Concert Review: SWMRS at Paradise Rock Club

Oakland rockers SWMRS made their way to the East Coast on Friday, April 12th, selling out Boston's alt-rock oasis, Paradise Rock Club.
The four-piece is fronted by brothers Cole and Max Becker and rounded out by Joey Armstrong on drums and Seb Mueller on bass. The band recruited Armstrong's brother, Jakob Danger, to hop on rhythm guitar on the road.
Originally dropping a few projects under the name Emily's Army, the group rebranded and reemerged as the SWMRS we know and love today in 2015. They've since released their critically-acclaimed full-length album, Drive North, in 2016 and their latest record, Berkeley's on Fire, came out earlier this year.
The night kicked off at 8 pm with Sacramento post-punk band, Destroy Boys, who are signed to SWMR’s label (yes, the one they run themselves). Fronted by Alexia Roditis, the band played an eight-song set that included a cover of Nirvana’s “Territorial Pissings” and an epic circle pit.
I missed most of Beach Goons’ set because I had to run back out to my car, but I did catch the San Diego garage band playing a cover of “La Bamba” when I got back. Beach Goons put their own spin on the classic Ritchie Valens tune with an added vintage reverb.
Around 9:30, SWMRS emerged from backstage, walking out to a recording of their own song– savage– “Steve Got Robbed.” They immediately got the ball rolling, diving into fan-favorites “Trashbag Baby” and “D’You Have A Car?”
After channeling his inner Freddie Mercury with a “hey-oh” call and response with the audience, Cole Becker hyped up the next song and gassed the crowd up.
“In California, we think we’re crazy motherfuckers,” he said. “But when we come to Boston, you prove that you’re crazier! Tonight, Boston’s on fire!”
The band jumped into “Berkeley’s on Fire,” one of their most popular tracks and the name of their latest album. Joey Armstrong was absolutely killing it on drums, and the guys kept the audience both energized and entertained. The whole experience felt like a protest of sorts, with Cole taking a few breaks between songs to address sexual harassment issues, gun violence, telling the audience to love their moms and ripping off his blazer to reveal a “fuck the NRA” t-shirt.
Cole is certainly an entertainer– he carries himself with enigmatic exuberance and dances like I do when I have a little too much caffeine. Fittingly, SWMRS’ next song, “Too Much Coffee,” was accompanied by crazy energy and a punchy bass line, a la Seb Mueller.
The eldest Becker, Max, took over for “all the sad songs,” as Cole jokingly reminded the audience, and in his button-up collared shirt, he charmed the crowd a little differently than his younger brother who had glittery eye shadow smeared all over his face. But he did charm us nonetheless.
Max did his best Alex Turner impression with some hushed lounge-room crooning on “IKEA Date” and “April in Houston” and got the audience all riled up again, on a duet with Cole on “Lose Lose Lose,” “Hannah” and “Hellboy.”
“Push me to the edge, all my friends are dead!” Cole cried in a random, brief and weirdly fitting homage to Lil Uzi Vert.
SWMRS ended the night with “Lose It” and “Harry Dean” before addressing the audience once more about the country’s political unrest, urging us to work toward change.
“You feel this energy pulsing through you right now?” Cole asked.
Looking around the room at the sea of kids with underage “x’s” sharpied on their hands, I realized then that the majority of the band’s fanbase, like the band itself, is young and fueled by rage and love. Their subtle political activism dressed up as punk rock is what keeps people coming back.
Like great punk rock bands before them– The Clash, The Ramones, even Armstrong’s dad in Green Day– SWMRS are unapologetically progressive and have a message they want to share. Based on the audience’s reaction– a majority of whom were hanging onto the band's every word– I don’t think they’ll have any problem trying to spread it.
“Think about that positive energy that’s connecting all of us in here,” Cole continued, absorbing the crowd's screams . “And take that energy home with you because we have a lot of work to do.”
SWMRS are currently on tour in support of their latest album, Berkeley's on Fire. Check out their website for upcoming tour info and peep a full list of dates below.
SWMRS Berkeley's on Fire tour dates:
April 16 – Detroit, MI @ Majestic Theatre
April 17 – Cincinnati, OH @ 20th Century Theater
April 19 – Chicago, IL @ Concord Music Hall
April 20 – Milwaukee, WI @ The Rave II
April 22 – Indianapolis, IN @ Deluxe @ Old National Center
April 23 – St. Louis, MO @ The Ready Room
April 25 – Englewood, CO @ Gothic Theatre
April 27 – Salt Lake City, UT @ The Complex
April 29 – Seattle, WA – El Corazon
April 30 – Portland, OR @ Wonder Ballroom
May 3 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Belasco Theater
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Last updated: 18 Apr 2019, 13:43 Etc/UTC