Modern Life Is War - live in Marshalltown (Cover Artwork)

Modern Life Is War

Modern Life Is War: live in Marshalltownlive in Marshalltown (2008)
Equal Vision Records

Reviewer Rating: 5

Contributed by: GlassPipeMurderGlassPipeMurder
(others by this writer | submit your own)

Past Daryl's Gun Shop and the Marshall County Sheriff's office, US Highway 30 snakes through the hills winding past the Iowa Veterans Home and into downtown Marshalltown. As I drive past the oversized Main Street houses, paint peeling under the constant pressure of deindustrialization, I clutch my t.

Past Daryl's Gun Shop and the Marshall County Sheriff's office, US Highway 30 snakes through the hills winding past the Iowa Veterans Home and into downtown Marshalltown. As I drive past the oversized Main Street houses, paint peeling under the constant pressure of deindustrialization, I clutch my tickets, numbered 497 and 498. There's an oasis somewhere, but all I can see is the Iowa I've known all my life.

What's the point of all this hackneyed verbosity? Many acts take artistic license in exploiting and exaggerating their surroundings. Tim Barry. Pitbull. The entire New York hardcore scene. Modern Life Is War is not one of those. What you hear in "Marshalltown" is exactly what you get driving through its streets. But luckily, there is something of an oasis on a given night in Marshalltown. And on April 26, 2008, that oasis was the Olive Street Moose Lodge, where 500 punk kids from across Iowa and across the US gathered to bid farewell to Modern Life Is War.

The Moose Lodge actually turned out to be an ideal venue for a sendoff of this magnitude. The setting had the type of hometown feel that can't be replicated in any bar or theater. There were no BS bouncers or macho security personnel, only what seemed to be friends and family of the band letting people enter and exit as they pleased and maintaining the friendliest of environments possible at a punk gig. There was a guest book on the table for fans to sign "like at a funeral" as vocalist Jeff Eaton put it, displaying the tremendous lengths people traveled to see the final show, from California to Massachusetts and even up to Canada. I felt a little guilty for only having to drive a half an hour.

Iowa native William Elliot Whitmore was taking the stage as I entered. I knew a bit about him from what I'd read without actually ever hearing him, and I can now say without hesitation that I am a fan. The audience reception was extremely good, especially as the tattooed blues & folk banjoist gushed about how much he loved Modern Life Is War, and Midnight in America in particular. Traditional folk band the Old Scratch Revival Singers took the stage next after getting talked up a bit by Eaton, but didn't seem to receive the same level of regard from the audience, with songs that lingered a fair amount too long to keep anyone's interest.

Finally, it was time for the main event. Interestingly, the way in which the band prepared to play said almost as much about them as their performance did. Instead of any grand theatrics to play up the gravity of Modern Life Is War's final hours, the band simply set up their equipment and did sound checks right in front of the audience, and when they were done, they started right away. Well, kind of.

As the lights lowered, the band launched into the first song from their very first album, and made it about a minute through the build-up of "Breaking the Cycle." Then the music stopped and Jeff Eaton announced, "We just broke the fucking stage." That's right, within 45 seconds of music, enough people has piled onto the stage that the whole front side had collapsed. There was an immense moment of tension as the stage electricity seemed to get flipped off, and someone yelled out "What the fuck!?" A man walked on stage and conferred with Eaton for a moment, and I'm sure many in the audience were thinking the unthinkable as I was, that we had just ruined a giant piece of the Moose Lodge, and the show was over. Thankfully, Eaton took the microphone and confidently announced the plan. "We're gonna move all the amps and equipment off the stage, then we're gonna move this entire stage outside, and we'll get on with the show right here." And it was so. Everyone pitched in (including the band), disassembling the stage in about fifteen minutes. Within a half an hour, everything was in place for round two, only this time it was gonna be a ground-level show.

Luckily, there were enough big guys on hand to create an informal barricade around the band, making sure the crowd didn't tumble forward and smash everything against the Moose Lodge wall. I have no idea how they managed this burden, but they did so masterfully, and while people like me thrashed about, surfed the crowd and moved freely with the giant mass of people, those guys kept the show going.

