The Explosion / Modern Life Is War - live in New York (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Explosion / Modern Life Is War

live in New York (2007)

live show

For the Explosion's final show, the band pulled strings for two terrific openers, the Ergs! and Modern Life Is War; each had their own niche fanbase in attendance, and considering the stylistic differences maybe it shouldn't have been all that surprising.

The Knitting Factory main space wasn't half-full when the Ergs! walked onto the stage dead on schedule. Their own group of followers seemed stagnant at first, but a few songs in the pogoing and finger-pointing commenced in a tight little area up front. The band plowed through four straight songs to open up, with Mikey Erg's vocals snottily sung through the sound system crystal clear. They sounded damn good. The set was fairly heavy on Mikey-led songs (you know, more so than their studio efforts), but I was pleased when they delivered the modestly-edged, smooth "Girls of the Market Square," and Mikey came out from behind the kit for the minimal "Books About Miles Davis," which was refreshing and enjoyable. Superb start to things.

Set list (6:40-7:09):

  1. Things I Could Never Find a Way to Say
  2. Kind of Like Smitten
  3. Bike Shoppe
  4. Every Romance Language
  5. -----
  6. Introducing Morrissey
  7. Pray for Rain
  8. Saturday Night Crap-O-Rama
  9. -----
  10. Trouble in River City
  11. Girls of the Market Square
  12. -----
  13. Aja
  14. Fin
  15. -----
  16. Books About Miles Davis
  17. Everything Falls Apart and More
So then it was time to see Modern Life Is War for the 14,000th time this year (don't worry, I think this is the last review of the year for them...maybe). And some things were quite different. For one, Jeffrey Eaton took the stage not in his signature black vest (the one with the Children of the Corn patch), but a simple, black wife-beater. And then, he gently let the crowd know their first song would be "Fuck the Sex Pistols." Holy shit, they weren't opening with "The Outsiders" and "Martin Atchet!" Sure, we all know the band recently released a newer album, but it's not like it took up the bulk of the set list (as you can see below). So yeah, that was refreshing. And if it wasn't cool enough that they one-twoed with "Fuck the Sex Pistols" (seriously killer live, by the way) and "First and Ellen" (yes!), they immediately segued into "Outsiders" and "Atchet" as "Ellen" ended. Fucking excellent.

While the venue still wasn't up to its capacity for a sold-out show, the band's fans were present and energetic, moving from left to right and crawling over each other to scream the lyrics back into Eaton's face -- naturally exploding the most when "D.E.A.D.R.A.M.O.N.E.S." rolled through. Still though, this was an arguably "punk," sold-out show on a Saturday, and it seemed that the band's last stint at the Knitting Factory, opening for He Is Legend, actually had more of their fans in attendance; a little weird, I guess, but maybe attribute that to many of MLIW's followers not being able to snag tickets in time. It was pretty raucous overall though, and the only time it really died down much was when the band presented newer fare like "These Mad Dogs of Glory" (actually a year old by now, though) and "Pendulum." I was holding out for specific cuts "Screaming at the Moon" and "Night Shift at the Potato Factory," but perhaps they'll be integrated eventually as the band is sure to mix up their set list with touring plans booked out the ass. Overall, another damn fine time, especially since all the instruments sounded loud, booming and unusually focused, as surly as they seemed (but seeing them in the basement of a Williamsburg bar with no stage tonight? Uhh, that won't be beat. And who can argue with them opening up for the likes of Lifetime and the Souls next month?).

Set list (7:23-7:54):
  1. Fuck the Sex Pistols
  2. First and Ellen
  3. The Outsiders
  4. Martin Atchet
  5. -----
  6. These Mad Dogs of Glory
  7. -----
  8. John and Jimmy
  9. Pendulum
  10. -----
  11. Marshalltown
  12. D.E.A.D.R.A.M.O.N.E.S.
  13. By the Sea
The small room finally became more and more populated as the seconds began to tick on the inevitable detonation of the Explosion's last bang (ba-dum-tisch!). It swelled and swelled for nearly 40 minutes before the Explosion's members took the stage for their last rites. From there they proceeded to put on an energetic, sincere set of catchy, melodic and energetic punk rock tunes stripped of any unnecessary frills. Naturally, they opened with "God Bless the S.O.S.," the first of what would be many tracks from their lauded full-length, Flash Flash Flash.

Along the way, saucy vocalist Matt Hock made multiple drink requests, bounced around the stage manically and got in a mildly awkward semi-confrontation with (I assume) some photographers / up-front patrons when he called someone a "faggot." In any event, he commanded a hell of a presence and was generous with the mic when it came to the urgent chorus of voices on the floor below him.

Personally, I was stoked to hear the band play a fucking fantastic rendition of "Filthy Insane." Seriously, this song is pretty killer, but having not listened to it for a while, its delivery during "this is not you! / this is not me! / this is all of us! / this is everything!" left it resonating in my head long after the set ended.

"Sick of Modern Art," while not quite as abrasive as its studio version, was efficiently performed too and a definite highlight itself.

Elsewhere, the Loved Ones' Dave Hause came out for one of the band's still unreleased, new songs to provide some backup vocals. He didn't exactly make his presence felt, but it was cool to have another familiar voice in the mix.

After "True or False," requests from the crowd came for "Novocaine," so Hock offered the mic to anyone in the crowd to take the lead vocals on it. One nervous volunteer came up and was instructed to introduce the song; one slight hesitation later, the mic was confidently ripped out of his hands by another audience member. Ultimately it was decided they would share the duties, with a third person from the crowd jumping up on stage mid-song to make it a trio.

"Mother's Cry" came to a close and the band convened for a big, heartwarming group hug. And then? "No Revolution," with half the audience spilling onto the stage and shouting "there's no revolution anymore!" along with a couple of very cramped guitarists, vocalist and percussionist. The song finally finished at some point and many started to exit straight out the doors, flowing into the bar and outside the front entrance. Still, a select few remained inside the main stage room, vehemently demanding another song. A good four minutes or so had passed, and suddenly the band came back out, Hock promising this would be fun, and they tore into "No Revolution" -- again. An even greater percentage of the now thinned-out crowd took up residence on stage and fist-pumped in agony, death approaching ever so closer. But the Explosion delayed his icy grip one more time, playing the song again. I watched a crowd surfer dive on top of kids clustered on stage as Hock was huddled around by sweaty, aching faces looking into his mic and simply yelling the last words in near-eulogic fashion.


Set list (8:33-9:38):
  1. God Bless the S.O.S.
  2. Reactor
  3. Here I Am
  4. -----
  5. Warning
  6. The Ideal
  7. -----
  8. Terrorist
  9. Filthy Insane
  10. -----
  11. Broken Down and Out
  12. ?
  13. -----
  14. I Know
  15. ?
  16. -----
  17. new song [f/ Dave Hause]
  18. Points West
  19. -----
  20. If You Don't Know
  21. -----
  22. Tarantulas Attack
  23. Sick of Modern Art
  24. -----
  25. Image of a Son
  26. -----
  27. True or False
  28. -----
  29. Novocaine [f/ 2-3 audience members]
  30. -----
  31. Deliver Us
  32. -----
  33. Mother's Cry
  34. (group hug)
  35. No Revolution
  36. Encore (9:42-9:49):
  37. No Revolution
  38. No Revolution