may have been Korean). Inspired, he copied the technique. Flea was intrigued, and asked if Norwood could give him some pointers, and so he did. I love it that they were taking their cues from some random guy in a retail outlet, rather than a heavyweight like Larry Graham (with whom, I'm sure, they're well acquainted).
Norwood had a lot of praise for the Two Tone sound Lynval helped to construct
So, props to the NWFF and props to Norwood for the generosity of his time. Towards the end of the Q&A, I was tempted to ask if he was still in touch with Blowfly, but decided it might be best not to broach the subject. Norwood appears in The Weird World of Blowfly, since he played bass for the dirty-rap legend, but it's such a disheartening profile I was afraid it might put a damper on an otherwise upbeat afternoon. Plus, I don't know if Norwood is a fan (he probably) is or whether it was just another paying gig (that was probably part of the equation).
In any case, a gentleman with a lovely Anglo-Jamaican accent spoke up at a certain point, and mentioned that he was a member of—the Specials. Hot damn! Only one of Fishbone's primary influences. They proceeded to talk about their overwhelmingly white audiences (Norwood says he's been seeing more diversity in recent years; one of the benefits of sticking it out longer than most of your peers). Lynval also said he couldn't imagine a better live act than Fishbone. Norwood demurred, but the look on his face said it all; there's nothing like high praise from a personal hero. After the Q&A, I snapped a picture of Golding asking Fisher where Fishbone would be playing that night: he didn't want to miss it.