The past few years, SWMRS has thrown a big Halloween show that they obviously headline, called “Uncool Halloween.” I missed last year’s show because my family was in town visiting, but I had no excuse this time. I don’t think I’ve caught a SWMRS show at all since Drive North was released, so I really had no excuse.
I got to the venue a bit late and missed the first few bands. The Regrettes were on when I walked in the UC Theater. I’d never heard of them before, but they were pretty good. They’re an all-female band, which is my favorite, so I’ll probably have to check ’em out.
I ran into my concert photographer friend Estefany there and caught up with her a bit. Obviously she was also at the Used the night before, because duh. She’s got good taste.
The venue was all decked out for Halloween and it was really cool. Apparently SWMRS’ parents made all the decorations. Cute. There were ghosts and things hanging from the ceiling, and it looked like they put a lot of work into it. It was even better that most of the crowd came in costume. I did not, because I guess I missed that memo. Whoops.
One of the two bands I was most concerned with seeing. The Interrupters killed it. I was honestly a little confused why they weren’t the headliners at first, because they’re just SO GOOD. They’ve got such high energy, they’re super fun ska punk, and I love the lady lead, Aimee.
A lot of their songs are super repetitive, but it’s not a bad thing because it just makes for more catchy music. It’s the kind of music that you can learn while they’re still playing it, so you can easily sing along.
Guitarist Kevin Bivona: “That’s my brother Jesse on drums, and that’s his twin brother Justin on bass.”
Toward the end of their set, Aimee dedicated a song to Matt Freeman. I assumed it was gonna be a Rancid cover. NOPE. SO MUCH BETTER.
The first few notes I’m FREAKING OUT because they’ve started playing my FAVORITE Operation Ivy song, “Sound System.” I love that song so much. I recorded a bit of it, but I needed to dance more, so then I jumped into a rather pitiful mosh pit. I might’ve been the only person in that pit who knew the song but OH WELL, I WAS HAPPY. And they actually did it justice too, which is obviously the best part. I’ll probably never see Operation Ivy live, but at least I had this moment.
I very quickly realized why SWMRS was headlining and not the Interrupters. They got GOOD and grew the hell up OH MY GOD. Cole Becker is basically the frontman these days, and their stage presence is KILLER.
I had so many feels watching them. From upstairs at the Middle East in Boston (which is a TINY venue) to COMMANDING the UC Theater, where friggin Green Day played only a year ago, OH MY GOD. I’m so proud of these boys. I feel like I actually watched them grow up and it blows my mind.
Cole: “Bay Area! Start swimming!”
I love this song. It’s a great opener. There were two stagedivers that just kinda appeared out of nowhere, and I couldn’t help but wonder if the youngest Becker brother, Cade, was one of them. I honestly have no idea, but that was the first thought I had when someone came barreling into the crowd from behind the stage.
Cole’s dancing was on point of course. The whole crowd was so loud and singing everything, like all night it seemed.
I love this one, too. Drummer Joey Armstrong kept running around the stage during this one, and dumped water on the crowd at one point. Okay.
Max: “I need you to repeat after me: ‘You don’t know what I… You don’t know what I… You don’t know what I need…'”
We all chanted until the song exploded. It was pretty great.
Okay this setlist is killing me. They’re playing all my favorites right off the bat.
The crowd was so loud, oh my god. Have I mentioned that yet? Like they’re really COMMANDING this stage.
Max solo’d on the ground. Holy shit they grew up but they’ve still got all the energy they had when I saw them years ago.
Cole: “Well fuck me, Berkeley. This is amazing. Thank you so much. Hey, we’ve got a lot more music. This song’s for dancing. And we don’t need to know how to dance. We just gotta feel it. Right here. And you know what else we don’t need? We don’t need your silver bullet.”
This song was a lot calmer than the previous three, both onstage and in the crowd. Wait, is this a dancing song? Really? Eh, whatever.
I’m pretty sure Cole said he wrote this song about a girl on Durant Ave. in Berkeley, which is like super close by the venue.
I could not get over his dancing. The crowd all had their arms up in the air swaying to this one.
It’s not my favorite song. I guess Drive North was pretty hit or miss for me. The songs I love I REALLY LOVE, but the ones I don’t are kinda just meh.
Cole: “The Bay Area’s the greatest place on the fucking planet. But on a serious note, about the rules in here and everywhere. If somebody is groping you or touching you in an abusive way, you get to turn around and punch that motherfucker in the face. And if you don’t wanna do that, flag us down, flag security down, because there is no room anywhere for bigots and fucking abuse. You can fucking leave now if you want. This is for the young people now, you have to wake the fuck up. Because I know that it feels like we are fighting an uphill battle against fascism and Nazis in our fucking country right now, but you have to remember that the future belongs to you and not the past. And you have to fight for what you believe. […] Black and brown lives matter. You have to make sure the world knows that trans and queer people are not a burden. […] It’s about thinking for yourself. This festival is about being proud of whoever the fuck you are. And whether it’s cool or not, we love you because you’re uncool. This song’s our motto. So please repeat after me: ‘I just want to be uncool.'”
