‘ReMastered: The Miami Showband Massacre’ revisits one of Ireland’s greatest tragedies

Netflix/YouTube

The latest in Netflix’s music doc series explores the 1975 Miami Showband killings.

The Miami Showband Massacre, the latest installment in Netflix‘s ReMastered music documentary series, delves into one of the worst atrocities committed during a volatile period in Irish history commonly known as “the Troubles.” The Miami Showband, once one of Ireland’s most popular cabaret bands, was attacked at what appeared to be a checkpoint, where gunmen in British Army uniforms shot and killed three band members.

ReMastered: The Miami Showband Massacre
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RELEASE DATE: 3/22/2019
DIRECTOR: Stuart Sender
STREAMING: Netflix
The latest ReMastered explores the truth and conspiracy behind one of Ireland’s greatest tragedies.

The Miami Showband Massacre quickly swells into a labyrinth of vast conspiracy, involving British espionage intermingled with Irish intra-national/sectarian violence—and one man’s desperate quest for the truth.

The documentary initially homes in on the Dublin-based group, which had become one of the most celebrated acts on the Irish music scene, scoring seven Irish chart-topping singles. The Miami Showband formed in the early ’60s and underwent several personnel changes, and by 1975 the lineup consisted of saxophonist Des Lee, trumpeter Brian McCoy, guitarist Tony Geraghty, lead vocalist Fran O’Toole, bassist Steve Travers, and drummer Ray Millar. Their talent seemed to transcend boundaries, able to unite Catholics and Protestants.

Netflix ReMastered The Miami Showband Massacre review Netflix/YouTube

The Miami Showband dominated the charts during the Troubles, a sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland that began in the late 1960s. In 1975, violence erupted between the region’s two principal loyalist paramilitary groups, the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and the Ulster Defence Association (UDA). The Mid-Ulster Brigade within the UVF was found responsible for the attack on the band, which regularly traveled in and out of Northern Ireland.

The investigation, partly pushed along by surviving bassist Travers, found that the attack on the group had been targeted. In fact, the shooting deaths of three of the band members—O’Toole, McCoy, and Geraghty—occurred only because the bomb planted in their minibus during a stop had exploded prematurely. The explosion was supposed to occur within Irish territory, framing the band members as bomb smugglers and prompting tighter border security. The Miami Showband’s demise proved to be part of a poorly executed false flag operation, coordinated by the UVF and British intelligence.

Netflix ReMastered The Miami Showband Massacre review Netflix/YouTube

While many ReMastered episodes can’t fully escape the pitfalls of conspiracy theory, Sender’s piece mostly pushes through it. The doc shows some proof of collusion between the British military and Irish paramilitary organizations, although further explanation of who did what would’ve been useful. More specifically, the film portrays the British as opportunistic killers, if careless in execution. An incriminating letter shows the UVF’s complaints of second-rate weaponry obtained from the U.K.’s security agency, MI5, such as the faulty bomb meant to kill all the band’s members.

ReMastered: The Miami Showband Massacre shows the parallel political and emotional wounds inflicted by the killings—the latter in the form of Travers, who continues to suffer from survivor’s guilt. Sender lays down a credible foundation with great research and use of archival footage, augmenting Travers’ singular effort to find the truth of what happened to his bandmates on that tragic day in 1975.

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Kahron Spearman

Kahron Spearman

Kahron Spearman is a music and film critic whose work can also regularly be regularly found in the Austin Chronicle.