Live Review: Mariachi El Bronx w/ Pounded By The Surf

Now that’s hardcore

Usually when The Bronx come to town, they leave a trail of destruction in their wake.  Upturned tables and a crowd with a look that sits somewhere between confusion and ecstasy are their stock in trade.  However, every now and then they leave that insanity behind.  They don the Mariachi gear and choose instead to serenade us, with tales of love, life and all those other lovely things.

Before they are allowed to do that however, we have Pounded By The Surf, who come out on stage in full-blown cowboy garb.  They then go on to play a forty minute set of instrumental music, that sounds like it could soundtrack a Spaghetti Western.  It’s not something many people will be used to watching live, but it is undeniably good fun.  The musicianship is good and the songs are catchy, getting most of the audience tapping their feet.  It is maybe music for a certain time and place, probably one that involves a horse and the wind in your hair, but for this night at least, it goes down well.

By the time Mariachi El Bronx step onto the stage, Electric Circus is the fullest I’ve ever seen it.  This band has taken on a life of their own and there are people here who wouldn’t recognise a Bronx song if it headbutted them in the face.  By taking a genre of music that most in attendance probably know very little about and using it to construct three albums of sweet and hope filled songs, Mariachi El Bronx have become the real deal.  They no longer feel like a side project or a gimmick, but a real band in their own right.

Tonight you can see why that is.  Matt Caughtran is not spitting and howling as he does in the day job, but he is still one of the most engaging frontmen around.  Whether he’s crooning through songs, in his surprisingly warm voice, or bantering with the audience about the fact that the band went to a Mexican restaurant earlier in the day and were surprised they weren’t recognised, he is constantly likable and behind the songs, is the most intoxicating thing about this band.

However, not much is going to beat these songs.  I can’t claim to be an expert on Mariachi music, in fact apart from this very band I know diddly squat, but I do like to think I know a good song.  And these are good songs.  New tracks like ‘Wildfires’ sit next to old ones like ’48 Roses’ and they all sound great.  If there is one criticism, some of it is a bit samey, but that doesn’t matter when, and it’s a horrible word to use, they are all just this charming and lovely and you can’t help but sway along, as this extended version of The Bronx lead you through a set that goes on past the 10 o’clock curfew that all the posters in the venue proclaim.

This extended band, which includes members of Pounded by The Surf, does their job well.  It’s not often I go to a gig that includes violins and trumpets, but it all comes together nicely, creating a sound that really shouldn’t be as bewitching as it is.  I’d be lying if I said that I wanted The Bronx to give up their day job and do this full-time, because quite frankly they are one of the best hardcore punk bands on the planet.  However, I think it’s safe to say that no one ever saw them becoming this band as well.  I can’t claim them as one of the best Mariachi bands, but I can say they are pretty damn good.

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