Mariachi El Bronx + The VascoEra – Billboard, Melbourne (30/01/12)

Tonight’s Big Day Out sideshow at Melbourne’s Billboard was opened by locals, The Vasco Era. Sid O’Neill didn’t seemed particularly interested in being there and consequently he wasn’t particularly interesting to watch, in fact, when the rest of the band left him to perform a song on his lonesome, the singer looked as if he were about to fall asleep. Some vital signs were detectable in set closer Honey Bee, however, and to be fair, their early 00’s, sloppy slurry style is probably just a matter of taste.

Having initially donned their outfits in 2008, California’s Mariachi El Bronx have been exceeding expectations by performing surprisingly infectious and heartfelt mariachi music ever since. Surprising, because until that point they had been known only as their punk rock alter ego, The Bronx, therefore the announcement that they were about to release a themed album in such a differing genre could understandably have been met with scepticism.

Fast forward to 2012 and a sold out crowd are singing along to every word from songs off both El Bronx albums, with a passion almost matching that of the seven men onstage.

Starting off with 48 Roses, the opening track from last year’s Mariachi El Bronx II, the pure joy and energy given to the performance was matched equally by the quality of the musicianship on display.

Frontman Matt Caughthran helped keep the mood light, telling sex jokes in between songs, and generally moving around the stage looking like he was having a great time.

Most members of the band changed instruments several times during the night, with Ray Suen alternating between violin and guitar, the two trumpeters occasionally putting down their horns to perform on percussive instruments, and Joby J. Ford spending most of the night on vihuela, but also performing on acoustic guitar and accordion.

With much of the rhythm being provided by Ford’s vihuela (a small Spanish guitar), and matched by Vincent Hidalgo’s guitarron, a large six stringed Mexican bass guitar, Jorma Vik was free to do more than simply keep time. Perched behind his percussion, he moved around the beat and was a joy to watch, especially since his large bass drum was covered in a glittery silver with the name of the band printed in black.

The fact that Mariachi El Bronx have now reached the point where the side project is at least as successful as their main one and can inspire such a rapturous response from a crowd as was witnessed tonight, is all down to the love that these guys have for the music. They play their pop music take on mariachi music whilst treating the genre with total respect and therefore avoiding any gimmickry or cheesiness, which is quite a feat considering that they a) were previously solely a rock band and b) are all wearing black Mexican Charro suits.

The set was short, clocking in at just over an hour, but since the band has only two albums worth of material to mine from, this seemed to be a decent length. Highlights were Matador and Revolution Girl, the latter dedicated to Mexico, both from the new album.

It was an energetic performance delivered with gratitude, humour and humility by seven dudes with a gift for simple, beautiful melodies, bringing basic pop sensibilities to an under appreciated genre.

Originally published on FasterLouder on 01/02/2012. View original article.

Photos by Viktor Wolf. View photo gallery.

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