An eclectic collection of punk kids wrapped around the block outside The Belasco Theatre in Downtown Los Angeles awaiting SWMRS’s final and largest show of the North American “Berkeley’s On Fire” tour on May 3.
The band composed of vocalist and rhythm guitarist Cole Becker, vocalist and lead guitarist Max Becker, bassist Seb Mueller, drummer Joey Armstrong and touring guitarist Jakob Armstrong, also of band Ultra Q, released their fourth studio record, under the same name as the tour, on Feb. 15.
The Oakland natives previously released two studio records in 2011 and 2013 as Emily’s Army. Transitioning to SWMRS in 2014 with a modified lineup and updated sound, they have since released two more studio records and the 2015 EP “Miley / Uncool.”
In an interview with alternative radio station KROQ, SWMRS cited Minneapolis punk band The Replacements as a prevalent musical influence. Both bands capture a definitive punk sound with pop undertones and intellectual lyrics, in an unpretentious manner, capturing the faults and joys of the human experience.
Advocating for improvement of the human experience outside of the music, Cole Becker took time between songs to express the band’s lack of tolerance for any inappropriate sexual acts at their shows.
“And so we have to be extra vigilant to make sure that absolutely zero sexual assault is happening in here. So if someone is grabbing you… wave us down and everybody around you wave us down. We will, by all means, stop the show and get that predatory behavior out of the building and continue to have a good time,” Cole Becker said onstage.
The audience resonated with the band’s emphasis on the well-being and inclusion of their audience through a constant stream of ear-piercing screams that punched the air.
This advocating to be aware of the impact on others was also carried through in more discrete forms as all members of the band used reusable water bottles, compared to the typical plastic bottles, to hydrate throughout the show.
Continuing with the set, a compilation of Thrasher Magazine skate videos to clips of the National Dog Show played on a screen behind the band as swarms of kids moshed to their fast-paced, anthemic punk songs.
After “Lose Lose Lose,” Cole Becker playing his acoustic guitar plastered with statements, like “this machine kills fascists and destroys borders” — an ode to folk singer Woody Guthrie updated with statements in regards to more modern social and political statements — broke into the chorus of Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Old Town Road.”
Shifting to a more quiet, melodic sound, Max Becker condemned the stage with song “IKEA Date” that emitted an essence of youthful romanticism.
Then gradually upping the intensity of the music with each song, the band played songs “April In Houston,” “Figuring It Out” and “Palm Trees.” Within some of their fast-paced, anthemic punk songs, there were slower parts that allow the beautifully-crafted lyrics to breathe, like, “Manic Monday, when you lose the ground beneath us/Tear gas Tuesday, I think I found Jesus” in “Figuring It Out.”
As the set neared the end, the band returned to this essence of youthful romanticism with song “Lose It.” With their phone lights shining, the audience swayed in a hypnotic-like trance.
Exiting the stage, the band quickly returned for a three-song encore. Following song “Harry Dean,” only Cole and Max Becker remained onstage to cover “Volver Volver” by ranchera artist Vicente Fernández.
The complete band reappeared on stage for the last song of the set and tour “Drive North.” Despite the lyrics, “I hate Santa Monica Boulevard/I hate Venice Beach/I hate Tarzana too/’Cause I hate Los Angeles, well,” the band reassured the audience that Los Angeles is like a second home to them.
Leaving the audience with utter gratitude and thankfulness for sharing a night of music and activism, SWMRS truly captured the essence of punk by creating a community through music that advocated for progression towards a better world.
“Tomorrow, when you get a chance to build a world, a better world, where black and brown lives matter, where trans people aren’t a burden, you have that power to build that world,” Cole Becker said onstage. “And that world, we have space for disabled people, and LGBT people, and we don’t tear any more families apart at the border. So take this with you when you go home because I believe in you, we believe in you, and we have no other options man.”
Intro – Steve Got Robbed
- Trashbag Baby
- D’You Have A Car?
- Berkeley’s On Fire
- Too Much Coffee
- Lose Lose Lose
- Lonely Ghosts
- IKEA Date / Bad Allergies
- April In Houston
- Figuring It Out
- Palm Trees
- Lose It
- Harry Dean
- Volver Volver (Vicente Fernandez Cover)
- Drive North