BERKELEY — With Halloween around the corner, SWMRS started the scream fest early at the UC Theatre Saturday. For its third annual Uncool Halloween, the Oakland band channeled the Harry Potter series. “Hedwig’s Theme” cued the quartet onstage, while floating candles, dementors, dragons and cheering fans haunted the venue. Mid-note, the whimsical score cut surprisingly seamlessly to SWMRS opening with “Drive North.”
Vocalist-guitarists Cole and Max Becker, bassist Sebastian Mueller and drummer Joey Armstrong got in the zone right away–the Beckers and Mueller weaving between each other as they bounced across the stage. Everyone but Cole Becker, who dressed as the golden snitch, donned Hogwarts uniforms. Together, the East Bay rockers riled up the crowd with their melodic inferno.
Cole Becker was constantly leaning across the barricade and was stage-diving by the second song. Between tunes, he engaged even more with the audience. He described how SWMRS started Uncool Halloween as a way to play with all of its favorite bands throughout the Golden State. He later encouraged fans to chant “I just wanna be uncool,” before the group broke into the event’s namesake song.
Before playing 2018 single “Berkeley’s on Fire,” Cole Becker rallied everyone to cheer in support of the Black Lives Matter and the Trans People Are Not A Burden movements.
“This is not a political song; this song is about believing people when they tell you they’re in pain,” he said.
Other highlights included performances of “Miley,” “Figuring it Out” and “Palm Trees.”
Los Angeles band Bleached preceded SWMRS, playing a set that fused pop-punk and garage rock. Sisters Jennifer and Jessica Clavin took the stage representing Gryffindor and Slytherin, respectively, but were in sync with their music’s expressive and unruly cool. Playing with a full band, the SoCal rockers performed with an amplified sound that had the crowd stirring for shred-heavy cuts and even a cover of the Ramones’ “Judy is a Punk.”
Mt. Eddy started a riot almost instantly, opening with “Orange.” The East Bay band’s friends from backstage, including openers Destroy Boys’s bassist, dove left and right off the stage during the Bay Area band’s first few songs. The band, which includes Jakob Armstrong, the brother of SWMRS’ Joey Armstrong and son of Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, announced it was playing it’s final show for the foreseeable future, as members take time to figure out what they want to pursue. But even with uncertainty ahead, Mt. Eddy played with iridescent energy.
“Thanks for the last two years,” vocalist-guitarist Jakob Armstrong said before the band launched into “Metaphor.” Fans echoed every word of the wide-eyed and lovestruck stream-of-consciousness tune.
San Diego’s Beach Goons played a sunny set of surf punk. Songs like “A.M.,” off 2018 LP, Hoodratscumbags, alternated between English and Spanish lyrics, as well as between high-voltage fuzz to psychedelic sounds. For “The End,” Beach Goons invited the crowd to sing along.
“This song’s stupid-easy. It just goes, ‘All my friends are dead…’” frontman Pablo Cervantez said.
The trio finished with a cover of “La Bamba.”
Sacramento’s Destroy Boys set an upbeat pace with candid hi-fi punk. Singer Alexia Roditis and guitarist Vi Mayugba, joined by a touring bassist and drummer, were clad in Hogwarts uniforms and appropriately opened with “American River,” a song about running late to class and playing dodgeball. Fans seemed to prefer “Methatonin,” on which the first few rows yelled along to the lyrics.
Small Crush, from Oakland, kick-started the night. While dressed as The Wiggles, the quartet mixed its bright indie pop with a tinge of edge through confessionals of young adulthood.