SWIMM Gets “Spirits” Rising At Desert 5 Spot With JuneShine
LOS ANGELES, CA- An LA-based band that I’ve been following for several years now is SWIMM. Back in 16/17, I heard their single “Man’s Man”, and as soon as that distorted bassline pumped through my speakers I was hooked. They released a full-length, Sentimental Porno, in 2018, and I’ve been waiting eagerly for new jams since. Covid 19 may have slowed their roll a bit, but they’ve been dropping some tasty tidbits for their fans over the past few years, including the singles “Spring Breaking Your Heart”, “Feel Better” and the sensual duet “You Never Fake It” that features the vocal performance of the inimitable Lauren Ruth Ward.
Once travel, and occupancy, restrictions across the country eased up a bit, they started gigging where they could, which included shows in Florida, Joshua Tree, and also as a support act for a stretch of Dead Sara‘s headlining tour. They even held their own mini-festival, in November of 2021 in downtown Los Angeles, which was a make-good date for the festival date schedule in August. I missed ALL of those performances, and seeing clips and photos on social media from those concerts got me anxious to see them on stage again.
I’m not quite sure how I found out about it… maybe it was an Instagram story… or a comment on a post… but I learned that SWIMM would be performing at the Desert 5 Spot in Hollywood for an event sponsored by the spirits company JuneShine. I wasn’t familiar with the venue, or the brand, but I was familiar with SWIMM, and that convinced me to bear the search of finding parking in Hollywood and head out to see them perform again.
When I arrived, the libations were flowing freely. JuneShine’s “honest alcohol”, which uses real fruit, sparkling water and has no added sugar, was free for all of the patrons. I tried their Rum Mai Tai, and it was quite refreshing. I saw some friendly, familiar faces, made some new friends, and enjoyed my time wandering the rooftop venue that had a decent view of the Hollywood nightlife. I brought my flash along to try and take some candids of people in attendance, but I quickly realized that almost 2 years off from shooting events made me forget how to properly use a flash. Welp. Back to “Photography 101”, I guess I go. I don’t use flash when I shoot performances. I guess I’m traditional/old school like that. The venue is more lounge than performance venue, and there’s really no stage lighting, so capturing images was generally pretty tough all night. lol.
Though it wasn’t mentioned in the RSVP, there was a special pop-up performance by the Hawaii-born vocalist Lily Meola. I hadn’t heard of her prior to this performance, but I can say that I was very impressed by her music and her voice. The timbre of her voice has a rich smoothness that gives her songs an extra touch of soul.
I googled her when I got to my desk and one of the first things to pop up was a headline that mentioned an upcoming performance at Luck Reunion, a festival hosted and curated by Willie Nelson, that we, at Blurred Culture, are very fond of. That led me down a rabbit hole to a performance by Lily with Willie Nelson from Farm Aid in 2013. While her voice and the songs that she performed at Desert 5 Spot don’t have me thinking “country”, I could hear why Willie would have asked her to sing with him. The soulfulness in her voice is genre-less and translates/pairs well with almost any song. Exhibit “B”: her cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop.
I’ve spent some time after her Desert 5 Spot performance listening to her latest 6 song EP, Daydream. It’s a lovely collection of songs that really highlights the sultry quality of her voice, again emphasizing that soulfulness that I mentioned above. Apparently, Lily would have a headlining gig at the Troubadour the following night. Had I caught wind of her music prior to this night, I probably would have asked to cover that show as well.
With the free alcohol flowing, and good vibes bubbling all around, the room was ready for SWIMM to take the stage. I found myself amongst long-time SWIMM fans up at the front, and we casually chatted about how we each found their music and for how long we’ve been tracking their musical journey. The die-hard fans were upfront, and I was glad to be with them.
As soon as Cookie, a/k/a Chris, and company stepped onto the stage we were ready. As their infectious beats and distorted guitar riffs started pumping through the house speaks, booties started to shake and shoulder started to shimmy. If there’s one thing I can guarantee, it’s that when SWIMM gets into a groove, the crowd can’t help but follow suit and groove with them.
As they rolled through their set, Marton, Adam, Hany, and Chris exuded a cool, confidence as they got lost in the music they were playing. They played my still-favorite song, “Man’s Man” and even ripped through their fan-favorite cover of Savage Garden’s “I Want You”.
The JuneShine crowd got a bonus treat when they asked Lauren Ruth Ward to join them on stage for a song. She dueted with Chris on the song “Speak Politely”. I would have taken some video clips of her performing with the fellas, but she asked that I didn’t, and of course, I honored that request. Lauren and Chris have their own little, mostly acoustic, side project called Aging Actress and they often cover each other’s songs, so this was definitely an awesome moment to see manifest again.
In fact, the whole evening was an awesome moment. Catching SWIMM rocking a stage again was just what I needed, and I hope that these guys play another gig in L.A. real soon. I’ll be back up at the front.
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