The Bronx – Tickets – The Casbah – San Diego – San Diego, CA – October 19th, 2017

The Bronx

Casbah presents

The Bronx

Plague Vendor, '68

Thu, October 19, 2017

Doors: 8:30 pm / Show: 9:00 pm

The Casbah - San Diego

San Diego, CA

$22.50

This event is 21 and over

The Bronx
The Bronx
For the better part of a decade, The Bronx have played provocateurs. From their beginnings as an attack-mode hardcore band to their hardscrabble lives as road warriors to the twist of fate that led to their alter ego Mariachi El Bronx — an episode that itself was an act of defiance — the Los Angeles quintet has embraced a fierce independence.

And as they prepare for the February 2013 release of their fourth rock album, one thing is for certain: The Bronx have grown up, but they haven't gone soft.

"This represents the highest evolution of the band, which is exactly how it should be be," vocalist Matt Caughthran says of the album fans inevitably will come to know as The Bronx (IV). "We're the same guys, but we would never make the same record twice. And because of everything that's happened with El Bronx, we've grown as musicians. And that's why on this record you'll hear that the songs are driving everything."

The Bronx burst on the scene in 2002 with music that recalled the heyday of L.A. punk — artillery-fire guitars and percussion punctuating anguished missives about the perils of street life and the frayed edges of society. Now the band (Caughthran, guitarists Joby J. Ford and Ken Horne, bassist Brad Magers and drummer Jorma Vik) frames its aggression in different and, yes, more sophisticated ways.

"We made an effort to trim the fat and focus the ideas a lot more," Ford explains. "It helped that we're working in our own studio, with our friend (producer/engineer) Beau Burchell, and that we know what we want to do and how to get there very quickly."

The Bronx (IV) also reflects a certain musicality that the band acknowledges is a carryover from its work over two albums as a mariachi outfit. Mariachi El Bronx started as an act of rebellion in 2006 when the punk band took offense to being asked to do an acoustic performance and showed up in sombreros with a mariachi arrangement of the song "Dirty Leaves. Now El Bronx has taken on a life of its own, with its reverent, enthusiastic take on the genre winning fans worldwide.

"I think that after doing the mariachi records, it gave us a whole new outlook and a more structured way of writing music. We figured out what works best," Vik says. "Everything is less spazzy. Matt doesn't scream as much, but he's got that thing in his voice where he can scream in pitch — mariachi has helped his confidence as a singer and ours as songwriters."

Indeed, Caughthran admits, "I found that a lot of melodies crept in subliminally and I didn't even realize it until later."

"Will both bands eventually encapsulate each other and become this horrible mariachi rock monster?" Ford says, laughing. "I wonder."

The Bronx (IV) shows no overt sign of that. It does, however, seethe with band's characteristic rage, even if that rebellion is not quite as youthful as it once was.

The single "Youth Wasted" is Caughthran's fearless look back "at a lot of the bad decisions I made," he says. "I'd like to think that as a human being I have the best intentions and I'm a good person. Sometimes it doesn't always work out that way."

"Valley Heat" makes The Bronx sound like elder statesmen. "That song's about people who will do anything and everything just to call attention to themselves," Caughthran says. "Sometimes you see young people, especially young bands, just doing all the wrong things. And you shake your head. It's easier for me to write a scathing song about that stuff than it is to give advice."

And two of the new songs were borne of The Bronx's tour adventures. "Under the Rabbit" refers to a friend of the band who smuggled booze around a festival under her rabbit fur coat. "The Unholy Hand" was inspired by a bizarre sequence of events in which Ford suffered an injury to his right hand and later, during a chance meeting with a man who turned out to be a gang member, offended him by offering a handshake with his left. "He said, 'I ain't shaking that — that's the unholy hand, bro,'" Ford recalls. "I thought, 'song title.'"

Call it another chapter of Bronx lore. For a band that survived two near-death experiences involving their tour van in their first 18 months, that weathered label problems that undermined albums No. 2 and 3 and that even made it through a mid-career summer on the Warped Tour, it's all part of destiny that only occasionally feels in the Bronx's hands.

"We made this record on our terms," Ford says. "We don't have to rent a studio for a zillion dollars or pay some mega-producer to help us, because we've become self-reliant. It's been a long road and we're proud of it."
Plague Vendor
Plague Vendor
Plague Vendor Bloodsweat
Epitaph, 2016

Time as a band breeds experience, yielding commitment to a cause and cementing a career path. This is something Plague Vendor has learned. The foursome, who emerged from a practice space in Whittier, CA in 2009, started by playing endless live shows around Southern California, filling everywhere from backyard parties to clubs to festivals with their raucous, formidable music. At the heart of every show, no matter the venue, was sincere energy and spirit, always resulting in a snarling, frenetic performance. The shows stacked up, accumulating every year, and eventually birthed Plague Vendor's 2014 debut album Free To Eat, a dark, thrashing collection that clocked in at less than twenty minutes.

But the album, brash and aptly terse, was just an appetizer to the main course. The band's sophomore effort, Bloodsweat, vastly expands on the sonic territory explored in their debut. Recorded over the course of two weeks in April of 2015 with producer and engineer Stuart Sikes (The Walkmen, Cat Power, Modest Mouse), the album takes a natural approach to Plague Vendor's music. The musicians aimed to capture each track in as few takes as possible, avoiding many overdubs and embracing the same minimal production they bring to their live performances. Nearly all of the eleven songs on Bloodsweat were heavily road-tested, imagined and re-imagined live before ever making it into the studio.

From opening number "Anchor To Ankles" to closer "Got It Bad," Bloodsweat reveals a purposeful narrative arc, taking the listener through songs that veer rapidly from aggressive thrash to melodic introspection. Together, the songs recount the last few years of the musicians' lives, revealing the sacrifices they've made and the dedication they've embraced to become the band they've become. "Jezebel," the disc's flagship single, exemplifies the style Plague Vendor has dubbed "voodoo punk" a dance-fueled rock aesthetic tinged with shadowy darkness. The band's influences, which range from At the Drive-In to Liars to The Cramps, are apparent but not overly obvious throughout.

Plague Vendor's live show has shifted as they've developed these new songs, too. They've swapped out shock value for raw vulnerability onstage and the four musicians aim to create the most sound and the most intensity with the least possible utility and equipment. Palpable tension comes from the sense that anything could happen, but mostly Plague Vendor is interested in simplicity and the sort of expressive nakedness that can come from stripping everything away. It's clear the band has sacrificed their formative don't-give-a-fuck punk attitude for sincerity and gratitude, acknowledging the fans who've helped them arrive here now.

Bloodsweat invokes its own name as it unfurls, its songs edged with a sense of danger and vulnerability. It's the product of a band who have traveled far and whose travels have committed them even further to themselves. As you hear it, as its songs surge outward, it announces: This is who Plague Vendor is now.

Plague Vendor is:

Brandon Blaine – Vocals
Luke Perine – Drums
Michael Perez – Bass
Jay Rogers – Guitar
Venue Information:
The Casbah - San Diego
2501 Kettner Blvd.
San Diego, CA, 92101
http://www.casbahmusic.com