This Machine Destroys Borders

4 bands on a Sunday night? What in the hell are people thinking? Sitting through a 4-band bill on a weekend night usually requires arriving late and missing the opener or standing outside smoking cigars for a good chunk of the night, likely both … And still leaving early. Grumpy old guy at the rockshow? Yep, that’s me. 

Well, October 22 at the Observatory was a little different … Yes, it was a 4-band bill on a Sunday night, but tonight, all 4 bands held my attention. The bands were different enough that they didn’t get in each other’s way but similar enough to all belong on the same bill. 

The Interrupters are on a co-headliner tour with SWMRS but since the Interrupters are an LA band and the gig was near LA, they were the headliners tonight. I’ve seen The Interrupters several times. They seem to be on every festival bill that comes through (Warped, It’s Not Dead 1&2) … They are very good at what they do. A well-oiled machine who’s seemingly always on the road. I get confused when you’re talking about the different “waves” of ska, but I think they are considered 3rd wave? Who knows? Who cares? Just know that they are a ska band. 

With identical twins as their rhythm section and their brother playing guitar, not only do the musicians dress the same (white shirts, black pants, black Docs, red socks, braces and #1 crops) but they look the same too. And they create a perfect backdrop for Aimee Interrupter to shine. She can sing and dance, she’s charismatic and always smiling, she’s just a great front-woman. The Interrupters check all the boxes for the “next big thing” sweepstakes: Great Stage show: CHECK, Great Look: CHECK, Catchy Songs: CHECK, Engaging Singer: CHECK. 

But for some reason their set left me feeling a little flat tonight. Maybe it was because they were the 4th band of the night. Maybe I need a little time away from them to appreciate them again. Maybe it was that I knew every song they played, and it felt to me that they were just going through the motions. Maybe it was the strength of the bands before them. I’m not sure, but they are still great and I still recommend them. 

The band that surprised me was SWMRS. Before seeing them, I listened to a few songs to see what I was getting myself into … and on record, they’re mellow, emo, sing-songy … So I wasn’t expecting much. Plus, they have Billie Joe Armstrong’s son Joey on drums, so I assumed that was the reason anyone had even heard of them. (Yeah, I can be a skeptical jerk sometimes).  Man was I ever WRONG. These guys came out on stage an absolutely destroyed any preconceived notions I had about them! Their songs were faster and more aggressive than on record, they were comfortable and confident on stage, they were engaging and knew how to control the crowd. Band members were stage diving, the audience was crowd surfing through the entire night and sung louder than the band on EVERY SONG.  

I learned something while watching and photographing the crowd surfers … It’s super hip to take a selfie while you are crowd surfing. All the kids are doing it! And if you drop your phone … don’t worry, someone will hold it up in air, the band will announce it, and you’ll get it back, seriously. 

According to what I read, the guys have been playing since they were about 8 years old, and you can tell. They are seasoned veterans on stage … Nothing rookie about them. My friend said, “this is the new punk rock” and perhaps he’s right. 

Sharp/Shock are the third band on this West Coast tour with The Interrupters and SWMRS and fit the bill perfectly. You had a ska headliner, a “new” punk rock co-headliner, both supported by the best power-pop band around, Sharp/Shock.  

I’ve seen Sharp/Shock a handful of times now (they get the greatest fucking gigs) and tonight they were at their best. They are always good, but there’s something great about seeing a band in the middle of a tour, a band firing on all cylinders, a band that’s been playing for large crowds night after night, a band that has to answer the call to stand up to these headlining bands and prove that they belong on this tour. Sharp/Shock must be playing their asses off and gaining fans at each stop because they were unstoppable tonight.

Opening the show was One Less Zero. I have to admit … Never heard of them. I assume they had a connection with The Interrupters as Aimee and Kevin (vocals and guitar) were in the crowd watching … As the musicians filed out on stage and started the first song I noticed a microphone laying on the ground in the spot where the singer should be. This is always a good sign to me!  If you’re an engaging, energetic singer, the mic belongs in your hand, not on the stand, leave on the ground until you come out and get it. Sara Wright hit the stage and rescued the microphone from the floor. She was dynamic, loud and in your face and had a great voice.

In struggling to describe their sound, I wanna call this band “goth” based on a guitar and some of the attire, but I also wanna call them Suicidal based on the other guitar. They play too loud and too fast to be a goth band and not metal enough to be a suicidal band … “Goth-i-cidal”? I know that’s lame and the band will probably hate it, but what else can I do? Maybe Punk/Goth. Maybe I don’t need a label and you should just go see them.

Finally, in closing the longest review I’ve ever written, I’d like it to be known that, I almost stayed for the whole show!


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