Live in review: Maudlin Strangers and SWIMM

Photo by Tory Hoffman // 2015

Since I moved to Los Angeles this past December, I made it a small goal of mine to see shows at all of LA’s small but mighty concert venues. I had the opportunity to cross another off the list last night, with a performance by headliner Maudlin Strangers, and SWIMM at The Echo off Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park.

My initial reaction upon walking into The Echo was that it was hot. And my second reaction was that, well, it kept getting hotter. It was so hot. Like dripping sweat hot. Like “I immediately regret stepping out of the house in pants” hot. Temperature aside, though, The Echo was a pretty prime venue. The tickets were only $12, and coupled with free and plentiful parking around most of Echo Park after 8PM (unheard of in Los Angeles), and $5 beer + tequila shots down the street at The Gold Room, it stays a very affordable night from start to finish. The sold out crowd seemed young, it was an all-ages show, so of course my “adult” self found small annoyances in the antics of the high schoolers in front of me, but the crowd was giving nothing but good vibes, and I really don’t have anything to complain about (except, did I mention, that it was hot?). I give The Echo positive reviews, with the warning to wear less clothing next time, but there will be a next time.

So as mentioned, the two acts I saw (Royaljag opened the night up, but I missed due to $5 beer + tequila) were the Maudlin Strangers and SWIMM. To be 100% honest, I had not heard of either of these groups before buying my tickets. A local group called LANY had originally been set to open, and I had heard a few songs by them before and was excited to hear them live, but a few days before the show we got notice that they dropped out of the lineup and were replaced by SWIMM, generating a completely foreign set of bands for me.

But, what could have been a complete disappointment was exactly the opposite, and I’m excited now to give both Maudlin Strangers and SWIMM overwhelmingly positive reviews.

SWIMM‘s performance carried a lot of the traits of a classic rock show, all the way down to the head-banging and hair-flipping. There was even a guy on stage whose only jobs seemed to be 1) play the tambourine 2) dance 3) flip head of curly hair around stage. It was pretty rad. SWIMM’s music is filled with hard, driving rhythms, searingly melodic guitar parts, and a lead singer whose voice is emotive and sincere. Couple that with deep and expressive (and sometimes satirical) lyrics and you’ve set yourself up for a great live set. Will definitely keep my eyes open for their name on future shows in LA.

Maudlin Strangers is the creation of Agoura Hills native Jake Hays. Everything from the music, the album, and even the group’s logo was done originally by Hays (and as a graphic designer, I’ll even give the logo props). Hays played every instrument on the recording of his EP, and the passion and true musicality translates flawlessly onto the stage. Live, the group sounds just as good as the recordings, and the extra songs in the set gave a prime view into the future, as well as the inspiration behind his music. Covers of Pink Floyd’s “We Don’t Need No Education” and (an encore performance of) MGMT’s “Electric Feel” were nearly spot on, and it was easy to see the well-rounded musical interests of Hays. The music has the cult-like appeal of a group like Timeflies, but with a deeper sound- dreamy, funky, a little bit electric, and dark bluesy music and lyrics (all while wearing a Hawaiian shirt). With just enough electric to dance to, paired with just enough sublimity and shadow to maybe sob or brood to, it’s hard to imagine that Maudlin Strangers won’t be in the earbuds of the general population in the upcoming year.



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