I was lucky enough to bag a ticket to catch Ash’s comeback show at Camden Barfly in London on Wednesday night (February 18) – timed appropriately to coincide with actual Ash Wednesday, of course.
First thing on Wednesday morning, the band announced their new album Kablammo! and new single Cocoon, as well as a gig at Barfly that very night. Having seen the band a few times in the past, I jumped at the opportunity.
And as ever, they certainly didn’t disappoint. Opening with new song Fortune, which the band debuted in the US in October last year, it’s evident Kablammo! is set to more than live up to its name.
Fortune features a massive driving riff, not to mention frontman Tim Wheeler’s trademark guitar histrionics. Cocoon went down similarly well, as did two other new’uns aired for the very first time – Evil Kinevil and Shut Down.
As for older numbers, while Clones still evades me despite this being my fourth Ash gig, I was delighted to catch Wildsurf and Petrol again, Evil Eye for the very first time and, of course, the blistering Joy Kicks Darkness. All the old favourites were there too.
The full set ran:
Fortune / A Life Less Ordinary / Wildsurf / Goldfinger / Evil Eye / Evil Kinevil / Kung Fu / Cocoon / Oh Yeah / Shut Down / Shining Light / Orpheus / Girl From Mars / Joy Kicks Darkness / Petrol / Burn Baby Burn
The band have shot off back to New York to finish off Kablammo! which is due to be released in May. The band are coming back for a string of dates in June, including another show in London, this time at the Scala on June 11 – the day before my birthday. How could I refuse?
Five hardcore punk rockers eschewing their riffs and power chords in favour of flamenco guitars and burbling brass while leading their fans through a cheery array of polkas and waltzes?
The thronging hordes crammed into The Boileroom on Tuesday night (February 17) would, however, suggest otherwise. It’s a sell-out, and with good reason.
Let’s spool back a bit. In 2002, The Bronx were founded by five like-minded guys in Los Angeles. Their sound was raw, punchy and abrasive.
Then, in 2007, they announced they were recording not one, but two new albums. The first, a straight up ballsy punk album; the second, a mariachi album entitled El Bronx. And thus, Mariachi El Bronx were born.
The band have since released three albums as their flamenco-inspired alter ego and on Tuesday, they made their bow at The Boileroom, ably supported by Pounded By The Surf, who entertained with their 50s-inspired surf rock stylings reminiscent of The Tornadoes and The Shadows.
Swelling to an eight-piece to accommodate a host of weird and wonderful new instruments, El Bronx barely have room to breathe on The Boileroom’s diminutive stage.
There is nothing diminutive about their performance, however.
Every song during the band’s more than hour-long set has room to develop, to progress and to meander without members treading on each other’s toes – musically as much as physically.
Empty beer bottles soon litter the stage as the band quickly grow into their performance, led by frontman Matt Caughthran, who is warmly greeted by hundreds of Guildfordians.
Suited and booted in traditional Mexican attire, albeit without a sombrero in sight, there is a slight of hand about El Bronx’s carefully constructed melodies and rhythms you might not necessarily associate with a group of musicians so firmly rooted in hardcore punk, an ethos rarely famed for subtlety.
Flicking between intricate time signatures in a stroke, the band lead their audience, almost involuntarily, on something of a merry jig, although decent trade at the bar doesn’t harm their cause.
Fan favourites such as 48 Roses and a triumphant rendition of Litigation litter the set, which draws heavily from both the band’s guises and, of course, plenty from El Bronx’s third eponymous album, released last year.
They even break out a brand new song which, says Caughthran, was penned just hours earlier at the George Abbot pub overlooking the River Wey. Cue hysteria, of course.
Make no bones about it, El Bronx are a band revered the world over by their hardcore fans – but it comes as something of a surprise the sheer affection with which they are held here in Guildford.
Who knew there was such a demand for something as relatively diverse and alien as mariachi music, let alone a twisted hybrid of mariachi and punk?
Mariachi El Bronx’s infectious grooves are as much a joyous antidote to dozens of rock and punk gigs as they are a tender homage to a style of music that clearly means a huge amount to every member of the band.
It is a rare delight, as is watching a band with the talent to switch so readily between two very different styles of music with ease. Olé amigos!