California-style Punk Party Rings the Gothic

Photo: Korina Rojo


Throughout its history Punk music has had a menagerie of different sub-cultures develop during its almost 50 year existence. From hardcore to grind-core to ska-core to crust-punk and garage-rock all these stem from similar anti-establishment ideals and uncouth attitude that bands like The Stooges, The Ramones, and The Sex Pistols brought to their ethos. California-based pop-punk/garage rock bands FIDLAR and SWMRS recently performed an obstreperous concert at the Gothic Theatre, rekindling some of the old punk-rock flames.

SWMRS had the more rawer set between the two groups. Donning “Fuck Donald Trump” T-shirts, the punk group opened with a cover of Fugazi’s “Waiting Room,” seemingly playing homage to one of the legendary bands of the genre. Playing into the punk tradition of anti-right wing politics, SWMRS led the audience in a cathartic chant of “Fuck Trump” and were selling their “Fuck Donald Trump” tees at the merchandise table at the back of the venue. Their first two albums were recorded by SWMRS drummer Joey Armstrong’s father, Billy Joe Armstrong another leader of the pop-punk realm known for his work in Green Day.

FIDLAR’s California party-boy style is reminiscent of the pop-punk glory days of Blink-182 and Sum 41 with a harder edge. The Los Angeles based quartet casually took the stage to the “Star-Spangled Banner” playing commandingly over the house speakers and proceeded to ignite their set with a thrashing throwback cover of the Beastie Boys “Sabotage” a single they recorded and released earlier this year.

Guitarist and lead vocalist Zac Carper sang hunched over the mic, with a tongue-in-cheek grin on his face as if every lyric was joke that only he was in on. With lyrics like, “I drink cheap beer, so what? Fuck you!,” and “I’m gonna lock myself inside my room with this 40 oz. on repeat,” the band toes the line between party anthems and depressed self-loathing. The audience adored every moment of FIDLAR’s set, with many of the fans dressing like Zac Carper “Mini-Me’s.” The band knew how to play the crowd, each audience member hanging on to every distorted chord and swear word coming through the speakers.

Many punk-lovers might scoff at California punk bands like FIDLAR and SWMRS for not being underground enough or playing music that is too pop oriented however, these groups are bringing the ideals of a genre that has recently been forgotten by the media back into the light for a new generation to appreciate. They don’t sound like Minor Threat, The Misfits, or similar to other punk music legends, but FIDLAR contends that new music isn’t supposed to sound like the old. New good artists are here to ref lect what’s going on their lives, not regurgitate the emotions of the past. In this sense FIDLAR and SWMRS are on the forefront of the contemporary iteration of the punk genre, and for better or worse this generation is connecting with them.

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