LIVE: Mariachi El Bronx @ Brooklyn Bowl, London

By Joshua Wroath

Most punk fans would be lying if they said they’d rather see Mariachi El Bronx then The Bronx, but when the day of the gig happens to fall on Valentine’s Day, who on Earth wouldn’t want to hear some swinging mariachi tunes from Los Angeles’ finest? If there is anyone who is going to make you want to go out and see some fine music instead of going out on a standard restaurant-Valentine’s Day date, then Mariachi El Bronx is that band.

Onto their third album now, Mariachi El Bronx can no longer be considered a novelty side project of the riotous Bronx anymore – in full motion they are a fully-fledged 8 piece ensemble who take the music, genre and meaning of mariachi to heart entirely.

Taking to the Brooklyn Bowl stage in identical designed matching outfits, the band stand proudly looking inch perfect. The setting and night almost seems like it was made for them, with the crowd being a rowdy bunch of couples and singles, all ready for some Latino grooves.

What is noticeable instantly by seeing El Bronx live is their technique abilities on the exotic instruments. Making it look effortless, the band take on classic mariachi instruments such as the guitarrón and vihuela with ease. After years of honing their Mariachi sound, El Bronx can be considered to be a real Mariachi band. Not many bands can look this cool and professional as a straight up punk band AND as a mariachi band – Muy bien!

Taking in classics such as ‘Sleepwalking’, ‘Poverty’s King’ and ‘Revolution Girls’, the band keep the mood and tempo perfect throughout, going from slow pieces to faster numbers caressingly. The new songs such as ‘Wildfire’ and ‘High Tide’ are performed with people swaying, dancing and enjoying them like they are old favourites, a great thing to see.

With all the fun and joy of the music pouring out onto everyone, it’s the vocals and attitude of Matt Caughthran that gets the crowd excited properly though. Unlike on the records of El Bronx, where Caughthrans vocals can sometimes seem pushed to the side, live he takes the night by her hand and dancers with her majestically and teasingly. With such a charismatic attitude and bravado of confidence flowing from him, it’s impossible to not be infected by his charm and sultry undertones. Throughout the set, Caughtran, between songs, continuously exerts his love for “all the motherfuckers” in the crowd and paying special attention to the fact get to play in London on Valentine’s Day. Later in an honourable fashion, he mentions how he would be lying if he was to say he hadn’t wished they had played London on his birthday though (which fell on the day before). None the less, he and the band give out a stella performance, which is truly appreciated by the lovers and losers in the audience.

Without a doubt, it’s safe to say that seeing, hearing and feeling Mariachi El Bronx live and the atmosphere created is a much better experience then listening to them on record and one should get on down to a show if they ever have the chance to do so. Be they “a happy couple or a desperate single loser” as Caughthran so well points out is not an issue – just as long as you are happy to dance the night away – Vamos!