As the Smoke Fades: The Holly Springs Disaster Live in Toronto Directed by Daniel Bray and J.E. Nicholson
Published Apr 21, 2017For those poor souls who are unfamiliar with the ridiculously heavy "Southern" hardcore music that Holly Springs churned out (or should I say chugged out), it's certainly never too late — and conveniently, they only had one album, so it's not all that hard to catch up on what you've missed. Just six songs long, the band's Motion Sickness Love changed the Canadian hardcore scene, fucking up a whole generation of teenagers with graphic lyrics, unbridled bounce and a sense of honesty we weren't used to hearing in the often-manicured music scene.
As the Smoke Fades: The Holly Springs Disaster Live in Toronto, a new documentary from Western Canadian directors John Eric Nicholson and Daniel Bray, digs deep into the heart of the aforementioned factors that made many an adolescent fall in love with the music of Mike Froh and his band of Saskatchewan rough-riders. The doc braids footage of Holly Springs from their 2014 reunion shows at the Danforth in Toronto with interviews of the members and the DIY MySpace-era videos that the band became famous for. Telling the story of how the seemingly insignificant Canadian band gained a cult following in their short five-year career and even shorter discography, the documentary manages to capture and even further embody the spirit and mentality of the Holly Springs: Never about being perfect, they were here to have a good time.
As The Smoke Fades does the band justice and includes some very impressive footage from the secret show in Hamilton they launched two days before the Toronto reunion. So while the documentary aspects surrounding the performance bits could have been built a little more cohesively, there's plenty to love, anyway. Highlights of the doc are a very brief mention and look into the relationship between the holy trinity of early 2000s Canadian hardcore — THSD, Straight Reads the Line and Dead and Divine — and, of course, the in-depth exploration of the band's demise.
Fans were told one story: That Froh had a problem with his voice, and could no longer continue to front the band every night. His departure led to a quick yet unsuccessful search for his replacement and, ultimately, the group's conclusion. As the Smoke Fades treats us to the real story: A quickly growing schism between the eccentric Froh and the tenacious partiers in the rest of the band over the influences and expected trajectory of the band. Through these documentary interviews, viewers get the sense that band members weren't ready for it all to be over in 2010; and yet, while they never officially closed the door to a real comeback, a number of backhanded comments here give the impression that everyone in the band may still be too distant to agree on a full reunion.
The story-telling techniques and first-hand testimonies from the band and crew show the band for what they truly were: A charming and talented group of rural Canadian fuckups. To paraphrase Phillip Seymour Hoffman, paraphrasing Lester Bangs on the Guess Who: "They have the courage to be drunken buffoons, which makes them poetic." (Collectivision)