After starting over "Breaking the Cycle," the band went on to play all their fan favorites from throughout their three-album catalog, including Witness in its entirety (though not in its continuous order). Eaton routinely expressed his gratitude for everyone involved in the Iowa music scene and everyone who'd shown up to make the night so special, often losing articulation in the moment and relying on cheers to segue back into the music. He also dipped into a bit of MLIW history, retelling how the band gathered in drummer Tyler Oleson's basement when they had their first CDs pressed, laughing at the fact that they had to have a minimum of 500 made when they didn't even know 100 people period, and wondering how they would get rid of all those CDs. The set list was pretty much dead-on, though I could have gone for some of "The Motorcycle Boy Reigns" or "These Mad Dogs of Glory," but getting to hear "John and Jimmy" (in my opinion, one of the most epic 1:50 songs ever) and "Martin Atchet," one of the most intense songs period, helped the set exceed my expectations.

As the last notes of "Hair-Raising Accounts of Restless Ghosts" seeped through the speakers, Eaton and company were swarmed with hugs, thanks, and congratulations for their accomplishments. A big part of me wanted to go tell him how much I love their music and that am totally their biggest fan, and they mean so much to me, but instead I just wussed out and walked out the door with my girlfriend. So for what I didn't say then, I'll say now: Modern Life is War Is the best band to come out of Iowa in the 162 years its been a state. They've been an inspiration to every hopeless punk kid roaming the endless corn fields of this desolate farmland, wondering if there's anyone around that feels like them and words can't express how sorely they will be missed. Modern Life Is War: "Thanks for the great tunes."

Set list (approximate order):

  1. Breaking the Cycle
  2. I'm Not Ready
  3. Farmers Holiday Association
  4. John and Jimmy
  5. Stagger Lee
  6. The Outsiders
  7. Martin Atchet
  8. First and Ellen
  9. Marshalltown
  10. Clarity
  11. Young Man on a Spree
  12. Big City Dream
  13. Destination: Death or Better Days
  14. Young Man Blues
  15. Fuck the Sex Pistols
  16. A Tale of Two Cities (?)
  17. D.E.A.D.R.A.M.O.N.E.S.
  18. Hair-Raising Accounts of Restless Ghosts


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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
PyrrhusDarwinCastello (June 8, 2008)

Anyone interested can check out my interview with Jeffrey in here


writethatbitch (May 1, 2008)

I def remember them playing 'By the Sea'

Adam_K (May 1, 2008)

They didn't play By the Sea? Really?


Good band, saw them twice, mostly enjoyed it once, into the first two records, would've been into this, blah blah blah. D:DOBD is their best song.

writethatbitch (May 1, 2008)

oh shit. by the way, looks like they ended their set at Midnight in America. O M G!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


writethatbitch (May 1, 2008)

The trip from DC was worth it. I couldn't have known MLIW was playing ANYWHERE one last time and allowed myself to miss it.

I'm in those crowd pics standing off to the side of the stage pumping my fist. Thanks for the only shots from this show that I'm actually barely in! Exciting.
Good review.

This break-up really is bumming me out. It's so weird knowing that I won't get to see MLIW perform live again. I feel like I've lost something very important to me.

baseball (April 30, 2008)

Great job on the review. Never really got into MLIW too much, they were pretty good when I saw them live though.

Score is for the shirtless dude's mustache in the second pic.

victim (April 30, 2008)

Wow, almost felt like I was there. I didn't get into Midnight In America like Witness, but this is going to make me go give it a more careful listen

inagreendase (April 30, 2008)

I will reallly, really miss this band.

I'd have considered going to this if it wasn't a 17-hour drive...or if i somehow could have found someone willing to do so.

elliot (April 30, 2008)

The bassist they had on this tour was Brad, who's in Desperation and Grave Digging Shovels.

Other guitarist was Matt, who was on the first two albums, but not the last one. They got him back for this tour, which was way sweet.

