I remember the first time I saw Green Day a few decades back and left the show knowing that I had witnessed something special. I also realized that the distinctive music they delivered was a fresh and welcome new take on punk rock. Friday night in Orlando, I had the same feeling, watching SWMRS, four talented Oakland, California punks deliver a fiery 45 minute set.
The band is fronted by a trio of bleach blonde surf punks including brothers Cole and Max Becker who traded off catchy guitar riffs and lead vocals throughout the set, Cole delivering a powerful and gritty punk snarl, while his brother offered a more melodic and distinctive voice.
At 20 years old, these guys have already been in the business for a dozen years, having started Emily’s Army at 8 years-old with talented drummer Joey Armstrong. And it has paid off, because this young group is years ahead of many more seasoned peers.
On stage, the Becker brothers poured their passionate lyrics through the mics and instantly connected with their Orlando fans. After the shortest soundcheck ever, they exploded into an incendiary version of “Harry Dean” which instantly had the crowd at a fever pitch. Shortly afterwards, the crowd grooved and earnestly sang along to every word of their 2015 hit single “Miley,” a fun ode to their punk rock queen.
The fans up front were familiar with all of the offerings and delivered a non-stop choral accompaniment as they bounced around the floor during “Miley” and the infectious “D’You Have A Car?” which was highlighted by some clever guitar riffs from Max in a song that built to a furious finish, and had cheetah-fur adorned bass player Sebastian Mueller flying across the stage while drummer Armstrong furiously beat the skins.
Other highlights from the set included a great singalong version of “Figuring It Out” which clearly has the potential to become a live show staple for years to come and “BRB” which featured Max on vocals and had the entire place including members of The Frights dancing unabashedly. I also loved their amped up version of the Cure classic “Boys Don’t Cry” – a bouncy remix that would please any Robert Smith fan.
After sharing his thoughts that “It’s bullshit that other bands skip Florida… Florida is definitely worth the drive,” they kicked into their best track of the night, “Drive North.” Powered by raging drums and pulsating bass, it’s a rollicking track about their beloved hometown of Oakland, and a gutshot to their snooty neighbors about 6 hours South on I-5. Cole’s urgent vocals were captivating and he deftly substituted some Florida cities into the lyrics. “I hate Tallahassee, I hate Margate, I hate Tampa…” Fun stuff and a great way to close the powerful set in front of an Orlando crowd witnessing the start of something special.
We’ll be seeing a lot more of this band, but for the few hundred folks at Backbooth, you can all expect a much bigger venue the next time they rip through the Sunshine State. For everyone else near a future tour stop, Drive North! (See Tour Dates below)
Kudos to the Backbooth for putting together an excellent four band line-up, featuring SWMRS and their So Cal friends, The Frights, as well as two brand new Orlando acts, Sleeping Sons and Chrmng. I’ll have a follow-up post on The Frights, but can share here that they were pretty damn good, too.
Sleeping Sons opened the night and did a nice job, especially considering they are all teenagers, and a few of them are still studying for the SATs. Jaime Remus stood out on “Ruby”, a hard driving song about… her dog. But the highlight of their set was a song dedicated by emotional guitarist Tristan Torres to the parents of his recently deceased friend Aaron. Torres by the way, just drips with potential as a guitarist.
The second band Chrmng, coincidentally another band who couldn’t afford to buy a vowel, were playing their first live show ever. They brought out a nice crowd and sounded polished, highlighted by their distinctive rock vocals, which reminded me favorably of Mike Mains and the Branches.
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SWMRS / The Frights Tour Dates
Mar 01 Shaka’s Virginia Beach, VA
Mar 02 Black Cat Backstage Washington, DC
Mar 03 STUDIO @ WEBSTER HALL New York, NY
Mar 04 The Fire Philadelphia, PA
Mar 05 Brighton Bar Long Branch, NJ
Mar 06 Middle East – Upstairs Cambridge, MA
Mar 08 La Source De La Martiniere Quebec City, Canada
Mar 09 La Sala Rossa Montreal, Canada
Mar 10 Zaphod Beeblebrox Ottawa, Canada
Mar 11 Call The Office London, Canada
Mar 12 Town Ballroom – Leopard Lounge Buffalo, NY
Mar 13 Majestic Cafe Detroit, MI
Mar 15 Smiling Moose Pittsburgh, PA
Mar 16 Now That’s Class Cleveland, OH
Mar 17 1st Ward at Chop Shop Chicago, IL
Mar 18 Firebird St Louis, MO
Mar 19 Lefty’s Des Moines, IA
Mar 20 The Garage Burnsville, MN
Mar 21 Lookout Lounge Omaha, NE
Mar 22 Los Lake Lounge Denver, CO
Mar 23 The Black Sheep Colorado Springs, CO
Mar 25 The Loading Dock Salt Lake City, UT
Mar 27 Real Art Tacoma, WA
Mar 28 The Cobalt Vancouver, Canada
Mar 30 Analog Cafe Portland, OR
Mar 31 Domino Room Bend, OR
Apr 01 Thee Parkside San Francisco, CA
Apr 02 The Catalyst – Atrium Santa Cruz, CA
Apr 03 Strummer’s Fresno, CA
Apr 05 Grange Hall San Luis Obispo, CA
Apr 06 B Ryders Bakersfield, CA
Apr 07 Rock City Studios Camarillo, CA
Apr 08 Che Cafe La Jolla, CA
Apr 09 Chain Reaction Anaheim, CA
Apr 10 Roxy Theatre Los Angeles, CA
Apr 16 KFMA Day 2016 Tucson, AZ