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Live Review

SWMRS bring ‘Drive North’ roaring to life as they return to London

Posted: Monday, May 30th, 2016

A slow, insular ‘Hannah’ rings out as SWMRS look around The Garage, searching out every pair of eyes present. Then a switch is flipped and the chiming intro to ‘Harry Dean’ starts building. “This is the part where you forget about school, forget about work, forget about everything else and lose yourself in the music,” instructs Cole Becker before doing just that. From here on it, it’s good-natured chaos.

Playing their second show of the day (a sold out all ages show to go alongside their sold out 18+ show at the Old Blue Last earlier in the week) if SWMRS are tired, they aren’t showing it. Instead the whole show is driven home with wide-eyed excitement and gritted teeth confidence. Any remaining doubts about the Emily’s Army gamble are quickly and forcefully quashed as the band bring their debut roaring to life.

From the bratty snarl of ‘Harry Dean’ through the snotty abandon of ‘Miley’ and onto the huge terrace anthem of ‘Figuring It Out’, SWMRS turn up the dirt. The fuzzy electronics of ‘Ruining My Pretending’ and ‘Miss Yer Kiss’ are switched for a more gnarled direction while a twisted ‘Silver Bullets’ sees the band stretch and grow.

Shaving off the more sprawling elements of their debut album, tonight SWMRS cut right to the bone. “This is how we do it in Oakland,” explains Max Becker before instigating a wall of death for ‘Do You Have A Car’. Moments earlier the band gets the crowd to go from total silence (“ssssh!”) to venue-wide pogoing (“Jump!”) with ease.

“All our songs are about this but the most important thing to take away from this show is not to let people change you,” offers Cole. “Be proud of who you are,” he encourages. Wrapping anxiety-riddled punk disobedience around rainbow pop with pride and making classics from The Libertines (‘Can’t Stand Me Now’) and MIA (‘Paper Planes’) their own, SWMRS are a band true to their word. And with an audience hanging on to every one of theirs, that’s a powerful stance to hold.

Conducting, rattling and leaning on the crowd for an affirming main-set finale of ‘Drive North’, there’s just time for a quick “always wear a seatbelt too” before SWMRS are off. As fans share setlists and drumsticks with complete strangers the night is over. But this ride, that’s just getting started.