Modern Life Is War, placed smack dab in the middle of a lineup involving He Is Legend, Maylene and the Sons of Disaster and Paulson on a full U.S. tour. You're asking the wrong guy.
In any event, our entourage strategically arrived as Paulson was completing their set. Despite some critical acclaim from varied webzines for 2005's All at Once (slightly reworked and reissued on Doghouse in March), my interest in the band remained in the red after listening to tracks long ago. Thus, we didn't step foot into the Knitting Factory's main space room until a comedian was amusing the crowd with some odd banter in between sets -- and its bizarre content chased us out just as quickly.
The familiar sound of instrumental tuning brought us back, and we arrived just as Modern Life Is War began to strum the haunting, methodically slow chords of one of Witness' most brooding tracks, "Marshalltown." The band's faithful gathering of adorers began to let loose regardless of the band's decision to start off with a track that's conservatively aggressive, even for them. Hands outstretched from the floor to Jeff Eaton and his hovering, menacing stance that's becoming more Rollins-esque with every show.
The band refused to let up for another 10 minutes or so, blasting through nearly the rest of Side A on Witness and finding a surprisingly healthy portion of the crowd moving and singing along with it. Technical problems with one of the guitars created a long intermission, but Eaton filled the time by letting kids come up to announce local shows. He also took a jab at his tourmates, letting the crowd know that if they were "looking for a religious experience," that Maylene and their Sons of Disaster would be next. Letting them know about available merchandise, Eaton cautioned their potential customers: "If you buy a shirt from us, you're going to hell."
Finally, the band delved into one of their newest live stapes, "Stagger Lee." It's enormously epic and captures the band at their poundingly restrained finest. Eaton called for a circle pit for its follower, "Fuck the Sex Pistols," which could be the fastest song they've written to date; its lyrics are a little repetitive and oversimplified, but it musically rips and the message seems to be a visceral, literal "fuck you" to those who believe music peaked in a certain era ("fuck the glory days").
"D.E.A.D.R.A.M.O.N.E.S." was sandwiched by two elder anthems, "First & Ellen" and "By the Sea," pleasing and appeasing long-time fans, but certainly not only respectively.
As usual, Modern Life Is War provided an excellent, inspired set that found them doing just about all one could ask in a half-hour-long support slot.
Set list (7:26-7:59):
- John and Jimmy
- The Outsiders
- Martin Atchet -----
- Stagger Lee
- Fuck the Sex Pistols
- First & Ellen
- By the Sea