Californian punk rock bands The Frights and SWMRS played to a packed crowd March 4 at a small bar on Girard Avenue called The Fire. The Frights classify their music as “dirty doo-wop,” which features melodic song structures reminiscent of 50s doo-wop songs, with a definite punk edge. They just released their album “You Are Going To Hate This” on Dangerbird Records Feb. 12. SWMRS, formerly known as Emily’s Army, released their album “Drive North” Feb. 12.
Local Philly bands Skyline the City and Spill opened the show. The Frights, currently on tour supporting SWMRS, played through most of “You Are Going to Hate This,” as well as other songs from their previous albums and EPs. They had a very goofy and entertaining presence onstage, showing off their dorky dance moves while crooning (and screaming) to the audience full of punk rock fans. Frontman Mikey Carnevale had a great voice; his singing was smooth and and his screaming was gritty, which fit their sound perfectly.
I thoroughly enjoyed their set, and the rest of the crowd seemed to feel the same way. In the middle of their set, they performed a cover of Weezer’s “Undone (The Sweater Song)” that was spot-on and really got the audience excited. A couple other tracks that really stood out were “Makeout Point” and “Submarines.” “Makeout Point,” which is my favorite song, is a lot of fun because it is slow and waltz-like, with hushed vocals that abruptly explode during the choruses. “Submarines,” the song they ended the set with, features many changes in tempo. It frequently slows down in the verses and speeds up in the choruses. By the end last chorus of the song, everyone in the venue were singing along: “If I were to go, would you go? If I were to stay, would you stay? If I were your man, that’d be great. I know that I’m not, it’s too late”
By the time SWMRS took the stage, the crowd was thoroughly warmed up. They immediately leapt into the opening track of their new album “Drive North” — “Harry Dean.” No more than 30 seconds into the song, frontman Cole Becker stopped the song and half-jokingly demanded that everyone put away their cell phones and dance. Everyone delightfully complied and from then on the show was lit. They hammered through most of “Drive North,” which is full of high-energy bangers.
It was refreshing to hear SWMRS in a live setting, where there were no studio tricks to fine-tune the songs. I think a lot of punk bands suffer from overproduction in their studio work, and SWMRS is no exception. The songs themselves are real jams but they just feel a bit too polished for a genre that is supposed to feel raw and unpolished. Songs like “Figuring it Out” and “Turn Up,” which I usually skip on the album for that very reason, really shined in their live performance. “Miley,” the song that garnered the band a lot of recognition, was an obvious fan favorite. The song is an ode to Miley Cyrus, who the band considers to be “a punk rock queen.”
My favorite song of the night was “D’You Have A Car?”, which I would consider to be their best on the album. The hook is catchy, the beat is lively and the lyrics are perfect for belting out. They closed the set with their titular track from “Drive North,” in which they loudly profess their hatred towards the city of Los Angeles. If you like punk rock at all, you should try to see SWMRS next time they come around, because their show was a lot of fun.