Setting the Stage: Modern Life Is War may just be the most accessible hardcore band of all time. To the cultists of heavy, that might sound like a bad thing; a big appeal of punk and metal subgenres is their inaccessibility to the larger music culture, a secret shared by weirdos in sweaty basements all across America. Modern Life Is War succeeds in being both a band you can lose your teeth to and a gateway into melodic hardcore music. They are proof that we can have both.
Their show on Saturday, September 15th, in Denver, Colorado, also marked the reopening of the Marquis Theater, a venue near and dear to my heart which has been closed for a short period due to renovations following their acquisition by Live Nation. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about this transition. Would they book less punk shows? Would they put a barrier in the front of the room to prevent stage diving? Would they even still have pizza? Why won’t anyone think of the pizza?!
The rumors I had heard of the new Marquis resembling a Chili’s turned out to be unfounded. Aside from the security who would pat me down every time I reentered the venue and the worrying lack of pentagrams, they preserved more of the original venue than I had expected. Small victories.
Taking the Stage: I’ve grown to expect less from bands that are nearing their second decade, and rightly so. Who can really expect bands to permeate the same energy that they did when they were 16, but Modern Life Is War is one of those bands that proves to be above growing old.
As soon as the first song began, the stage exploded in movement; bodies climbing on top of bodies, elbows being sent in semi-calculated orbits and large men pacing around the perimeter of the pit, two-stepping and stomping and throwing their weight into their fellow concertgoers. As is with any good hardcore gig, the crowd participation contributed to overall quality of the show rather than hindering in it — good ol’ non-malicious violence. A fine line that hardcore in the past few years has struggled to maintain, but was a centerpiece in almost all of the bands’ conversations onstage.
The setlist was a good mix of classics off of their 2005 album, Witness, new releases and deep cuts including sharing the stage with Faim lead singer Kat Lanzillo, whose history with the band runs deep. Her participation made the entire set feel like friends reuniting — it gave me a moment of nostalgia that didn’t belong to me, a feeling that outside of this moment, the band refused to indulge in.
Modern Life Is War’s live show and their new music never gives you the option to look back, only to throw yourself forward.
Solid support: The show featured an strong local lineup. Line Brawl, a band that instills visions of hockey fight compilations and two-stepping through parking lots, played a fast, aggressive set and it maintained that energy throughout.
Faim (pronounced Femme), a female led hardcore punk outfit which seamlessly blends violently wailing vocals with well structured beatdown hardcore progressions and vocal melodies.
Existing somewhere between hardcore, grind and crust, Call of the Void play unforgivingly dark music, and with one of the most consistent sets of the night, they are quickly becoming one of Denver’s strongest bands.
The opening lineup was consistently strong and optimistic with their stage banter. All touching on the point of accessibility in hardcore, and how in part Modern Life Is War’s music had helped shaped those ideas in them.