Concert Review: SWMRS at The Middle East Upstairs

On March 6, 2016, SWMRS played The Middle East Upstairs in Cambridge, Massachusetts. SWMRS is an American punk rock band formed in Oakland, California in 2004 after founding members Cole Becker and Joey Armstrong were inspired by Jack Black’s “School of Rock.” Despite a slew of name and lineup changes, the band quickly established itself within the punk-rock scene, playing many small shows and festivals throughout California.

In 2009, the band released its first EP, and in 2010, SWMRS began working with Armstrong’s father, Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, who would go on to produce their first two albums. By 2015, SWMRS began recording their third studio album “Drive North,” with Zac Carper, singer of L.A. punk-rock band FIDLAR. “Drive North” was released in February of 2016, representing the band’s first independent release, and their first album produced without the help of Armstrong’s father.

Despite being a 1:00pm matinee, the show was sold out well ahead of time. By noon, fans began to line up, standing between the rows of tables in the restaurant below the venue and spilling out into the cold Cambridge streets. Sometime after 1:00pm, the doors finally opened, allowing chilled and eager fans to push their way inside and as close to the tiny stage as possible, filling the venue to it’s crammed 194-person-capacity. In addition to SWMRS, the lineup contained three other four part punk-rock bands including: the local Boston band Burglary YearsGYMSHORTS from Providence, Rhode Island, and The Frights from San Diego, California.

Burglary Years started the show off strong, playing a quick but enthusiastic set, ending by passionately advocating for the well-established Boston DIY punk scene. Next up was GYMSHORTS, who played another short but strong set, beginning work the crowd up with vocalist Sarah Greenwell’s intense and powerful singing.

Lead singer Sarah Greenwell of GYMSHORTS.

Bassist Michael Younker of GYMSHORTS.

The third act was The Frights, who were officially touring with SWMRS, and also working with Carper. Unfortunately, technical difficulties plagued the band for the majority of their set, but The Frights carried on in true punk spirit as one member yelled out, “This show is called The Frights break everything!” Aside from technical difficulties, The Frights played an action-packed set, including a cover of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” whipping the crowd into shape just in time for SWMRS to take to the stage.

Lead singer Mikey Carnevale of The Frights.

Around 4:15pm, fashionable late by about a half hour, SWMRS began to play. Singer Cole Becker confidently took center stage; pushing back his green 90’s style middle parted hair behind either ear, while his brother Max played guitar with a frenzied enthusiasm on his right. Drummer Joey Armstrong shyly moved past a wooing gaggle of girls to take his place, while bassist Seb Mueller stood out with bleach-blonde wind blasted hair and a cheetah-print coat, a look possibly inspired by Mario Cuomo of fellow punk-rock band, The Orwells.

Bassist Seb Mueller of SWMRS.

Wasting no time, the band soon pulled out their new hit single “Miley,” a tribute to Miley Cyrus, their “punk rock queen.” And although the crowd had already begun a circle mosh, Cole was determined to crank it up a notch, calling for a wall of death on the count of “when Max yells go!” For the entirety of the show, SWMRS played hard, quickly blowing through their set-list and clearly enjoying the show as much as their fans, if not more so. Around 5:00pm, Cole ended the night with a bang, diving into the crowd as he continued to howl out lyrics, leaving the rest of the band to take over the stage. After playing their last song, Cole thanked the crowd for coming out and selling out the matinee show and the band left the stage and began to break down and pack up their gear, stopping occasionally to pose for a picture with any fan that asked.

With the influence of both Green Day and FIDLAR combined with passion and raw talent, SWMRS has the potential to meet and even surpass the fame and popularity of both of their legendary punk-rock producers. SWMRS continues their tour with The Frights by heading up to Canada, followed by a long drive back home to California, stopping at every major city along the way starting in New York.