9th February 2013
More than a decade into their career, The Bronx, in both their original incarnation as a hardcore punk band, and in appearances as their Hispanic folk music side project Mariachi El Bronx, has been an outfit consistently praised by critics and peers alike.
Visiting 53 Degrees as part of an impressive 18-date UK run in support of their fourth full-length, imaginatively titled The Bronx (just like the previous three), the Los Angeles quintet could be forgiven for being sluggish following a gruelling 300-mile journey from the previous night’s gig in Brighton.
Before the main event though, Northern Irish trio Axis Of kick things off with their own angular brand of punk rock. Very much at the vanguard of an Northern Irish punk scene that’s blossoming nicely, the Portstewart trio are bringing tracks from their debut album Finding St Kilda to the British mainland for the first time.
Mixing off-kilter rhythms with bone-crushing riffs, they make some noise for a three- piece. Each member contributes to the vocal onslaught, be it with a subtle backing chant or a piercing scream, they come across equal parts At The Drive-In, Minor Refused, Biffy Clyro and Weezer.
Cardiel and Mendelssohnstrasse are tailor-made for radio airplay – and the crowd gets involved enough in the refrain of the latter to suggest that this début Preston performance has gone down well.
Canada’s Single Mothers are next up. Their no-nonsense approach echoes that wonderful 80s Californian breed of hardcore bands such as Agent Orange and JFA, albeit with a more garage-driven sound.
Frontman Andrew Thomson covers every inch of the stage, leaping around and throwing himself into every song. They’re giving 100 per cent, and seem to like singing (shouting?) about drinking and having fun. And – call me easily pleased – that’s a enough to get me in party mode.
The wait for the headliners seemed like an eternity, but then maybe that’s the Strongbow taking effect. When they do emerge, the band are greated with God-like reverence by the audience. The upstairs room is probably between one-third and a quarter full tonight, but those that are here are densely packed close to the stage.
The imposing figure of The Bronx’s vocalist, Matt Caughtran, dominates the stage throughout their performance. It also dominates the floor, when he plunges into the audience mid-set.
Armed with tunes like Shitty Future, Knifeman and Too Many Devils, for me The Bronx occupy that necessary breathing space between the uber-macho metalcore of bands like Hatebreed and the mainstream melodic hardcore adopted most successfully by Rise Against.
At one point, the deceptively well-spoken Mr Caught ran instructs the crowd: “Let The Bronx be your preacher and our records be your Sunday school.” He may be preaching to the converted, but the congregation gathered tonight clearly recognise that a lot of blood and sweat has gone into delivering this sermon, and worship him accordingly.
Poor religious puns aside, this gig shows that while the band’s recorded output may show signs of mellowing, their live performances are as visceral and provocative as they ever were.