SWMRS Live In Vegas
When it comes to rock-n-roll, teenagers will always be the ultimate arbiters of cool. Last night in Las Vegas, a swaying mass of youth anointed SWMRS the next big thing. Hardly new to the scene, SWMRS have paid their dues on the pop-punk circuit but the new album Berkeley’s On Fire ambitiously stretches the band’s creative horizons. Led by elastic frontman Cole Becker, the band shifted effortlessly between the many styles influencing the band’s new material. The band’s legion of fans were ready for anything and the new songs were sung with unreserved abandon by the crowd.
From the New Wave tension of “Berkeley’s On Fire” to the driving punk of “Hellboy”, SWMRS hit the stage with an agenda. Becker’s acoustic guitar borrowed a line from Woody Guthrie with a postscript added about keeping borders open. More importantly, Becker was quick to establish the ground rules for a safe and open punk show. Encouraging everyone to look out for each other, the crowd picked up on the vibe and the crowd surfing and mosh pits were safe places for both men and women. This is the next generation of rock-n-roll at its best with social issues taking a more prominent place in the dialogue without losing an ounce of fun. Tonight wasn’t about rock star posturing and standing in the back being cool. SWMRS’ infectious music invited everyone to dance as if nobody was watching. And everyone did.
The punk pedigree of brother Joey (drums) and Jakob Armstrong (rhythm guitarist) makes it an almost too-obvious comparison but their father’s band Green Day developed from mischievous punks into a major rock-n-roll force when they released American Idiot. On a smaller commercial scale, SWMRS are taking a similar leap with Berkeley’s On Fire. It is the other set of brothers, Cole and Max, who sound most ready for this creative journey. The way they balance each other in style and sound on stage gives the band the opportunity to grow their audiences exponentially as this tour unfolds. Cole’s stage presence, especially, will soon demand larger stages and SWMRS sound ready for that next step.
While the band’s emotional ode to Miley Cyrus might have sparked the loudest sing along, the band’s social and political messaging still connected with the young audience on a level that was refreshing and hopeful. Will the music of SWMRS translate into action at the ballot box someday? Too early to tell but last night’s SWMRS concert was a convincing argument that rock-n-roll still has the power to inspire change.