Material: Swerve's melodic pop-rock songs reference decades of rock & roll history. Whereas the second song they performed during their set at L.A.’s Chinatown Summer Nights festival, “Everything (Hey Girl),” opens with a heavy, minor key guitar riff that would sound at home on a ’90s-era Weezer album, sixth song “Dumb Romeo” features country and psychedelic moments that recall the era of rock when the Rolling Stones topped the Billboard charts. At times, this can cause them to sound unfocused, but their disparate influences are grounded by an easy-going California rocker vibe.
Musicianship: Overall, the band’s focus is on tightly-written pop songs rather than flashy musicianship. Both Mahdesian and second guitarist Brandon Duncan took a fair number of solos throughout their set, which always served a melodic purpose rather than to show off either player’s skill with the guitar. Most importantly, Swerve’s four members always looked at ease playing with one another and were consistently locked into their material.
Performance: Mahdesian’s stage presence was equal parts California hipster and beach-going slacker, with an energy most comparable to the laid-back style of retro indie rocker Kurt Vile. Since their performance was at a festival featuring plenty of non-musical attractions, a good number of their audience members were new and unsuspecting listeners, but it’s a testament to Swerve’s strength as a band that the entrance to the audience standing area was practically blocked off by festival-goers who had stopped and stayed to watch their set.
Summary: Retro rock is unquestionably relevant right now, and Swerve is contributing their own voice to this musical movement. Occasional moments in their set sounded unfocused, though this may ultimately be to their benefit.
Swerve sounds at their strongest in songs like “Baby Blue,” which rework the style of heavy pop hooks popularized by Nirvana for a modern rock audience, and incorporating country riffs like in “Dumb Romeo” or antepenultimate track “Know It All” as well as influences from a few other disparate genres of rock will only help them stand out.
The Players: Gregory Mahdesian, vocals, guitar; Aaron Rudin, drums; Ryan Berti, guitar; Brandon Duncan, bass.
Text and photo by Sam Skopp
Venue: L.A. Weekly Stage at Chinatown Summer Nights
City: Los Angeles, CA
Swerve - "Remedy"
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