LIVE: Modern Life Is War / Birds In Row / Terrible Feelings / Swan Song @ The Underworld, London

By Glen Bushell

There are very few hardcore punk bands that have a connection to their fans like Modern Life Is War. The closest comparison would maybe be the adoration for American Nightmare, but Modern Life Is War are still in a league of their own when it comes to having such an impact on people within hardcore. When the band broke up in 2008 fans were left heartbroken, but their legacy lived on.

They made an unexpected return in 2013 at This Is Hardcore, and released the fantastic album ‘Fever Hunting’, and have since played sporadic runs of shows to critical acclaim. Now in 2015 they have finally returned to the UK after 9 long years, and with tonight’s show in Camden pretty much selling out on the day tickets went on sale back in October of last year, it’s safe to say that you can cut the anticipation for Modern Life Is War with a knife.

With the show starting early, moderately new UK hardcore band Swan Song have a modest crowd, but that doesn’t stop them giving it everything, and they make their presence known to everyone in the room with their crushing metallic hardcore. They play track from their recent ‘Coming Up Short’ 7”, and their incomparable front man Sheep takes the show to every corner of the venue – including the ladies toilet – insuring that if you didn’t know Swan Song before, you will now.

Following that performance is no easy task, and Sweden’s Terrible Feelings unfortunately do suffer from a sea of perplexed faces. They do seem like an odd choice of support for a hardcore show, but if anything it broke the evening up slightly with their 70’s influenced post-punk. Their set draws heavily from their excellent new album ‘Tremors’, and with vocalist Manuela Iwansson having the swagger of a young Pat Benatar about her at times they do start to draw more interested eyes and ears to come and see what is going on.

Of course the earth shattering sound of French hardcore band Birds In Row is a far less reserved affair. They are powerful and exhilarating from the first chord, and it is mind blowing how they make such a colossal sound from just three musicians. ‘Pilori’ is huge, and the title track from their 2012 album ‘You, Me & The Violence’ is even more visceral than on record. With some new tracks being aired from their forthcoming EP sounding just as promising, we will no doubt be hearing more from this trio.

By the time Modern Life Is War take to the stage it is difficult to even breathe from the heat in the legendary Underworld, and the main floor is filled to near breaking point. The moment the humble band from Marshalltown, Iowa launch into ‘The Outsiders (Hell Is For Heroes Pt. I)’ the surge of energy from the crowd matches that of the band. They tear through ‘Chasing My Tail’, and the chorus of voices singing along to “Fuck the glory days” from the ending of ‘Fuck The Sex Pistols’ is almost spine tingling.

Often when bands come back it is easy to write them off as either being in it for money or just a nostalgic trip down memory lane, but as Jeff Eaton screams the words to older tracks ‘Breaking The Cycle’ and ‘Late Bloomers’ it is clear that this means just as much to him and the rest of the band as they did originally. The interesting thing about tonight is usually at hardcore shows – particularly at the Underworld – the floor is transformed into a war zone of flailing limbs, tonight however it is more about people trying to get closer to the band to sing-a-long with them.

Rather unsurprisingly the highlight of the evening is of course when the band play ‘D.E.AD.R.A.M.O.N.E.S’ from their iconic ‘Witness’ album, and even being on the side watching the pandemonium that ensues is exhausting. The band end with ‘Hair Raising Accounts Of Restless Ghosts (Hell Is For Heroes Pt.II)’ with no bravado, and no encore, but looking genuinely grateful of everyone that still cares about their band.

This was a special show tonight, and the embodiment of what hardcore and punk shows should be about. 4 very different bands and a broad audience that ranged from older fans of Modern Life Is War, to those that discovered them after their initial run, all coming together under one roof to feel part of something against the outside world. In short; compelling and inspiring.