Five Iron Frenzy: Farewell

“Today is a good day to die,” Reese Roper stated during the final Five Iron Frenzy show last fall. A part of me died when I heard this, but I knew that all good things must end. During the summer of 1997, I was introduced to Five Iron Frenzy. It was just after their debut album Upbeats and Beatdowns had been released. During the summer that I was exposed to that album, my life changed drastically. I became a fan of good Christian music and started to find more bands like FIF. Through out the entire Christian ska phase, Five Iron was always ahead of what the other bands were doing. From their energetic stage shoes to their funny renditions of songs, they have kept their focus on God and ministered to everyone who ever got a chance to hear them. Five Iron Frenzy chose to die in 2003 and this, The End is Here Live Album was their final show ever.

The intro track is very simple: “Please welcome to the stage for the last time Five Iron Frenzy”. Close to 4,000 fans came out for the final show in Denver, Colorado. This is a live show unlike any other. Track 2, “Old West”, originally on their first album ever, blast into your speakers reminding many of the first time they ever heard FIF. With a screaming guitar, and the beauty of ska horns Five Iron explodes upon the stage. Track 3, “Hand Book for the Sellouts” is a throw back to their second album, Our Newest Album Ever! The band is enjoying every minute of the show, and the excellent production allows you to feel as if you were there. The mixture of crowd vocals and instruments is a testament to Masaki, Five Iron’s long time producer. The show is something the many fans had been dreading for a long time, the final time their favorite band would play. Five Iron was not going home with out a fight, and they played harder than they ever had.

The combination of classic rock tracks and new tunes, as well as their well-known banter, make this the truly definitive Five Iron Frenzy album. Over an hour of music is pounded at you, and then it happens, the medley falls into your laps; a medley of their greatest hits rearranged and put into an eight-minute package. The “Medley” allowed many fans to hear their favorite songs from the past eight years. As it ended, a somber feeling came over the record. As a listener, more so if you are fan, you start to feel sadness set in, the bands mood changes, and the classic carefree momentum that was there just an hour ago is now shrunk down as reality of not being a band anymore settles in. One of the FIF socially relevant songs “A New Hope” is presented for the listener, with Reese, giving a preface as he usually did about the meaning of the song. He tells the crowd that “this song’s about Columbine High school, more importantly it’s about something I think we all lack, we all need something solid to hope for, beyond material things. I think that everyone can find that in the love of Jesus Christ, that is what this song is about.”

Five Iron was never one to back down from their commitment to ministry and at a show filled with fans and friends; they still knew their mission. “A New Hope” is a brutally dark anthem about the days after Columbine, only a few short blocks from the bands practice studio, and it is disclosure into the thoughts of high school students. Hope is something all people start to search for; they need something greater than themselves, and Five Iron offers that hope in Jesus Christ. Immediately flowing into their final two songs, FIF rips into their rock baled “World Without End”, the chorus of this song is enough to bring tears to your eyes. Since the days it was written, every time Five Iron plays it, an entourage of vocals accompanies the words, “In the soundless awe and wonder/ Words fall short to hope again/ How beautiful, how vast your love is/ New forever, world without an end.” Ringing throughout the area, the fans cheered for Five Iron; it was time.

As Reese and his friends prepared to play one final time, the crowd bursts into the all too common “FIF” chant. Then it happened, Five Iron started “Every New Day” for the last time. The bands call to arms, their greatest song ever— the one that everyone knows the words to, but every time still feeling the same way as they did the first time they heard it. As the song blares into your face, Five Iron enters the journey of their final song together. Should you sing along, like you have some many times before? Or should you cry and be sad that your band was ending their long running career? For many it was a combination of both.

“Healing hands of God have mercy on our unclean souls once again/ Jesus Christ light of the world, burning bright within our hearts forever/ Freedom means love without condition without a beginning or an end/ Here’s my heart, let it be forever yours.” So real, so in your face— Five Iron Frenzy’s only way to die. As the song ended, the crowd chanted, “thank you.” Reese returned to the stage and led the crowd of 4000 in “Amazing Grace.” Finally, as Reese stood in front of his second family of loyal fans, he gave his thanks and commissioned the fans. Reese told the crowd about God’s love and challenged the fans to carry on the Five Iron Frenzy legacy.

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Five Iron Frenzy never achieved mainstream success; they weren’t on MTV and they didn’t play VH1. All they did was get in a van for eight years and drive around the country playing great music and showing the love of Christ. If anyone ever got a chance to see them, they know that this show, much like others, was filled with laughter and love.

Over the years many of us grew up listening to Five Iron and something people may have forgotten is that the band grew up as well. So as they reached their time to die, many of us reached our time to grow up. We were taught by the band to love and spread the gospel, and as Five Iron Frenzy has come to an end, it is the fans responsibly to carry on the mission. Many fans will look back and remember a lyric or two from their songs for strength or for joy. It was a good day to die, but an even better day to be a fan.

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