Mariachi El Bronx @ Brighton Komedia 16.02.15

LA punks The Bronx exhilarating Mariachi side project storm Brighton

Feb 16th, 2015 at Brighton Komedia / By Norman Miller
Mariachi El Bronx @ Brighton Komedia 16.02.15 God bless side projects, whose liberating effect sometimes give them more sparkle than the supposed main act (you can even forgive Phil Collins for the crud he did with Genesis thanks to his often excellent jazz-rock side project Brand X).

When LA punksters The Bronx were asked to play an acoustic set in 2006, they decided not just to cut the electrics but switch from hardcore to Latino – and loved it so much they began assembling music for this new incarnation. That became 2009's eponymous debut Mariachi El Bronx. MEBII followed in 2011, then – you guessed it – Mariachi El Bronx III last year. And the joy is that these guys seem to have done a deal with the Devil at a crossroad, becoming a awesomely tight and truly great mariachi band.

It's a crowded stage in a hot and dark Komedia once frontman Matt Caughthran leads on a Mexican charro-clad pack of music-making compadres - Joby J. Ford, Jorma Vik, Ken Mochikoshi-Horne, Brad Magers, Vince Hidalgo, Keith Douglas and Rebecca Schlappich – lugging several guitars, two trumpets, a violin plus various things to hit. Then we're off for a storming hour-and-a half of mariachi mayhem and friendly cussing from Matt, who lovingly tells the throng what fantastic motherfuckers we are between pretty much every number song on a 20+ song set.

A line on single 'New Beat' sums up the vibe: “Tonight we celebrate the madness / Tonight we embrace insanity”. But it's a happy madness, with Caughtran expressing genuinely warm appreciation of both the crowd and the town that he tells us is the closest England gets to his homey vibe, and suggesting we secede to become “Brighton, California”.

The songs are deliriously joyous, driven by fantastic melodies, some great lyrics and insanely hooky percussion and trumpets. There's a sweetness to many of them, as Caughtran croons with mucho feeling of love and hope (gained and lost), with the odd dash of darker stuff on numbers like slow-and-moody revenge number 'Holy Lyrics'.

It's almost churlish to pick out highlights as everything sparkles, but there's a little bit of extra Latino magic on the riotous 'Cell Mates', the pared-back 'Sleepwalking', the beguiling 'Revolution Girl', the sweet 'High Tide', a raucous '48 Roses', plus brilliant renditions of 'Norteno Lights', 'Right Between The Eyes', 'Silver And Lead', 'My Brother The Gun' and the crowd-pleasing 'New Beat'.

'Poverty's King' and 'Quinceniera' are great encores to an evening that turns a chilly British evening into a brilliant wander down Mexico way.