Sean Wheeler and Zander Schloss kicked off the night. As they took the stage one couldn’t help but be intrigued. Wheeler’s sharp get-up and life-worn face made him seem like a visage of a younger Tom Waits at first glance, and with his guitarist Schloss armed with a beaten twelve-string and hiding behind a veil of Jerry Garcia-esque facial hair, they ripped through set of country tinged acoustic numbers filled with stories about hard women and hard drinking. Wheeler’s voice was well suited for his worldly tales, but it was Schloss that stole the show; his old guitar belting out emotive blues progressions and twangy pentatonic runs.
Mariachi El Bronx were up next. Dressed in full costume, the LA punks’ playful homage to the Mexican heritage of their hometown was fantastic. Joined by extra musicians on the guitarrón and violin, and their bassist trading in his strings for a trumpet, Mariachi El Bronx’s played through almost all of their 2009 debut, and the audience ate up every second of it, singing along to favorites like “Cell Mates” and set closer “Clown Powder”. Even the bouncers at the stage barricade got in on the fun, dancing along to the thumping Latin rhythms.
The odd-ball performance of the night was Violent Soho. Filling in for Japanther, who had to drop from the tour, the young Australians tried their best to channel the spirit of 1991, but their grunge-era hero worship fell short. Every ringing power chord and every mumbled vocal line were just a reminder that they would still have a supporting slot some 20 odd years ago, because while well played, it has been and still is done better by dozens of other acts.
At a little past 11 o’clock, The Bronx finally took the stage. It was surreal, if only for the fact that an hour earlier they same dudes were on the stage serenading the crowd to the same subdued Latin sounds that can be heard at happy hour at the Mexican restaurant down the street. The entire floor turned into a war scene as singer Matt Caughtran and co. whipped the crowd into a frenzy. The Bronx played an eclectic mix of songs from all three of their releases, including fan favorites “Heart Attack American”, “White Guilt”, and “Knifeman”. On three occasions throughout the night, Caughtran flung himself into the pit, fans piling on to his short frame, clamoring for the mic. Even though they played for over an hour, their set seemed to end abruptly and without and encore, like a statement that “yeah, we’ve kicked your ass enough”, and to be honest, they kicked our asses plenty good.