with Destroy Boys and Beach Goons
April 12, 2019 at Paradise Rock Club
The venue: punk rock.
The crowd: punk rock.
The bands: punk rock.
SWMRS played at Paradise Rock Club on April 12th joined by Destroy Boys (replacing The Regrettes) and Beach Goons. SWMRS brought their new album, Berkeley’s on Fire, to a higher level of power through their performance.
Max and Cole Becker are brothers, but on stage they behave as foil characters, like fire and ice. Max carried this coolness, a controlled energy in his presence, letting his guitar skills take the lead. Cole, however, was a firecracker. Adorned in a “Fuck The NRA” T-shirt with “Hellboy” written on the back, his movements were erratic and almost cartoony. He played acoustic guitar (with anti-fascist messages etched into it) sparingly, only for the slower songs. There was a charming goofiness about him that brought songs like “Berkeley’s on Fire” and “Hellboy” to life. It was ironic that Max sang “Too Much Coffee” because it seemed like Cole had three more shots of espresso than he could handle. But it worked for him. He danced and marched around the stage, at one point telling the audience “it’s time to dance like no one’s watching”.
They played a balanced number of songs from their first album, Drive North, as well as their second album, Berkeley’s on Fire. For someone that was expecting exclusively songs from Berkeley’s on Fire, this felt like a special treat. Songs like “Hannah”, “Figuring it Out”, and “Miley” acted as the bridge between the older fans and the newer fans. When everyone was screaming “Miley is a punk rock queen,” it felt like we were all a part of something bigger.
There isn’t a question as to why the crowd felt a sense of togetherness: in between songs, Cole emphasized the importance of community, holding onto each other even when everything feels like it’s falling apart. One of the more admirable parts of this concert was how hard they try to make it feel personal: Cole reached his hands out for fans to hold; Max made sure everyone was okay. Their speeches felt preachy at times; but the intention was there and wholesome. Even with the mosh pits, the screaming, the all around franticness of the concert, SWMRS made sure to nail in one of their main messages: the world sucks right now, be good to each other.
As someone who wasn’t impressed with the newest album, hearing the songs live made me reconsider how I felt about them. Max and Cole Becker are the front members of the band, but each member carries so much talent that it’s difficult to pinpoint who is the most impressive on stage. Joey Armstrong’s explosion on the drums gave a foundation of passion, radiating throughout the venue. The jostling and jumping of the crowd were influenced by Armstrong’s drumming rigor, especially on songs like “Harry Dean” and “Lose, Lose, Lose”. Jakob Armstrong, Joey’s brother, is the newest member to SWMRS and he proved his musical talent on the guitar in a relaxed state all the way through. These are professional punk rockers and they are not here to mess around.
The night ended with Cole jumping into the crowd at the climax of “Harry Dean” and dragging the mic out from the middle. The intensity lingered in the hearts of everyone as they shuffled out of Paradise. No one was tired despite two hours of dancing and singing along.