LeightonESmith (April 30, 2008)

so what the fucka re you going to do, kid? still rattling at the chains of the gates of

the world...but you can't quite pretend. still tasting youth's bitter exile here in

your empty generation's wasteland...where all things that you've been clinging to are

being ripped from your hands. restless soul this place will never be your home. and if

you wanna have it all...you've gotta let it all go. before the adult world strings you

up and skings your skinny bones clean to the bone. 'cause all this time you've been

searchin for something real and now th epressure is coming down on you. you've gotta

turn this despair inside out and turn it into your way out. 'cause heaven knows you're

sinking and i know we're much the same...so cheers to our rebel hearts...not just

another fuck you...but a bedside love song for a chosen few. we feel like we've been

left in the wind to die in the dust...with no one speaking to us...so we are speaking

up. throwing out our anchor against the fear. your revelation time is near. so try

and listen to the voice urging you on...saying...this is it kid...this is your last

chance...and this is the only way to glory....and this is our last dance.

chorus_of_one (April 30, 2008)

great review!

thus_spoke_sean (April 30, 2008)

Anyway, this review gave me chills.

second that. god I love this band. GPM, thank you for documenting not only the ocassion, but the feelings too.

Jimmy_the_Saint (April 30, 2008)

I had to go Marshalltown for business about ten years ago. Nice town. There was a great steak place called Rube's. I wonder if it's still there...

douglas_is_rad (April 30, 2008)

I'm really digging the guy in the first picture grabbing his nuts. I think.

Anyway, this review gave me chills. I wish I could have seen them in Boston. Sounds like a spectacular show... period. This was a great band who will be missed.

2008 looks like a bad year for hardcore. First MLIW, now Sinking Ships... =(

MattyG (April 30, 2008)

sounds great--probably better than the NY show, which was a bit disappointing. their opening gig for Strike Anywhere at CBGB's a few years ago was probably the best show I've ever seen.

a little confused though--I didn't recognize the bassist and one of the guitarists. did they lose a few members since the previous few tours?

AnotherBoringStory (April 30, 2008)

Awesome review. I just wish I could have been there. Sounds incredible.

sumwon (April 30, 2008)

Dont know much about MLIW, but it's awesome that they have a song called Fuck the Sex Pistols.

Score is for the review.

xkidxdynamitex (April 30, 2008)

like I said in the fourth paragraph, I got there when William Elliot Whitmore was going on.

oh mah bad. but it sucks you missed em.

screamboat (April 30, 2008)

I played my very first show here.... hahaha! (im serious.)

GlassPipeMurder (April 30, 2008)

don't tell me you completly forgot to mention HOLDING ON!

like I said in the fourth paragraph, I got there when William Elliot Whitmore was going on.

also, i found a bunch of much better/more professional photos for anyone who's interested: http://www.flickr.com/photos/artripoli/sets/72157604763002626/

xkidxdynamitex (April 29, 2008)

don't tell me you completly forgot to mention HOLDING ON!
come on man. one of the best hardcore bands reunited to play 2 shows only with MLIW and they didnt get even the slightest mention. thats not cool.

Tangy (April 29, 2008)

oh, and excellent review

elliot (April 29, 2008)

"I'm Not Ready" definitely came later in the set, but I can't think of what actually was second. I didn't expect "Big City Dream," so that was a great surprise, and hearing "Young Man On a Spree" just killed me.

If the stage hadn't broken, they would have played an even long set. Original set was supposed to be 24 songs.

But yeah, anyone that wasn't there missed out hard. This was maybe the best show I've ever been to.

Tangy (April 29, 2008)

Thank fucking god I managed to catch them on the farewell tour. Bands like Modern Life Is War don't come along that often. Farewell, gentlemen.

red_eye_inc (April 29, 2008)

yeah, nice review. Their last Chicago show was really good.

24HourPriapism (April 29, 2008)

is it just me, or are there at least two dudes wearing MLIW shirts in those pics?

theyounginfluential (April 29, 2008)

saw them a little while ago for their last show in richmond, it was fucking intense. im gonna miss this band a whole lot.
also, great review.

asxyouxwish (April 29, 2008)

Many acts take artistic license in exploiting and exaggerating their surroundings. Tim Barry....The entire New York hardcore scene.

good review but that statement gets a serious thumbs down.

usversusthem (April 29, 2008)

Oh holy fucking shit. I can't believe they played Destination: Death or Better Days. That's my favourite fucking song of theirs... dammit. I wish they could have come to Montreal before breaking up...

colin (April 29, 2008)

such a fucking great band. wish i could have seen this show.

happynolucky (April 29, 2008)

great band, great review sir... wish i could have been there

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