Album Review :
Five Iron Frenzy - The Rise and Fall of Five Iron Frenzy DVD

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Artist: Five Iron Frenzy

Album: The Rise and Fall of Five Iron Frenzy DVD

Label: Asian Man Records/ Department of Biophysics

Release Date: April 13, 2010

Reviewer: Eric Pettersson

When the best Christian ska band ever finally called it quits in 2004, fans everywhere were devastated. Reese had a new project that rushed to immediately release a new album and keep the FIF momentum going, but Roper never quite clicked. Rumors of a DVD came and went. Rumors of a reunion at Cornerstone made their way around the internet, but that also proved false (at least for now). Brave Saint Saturn finally got around to releasing part three of their trilogy in 2008, which was an incredible record whether you were a Five Iron fan or not. In fact, I’m going to listen to it as I write this review. But even BS2 could not fill the void felt in the hearts of Five Iron Frenzy fans, which is why all those devastated fans finally rejoiced when those rumors of a DVD resurfaced, totally confirmed. The DVD, which I now hold in my hands, is a “feature length documentary,” chronicling the nine years that Five Iron Frenzy was a band, including live footage, shots from camcorders that the band seemingly took everywhere, and of course interviews with all of the former members.

Unfortunately, this DVD does not live up the all the hype. To put it bluntly, I found it exhausting. The documentary is three hours long, telling the detailed story of the band, from when Reese and Keith first met in youth group all the way up to what each of the band members are doing today. Fans will love hearing the story, but it gets cluttered with unnecessary footage throughout the entire movie. A total of about one hour of the film is ridiculous home video footage of band members getting too close to the camera and yelling goofy things that are really only funny then and there. I’ve shot such footage myself, when taking a camcorder on youth group retreats, and I could not watch that footage when I got home because it wasn’t funny anymore. It was boring and annoying. This is exactly what watching Five Iron Frenzy’s new DVD felt like. After the first 45 minutes, I was ready to give up and turn the thing off. But, out of an obligation to our readers, I stuck through to the very end.

And I’m glad I did. The second two hours are much better than the first, though I found myself shouting “shut up” at the TV from time to time when Andy was making goofy noises or other people were clowning around in the way that is only funny when you are A) being extreme to fight off boredom, B) acting in a youth group skit, or C) living in a ska band at a time when Jim Carrey was still considered funny. Five Iron seem to fit all three categories, so I will excuse them, but even for a fan as big as myself, this video was pushing it.

That said, the interviews, photographs, concert footage, and more work together to tell a beautiful story. The people here are incredibly honest. Scott, the guitarist who left after the first two and a half albums, shares openly about why he felt the need to leave FIF. Others talk about the fun and the struggles of living on the road, especially the close contact and conflict that occurs in a band with so many members. The “prologue” spends a lot of time talking about the metal band Exhumator, of which Five Iron Frenzy was originally a side project. Later, things get emotional and raw as the band deals with the school shooting at Columbine where Micah’s sister was a student, playing in New York City the day after 9/11, traveling to play with orphans in South Africa, death of loved ones and broken relationships. Some interviewees come close to tears, and at times I found myself right there with them. This is why it’s such a shame that so much of the other crap was including. Showing the band’s sense of humor is important, but it could have been done without so many shots of people getting too close to the camera and shouting nonsense, especially when you consider that the film totals just over three hours, which is double what I originally expected.

My other major complaint here, and this is one I guarantee will be shared by even the most dedicated fans, is that every band member is interviewed on film except for Reese Roper. He did the narration and basically made the film, so his comments are including, but it feels really weird not seeing the lead singer talking in a rock documentary like this one.

The bonus disc, which claims to be a cup coaster, is also a DVD, containing all five music videos, two fan-created music videos, complete footage of three major concerts, deleted scenes, and eleven “short films.” These extras all look like a lot of fun, though I’m not sure how to feel about some of those short films. If I had made them (and I have made similar things), I would have been too embarrassed to include all of them. In that way, it is the greatest treasure of the ultimate fan. If you own the It’s Funny But Not Very Creative 7 inch that Five Iron released before signing to Five Minute Walk, then you will love having all this early video stuff to go with it.

Overall: If you traveled from another state to see Five Iron Frenzy’s final show in Denver, then you will love this DVD. If, like me, you own all of their albums and saw them once on the east coast, you will find yourself drifting in and out, wondering why this thing isn’t two hours instead of three. As a long-time fan, it was awesome and totally worth it to hear the detailed story from the people who lived it, but all the unnecessary stuff just got on my nerves. If I was still in youth group culture, I would have loved it, but as someone who graduated high school in 2007, my most formative years were spent listening to emo and indie rock, and I’ve lost my appreciation for people making silly noises and poop jokes. As I am today, I want to give this documentary a 10/10 for the quality of interviews and the story, but as a total package I cannot get past the lack of discerning editing. Sorry Reese. Should have hired a professional for this one.