Modern Life is War at Rock and Roll Hotel

Hardcore punks from Iowa, Modern Life is War performs at DC's Rock and Roll Hotel. Photo: Modern Life is War

WASHINGTON, October 30, 2013 — Modern Life is War professes to be contemporary hardcore band. Or perhaps a flavor of what hardcore has turned into, since the hardcore genre has moved more towards a metal sound.  Although Modern Life is War did some interesting things not only with the genre but also with their live set recently at the Rock and Roll Hotel, they went a long ways to prove that genre conventions in music have a tendency to be cyclical. This punk/hardcore show felt like something straight out of ‘80s hardcore, or at least about as close as a band can get these days.

It all started out with the “all-ages” feel of their show, something the Rock and Roll Hotel has been doing quite a bit whenever a punk or hardcore band rolls into DC. This is something the punk scene for the most part has always practiced, at least more so than any other genre. It’s a way to draw in an age group that easily identifies with the major themes of hardcore punk bands without alienating them further, and its themes like these that Modern Life is War prominently injects into each song.

This broad-brush approach gives Modern Life is War’s set a classic feel because it’s so reminiscent of everything that went on in certain parts of the hardcore punk scene in the ‘80s, especially in L.A. and New York. The band itself is actually from Iowa, which might lead some to assume that Modern Life is War missed the memo on how hardcore has changed over the decades—because that’s something they’ve clearly ignored. 

There are really no breakdowns or blastbeats in Modern Life is War’s set, so seems a little odd to call them a hardcore band. Instead, they put out straight ahead punk played, at times harder and faster than the output of an average punk band, which is why it’s correct to label them hardcore.

Strict genre music has a way of repeating itself. That seems to be what’s happened to Modern Life is War over the course of the band’s existence. They’ve ignored a lot of the changes made to the hardcore scene in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. That means that the various metal aspects that were incorporated into hardcore sound have no place in Modern Life is War’s output. What is present though, what comes through more than anything during their live set, is an immediacy and urgency that any quality punk or hardcore band has to express if it’s to feel relevant at all.

Modern Life is War oozes passion and conviction at every moment during their set, which is absolutely a must. The message for punk bands wasn’t always as important as the way the message was delivered. As long as the band believed in what they were playing and how they were playing it, the audience, which in most cases was willing to rage against everything and anything, could get behind the band whatever their message happened to be.

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That’s an aspect of ‘80s punk that Modern Life is War appropriates more than anything during its live set. Starting with vocalist Jeffery Eaton’s gruff, not-quite-screaming growl, then moving on to John Paul Eich and Matt Hoffman’s riffing, there wasn’t a time in their set where their intensity wasn’t on display. Even during the slower and more melodic moments in the band’s set, their smoldering intensity was still hard to ignore.

Modern Life is War is technically going through their second incarnation after disbanding for five years. They still feel like a band that’s completely at home with classic hardcore punk, but that doesn’t mean they feel like a band time forgot. Instead, they’re the type of band that shows that the foundation of ‘80s hardcore is still something kids can get behind today, as evidenced by the legion of kids in the front of the stage hanging on Eaton’s every words and enthusiastically shouting those words back at him. Modern Life is War’s appearance here clearly demonstrated that some ideals will always resonate across the generations.


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Stephen Bradley

Stephen Bradley is an avid music listener and an occasional writer.  He grew up in the Washington DC area and has been embedded in the local music scene for years.  Currently he lives in Vienna, VA.   He enjoys bands that have been broken up for at least a decade.

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