It was a little preachy, but also inspirational and I was proud of them for it. I was really surprised by all the feels they were giving me. Ugh.
“Open up the pit!”
I love this one. There was definitely a pit going, but I stayed on the outskirts all night. There was definitely a crowdsurfer in an inner tube at one point during the song. That’s different.
“Who are you? Ask yourself why you’re here.”
Another one that is not my favorite. Why is this so hit or miss for me? Have I not noticed this before now?
The whole crowd was singing for Cole at some parts.
“My mother thinks you’re so disturbed. She’s here!”
“I’m gonna count to two. My brother Max, son of mosh pit Mark, is gonna say ‘Jump!’ Jump! All you beautiful Berkeley motherfuckers have to jump!”
Okay so right in the middle of the song, Cole goes off on this tangent:
“Save some of that applause. Look up! Look at all that shit up there. You know who did that? Our moms! And our dads! Give it up for the beautiful staff of the UC Theater. What a cool fucking thing to have in the East Bay. But not just our parents. Let’s give it up right now for the most important person on the planet. Your mom. Right now, come on. And shout out to the cool dads too!”
This is probably my favorite of their songs. I keep saying that, don’t I? Okay but really, I relate to these lyrics so hard. And I love how loud the crowd was singing it back to the band.
“This is so fucking cool. This song is about finding friends here in the Bay Area community, and you know what? What I see right now is one big fucking community right now and that’s beautiful. […] We love each other in here. So what we’re gonna practice right now, with every community, we need unity, so we’re gonna practice our unity! When I say hey, you say ho…”
He did the “Hey ho let’s go” like the Ramones, then went into BILLIE JOE’S HEY OHHHS. WHAT THE HECK.
Then he had the crowd do a wall of death.
“When I say go, it’s a wall of unity, okay?”
I ran the fuck out of that shit. Wall of unity? Yes, because running at each other is a unity thing, totally.
I moved a lot during this set and I wasn’t even moshing. Jeez.
Why are these children giving me so many feels? I don’t get it.
Max had everybody give it up for the rest of the bands on the lineup.
Max: “Lighters in the air. Phone lights if you don’t have a lighter. Be safe about it.”
“This song’s about Cole and Joey.”
Cole and Joey danced together and then FUCKING KISSED OKAY. It was beautiful but I totally was not expecting it. I feel like nothing should surprise me with these guys.
Another not-my-favorite-song, but I like seeing Max lead. It seems like he doesn’t as much anymore these days.
Random? I think Cole was getting the words wrong too, if I was hearing him correctly. He kept singing the scooby snack part over and over and that’s totes not how it goes. Oh well. They’re too young for Scooby Doo, come on now.
Another not-my-favorite, but again, yay for Max leading.
I still can’t get over their commanding energy and how much they’ve grown up. It’s seriously remarkable.
“Berkeley, you’ve been a night to fucking remember. We feel so lucky we get to do this with you guys. […] We love you so much. It’s fucking crazy. You’re beautiful. I’ve said a lot of shit here tonight, and you don’t have to remember any of it. Because you can live your own fucking life. But I’m gonna tell you something that you should remember for your own sake. And that is that rock’n’roll and real music are not gonna solve your problems. But they will help you to figure them out.”
THE FUCKING FEELS. HOW ACCURATE.
I love this one. I’m still figuring it out at fucking 25 I guess.
They made us sing the “whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh”s without music at the end.
“I just wanna say real quick, the Bay Area has the best older generation. This could not have happened without all the people who came before us. And shout out to Punk Rock Joel, and Lookout Records, and everyone that’s been here the past 40 years. It’s fucking crazy, we love you.”
PUNK ROCK JOEL GOT A SHOUT OUT. I saw him in the crowd. I wanna be him when I grow up: legendary and still in the pit.
Have I mentioned how proud I am of these boys? I’m really proud of them.
Not my favorite. It was super calm. They probably needed a break to be honest.
Max: “We made a promise that if we sold out one of these shows on this tour we’d do something. And here it is.”
FINALLY SOME OLD SCHOOL EMILY’S ARMY.
My god I miss this. I wish they’d play more of it.
It was more or less all acoustic. Just Max playing and Cole backing a teeny bit. There were no drums or bass. Still good though.
This one was also kinda acoustic like “Lost at 17.”
I love Max but I guess maybe I don’t love the songs he leads on as much. That’s sad. I have no idea why that is.
Joey and Seb came back out to finish the song loud and the crowd went crazy. It was pretty cool honestly.
FUCK YES. THE BEST.
I hate LA too, boys.
Cole changed some of the lyrics, which was fantastic:
Cole crowdsurfed at the end of the song. Then he gave directions from LA to Berkeley and I died because the Californians are fucking REAL and I never noticed before now oh my GOD.
“Berkeley, CA, our home, your home. Volunteer at your local DIY venue, you’ll love it. 924 Gilman. We love you, always be yourself, always stay uncool, and always DRIVE NORTH.”
Wow this was such a good show and I was so not expecting that, holy shit. I guess that’s it for Drive North now, huh?