Monday, May 22, 2023

Live Shows: The Downhauls, Stars Like Ours, and Swivel, Lizard Lounge, Cambridge, MA 5/19/23

This past weekend might have been the craziest of all time for the Boston area, musically speaking. We had Taylor Swift taking over Gillette Stadium (and everyone's social media feeds) for three nights, Janet Jackson in Mansfield, Blink 182 at the Garden, and countless local rock shows happening every single night of the weekend. I assumed I'd have some FOMO at only making it out to one show, but when that show was the outstanding triple bill of The Downhauls, Stars Like Ours, and Swivel, I could not have gone wrong.

I'm about to lose all my Boston rock credibility by saying this, but I did not know Swivel at all before they were announced as the opener for The Downhauls' EP release show. Last week I discovered that Carissa Johnson was in the band, and I assumed they were a new project. Turns out they've been around for at least five years and also feature Damone's Noelle LeBlanc, and released an EP back in December that we completely missed. This won't shock anyone, but Swivel are great. As in ridiculously great. Their music is steeped in that original grunge sound that seems to be sweeping Boston right now, but with some impossibly catchy pop hooks. Swivel also inject songs with metal riffs and hardcore breakdowns, while being as grunge and pop as possible. I can't believe I could have been rocking out to such a great band for the better part of a decade. 

Stars Like Ours describe themselves as "a 90's influenced rock band with pop sensibilities," and they basically nailed it. I saw them open for Juliana Hatfield a few years back, and they're the perfect kind of band to bridge the musical gap between Boston's favorite 90's indie rock star and the kind of show where a good chunk of the crowd are wearing Helloween, Metallica, and Rob Zombie shirts, as they were Friday night. Stars Like Ours is just giant, anthemic 90's alt-rock of the heavier variety, but mixed with mid 90's power pop. They sound like if Fuzzy covered Motorhead instead of The Beach Boys. In a night of fun, no nonsense rock, Stars Like Ours might have been the most fun.

It was The Downhauls' EP release party, and they brought the rock to close out the night. The quartet played with a joyful ferocity, combining pure rock with just enough pop to keep things fun. Live they sound like a combination of the Ramones and Joan Jett, with more than a little of Jett's metal side. That's not saying they are a metal band. The Downhauls are just straight up rock and roll. For a band that released an EP called Scream Into the Void, they don't do a whole lot of screaming in their songs, but when they do it's just killer. New songs like "Spit the Poison Out" and their cover of the Bangles' "Hazy Shade of Winter" were highlights of the night. As someone who tends to go see the more pretentious side of indie rock quite a bit, it's good to just get out and rock the fuck out every so often.

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