The Miami Showband Massacre: Documentary Review

miami-showband-massacreI was truly intrigued about the story of the Miami Showband, who rose to fame and brought the people of Northern and Southern Ireland together through music in the mid 70s amid the political and turmoil and the general air of chaos in the streets because of these conflicts. The band was dubbed the “Irish Beatles” for a reason. They were brought together by a common love for music and they brought people reprieve from the stresses of everyday life. All before that fateful day of July 31st, 1975 when three of their members were killed in a roadside ambush allegedly masteminded by the British government itself.

In the mid 70s, tensions were high between the North and Southern Irelands. There were factions pushing the union of the two territories while there were also paramilitary forces like the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) that sought to retain the status quo where the Northern Ireland is united with Britain. The conflict has resulted in countless deaths of innocent civilians from car bombings, riots and violence from the warring factions. People sought refuge in the showband music scene and the Miami Showband is on top of the heap earning popularity across the territories and seemingly immune to the conflict until they were stopped by the military checkpoint on their way back to Northern Ireland in 1975 and asked to alight from the vehicle.

From the accounts of surviving members — saxophonist Des Lee and bassist Steven Travers, they were stopped in a seemingly normal checkpoint at 2 am after playing a gig. The two members claimed that a British officer arrived on the scene and pretty soon after, their van exploded and their members were razed down with gunfire. Des claimed to hear the soldiers confirming that they were dead before fleeing the scene. Both members gave key testimonies in court to hold the soldiers accountable for the death of lead vocalist Fran O’Toole, guitarist Tony Gerharty, and trumpeteer Brian McCoy.

42 years after the death of the Miami Showband members in the controversy, traumatized Steven Travers continues to fight the good fight and investigate the murder of his lads. Apart from testifying in court with Des, he has partnered with investigators and groups to uncover new information that seeks to unmask the parties responsible for the killings.

It was a really interesting documentary because it provides the audience with a clear perspective on the time as well as the political turmoil gripping a nation divided by politics. In his journey to find the truth, Travers gives viewers a glimpse into his evolution from a carefree musician before the fateful night, into a person’s whose sole purpose is to find justice for his lads and advocate for the acknowledgement of the conspiracies committed by the various forces involved in the killings so that history will not repeat itself.

I admire Travers’ commitment to his cause and his tenacity in finding the truth. This has led to the discovery of new information confirming conspiracies and collusions between governments and paramilitary forces. His investigation also raised the possibility that the murder of the Miami Showband members was intended to frame them as traitors to prevent the Irish Republican Army (IRA) to cross the border in yet another political maneuver to prevent the union of the two Irelands.

My head is still reeling from the amount of shocking reveleations uncovered by the Travers because it could seriously rival the plot of the most intricate political thrillers. And it all happened in real life.

From wanting to learn about the Irish Beatles, I was hooked by the documentary that reflects a lot of the conflict that the world is still suffering from — the violence, the death, the political motivations that fuel these atrocities. I was moved by The Miami Showband Massacre and the deaths of these musicians who only sought to bring joy to a people who needed relief from the misery of their everyday life. My heart ached for the loss of idealism and hope at a time when the Irish people needed it. I mourned this tragic stage of their history and although its 40 years too late, and closure is still a long way off, the documentary succeeded in raising questions that need to be asked, and thus created an avenue for which it can be answered once and for all.