Clues: They were a ska-punk band that found success without the help of mainstream radio, major labels or MTV airplay. Their varied songs tackled such controversial subjects as police brutality, homophobia, corporate hegemony and female empowerment.
No, not Choking Victim, Against All Authority or Operation Ivy.
Bonus clue: They played their songs for the glory of Jesus Christ.
For nine years, Denver, Colorado’s Five Iron Frenzy walked a fuzzy line between a hard-working, heavy touring ska-punk band and a successful Christian mainstay. This DVD chronicles their journey from pre-inception to post-breakup in its three hours and 15 minutes of footage, photos, interviews and more.
Yes, I did say three hours and 15 minutes. And that doesn't include the bonus disc. This exhaustive documentary was assembled entirely by frontman Reese Roper and lies somewhere between overkill and ultimate archive for the FIF superfan. I personally thought there was a little too much coverage of their early metal incarnation Exhumator and some assorted clips of the band just being goofs and singing songs about “retards” that should have been left on the cutting room floor or at least been relegated to the “deleted scenes” section of the bonus disc. But for the most part, it’s pretty requisite stuff.
The aforementioned divide between secular and Christian ambitions is not played down in The Rise and Fall of Five Iron Frenzy. There are clips of Roper in an Avail shirt shouting along while the band plays a cover of “Minor Threat” to their bewildered fans and video of the band joining Rx Bandits on stage for “What If.” Band members candidly lampoon conservative televangelists Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell for their hateful reaction to 9/11, and founding guitarist Scott Kerr openly discusses losing his faith and exiting the band in 1998. Throughout the documentary, various members express their desire to reach past playing to the choir and doing as many secular shows and tours as appearances at Christian festivals and circuits. The conundrum was that while doing non-Christian shows like the Ska Against Racism tour was rewarding from a personal standpoint, it was the Christian tours and festivals that allowed them to make a living playing music for nine years.
The Christian foundations of Five Iron Frenzy are not played down either, as band members recount their experiences with God and faith, musical ministry, and their work in an orphanage on a trip to South Africa. The interviews are organic and frank, the only certifiable prudeness coming when “ass” is inexplicably bleeped out from an interview. Other than that, Roper does an outstanding job narrating the history of the band as well as providing an undertone that helps set the mood and context of each progression in the storyline.
There is obviously way too much to dissect here in 500-some words. Five Iron Frenzy superfans will have no better source for historical and biographical information and video regarding their favorite band than this DVD, while more moderate fans will enjoy a sizable fraction of this epic documentary. Either way, it is an impressive labor of love that will stand as the definitive Five Iron Frenzy DVD for years to come.