Sunshine for Shady People attacks on two fronts: It's a bit of history of a bygone band, and a piece of road documentary foretelling the long travels of nobodies jumping from town to town. It isn’t poetic or gruesome, it’s just the life of Arab on Radar — a band forgotten while the scene they helped create has spawned worthy successors to its throne.
Arab on Radar hails from one of the many movements wrought by No Wave. Before the days of The Smell, No Fun Fest, and uncountable underground labels, there was Providence, Rhode Island. Out of this seemingly quiet city came acts both brash and the bold, from Six Finger Satellite to Black Dice to Lightning Bolt. Chased from the venue where they played their first show, opening for Marilyn Manson, Arab on Radar always took the hard road for little more than a chance to see the world.
Sunshine for Shady People captures the seven years of travel that comprised much of Arab on Radar’s existence from 1997 to 2003, when the band suddenly called it quits. Director Craig Kureck, with the assistance of Ruby Wells, captures every possible moment of Arab on Radar -- bathroom breaks, airplane journeys, and all the shows in between -- and condenses them into a fast-paced, take-no-prisoners look at an underground band unknowingly paving the way for a movement.
But Sunshine for Shady People does little patting on the back. Not once does Kureck or the musicians fellate the Arab on Radar legacy or boast of the band's accomplishments. Interviews with the band members, tour managers, and close friends provide insight into Arab on Radar's operating procedure without the distracting complications of band life. We aren’t privy to the arguments, just the happy times and shitty sleeping accommodations. There is nothing glamorous to be found for those dreaming of the high life of the music business. All we get are a couple of white trash kids who were adventurous enough to pour their knowledge into distortion.
This is the life of most traveling bands. Sleeping on stages, playing in basements, and scrapping together the dough to buy gas and grub to last until the next gig in the next town. Sunshine for Shady People doesn't shed new light on this shit -- and most fans of these traveling hordes already know the drill. It does, however, illuminate a forgotten, or in some cases unknown, band that rescued many from the monotony of mid-'90s music.