The first time MonkHammer caught The Bronx some 12 years ago, frontman Matt Caughthran spent roughly 0.3 seconds on stage before leaping headfirst into the crowd to conduct the rest of the show from the eye of a continually whirling hurricane of beer, sweat and elbows. The second time, at a strip club/pub in the arse-end of London, the show ended with him casually perched on a shelf above the entrance, slightly confused as to how he got there, and largely unable to return to the stage without the assistance of the crowd. These days, he is far more inclined to stay front and centre with his bandmates, dancing like only he can, gibbon slamming in his own little one-man moshpit, but by no means does this diminish the chaos he commands, and tonight, The Bronx are on fire.
Whether pumped to the max following yesterday’s trip to Download; feeling at home in the uncharacteristic Californian sun that has blessed us today; or simply keen to get off stage and celebrate guitarist Joby J Ford’s daughter’s 11th birthday following an impromptu crowd-sung Happy Birthday, the band are on exceptional form tonight and often in double time, blasting through the likes of History’s Stranglers and Ribcage at a simply ludicrous pace. When the penny drops that it’s not a “grizzled as fuck” David Hidalgo Jr playing drums (not our words!), but former QOTSA sticksman and human thunderstorm Joey Castillo, it suddenly makes a lot more sense.
From start to finish, pints fly across the room, bodies follow, and grinning sun-burnt faces emerge from the darkness of the pit at regular intervals, wetter than an otter’s pocket and twice as smelly, but when the riff to Knifeman kicks in, it’s a truly terrifying spectacle, in the best possible sense. It’s as if the floor has been electrified, making literally everyone in the venue shake their stuff, and it’s a reaction that brings out the old Matt, who wades through the huddled throng to perform the second half from atop a stair railing midway through the crowd, of which 100% is entranced.
But what strikes most tonight is how enormous that new album sounds. For a band that has historically fallen squarely in the “thrives in a dive” category, occasionally failing to command bigger support stages in quite the way one hoped, tracks like Two Birds and Side Effects sound absolutely vast, filling hearts and ears with the power of a thousand Foo Fighters. As a result, and openly acknowledging this stadium-ready aura, guitarist Ken Horne is given more opportunity than ever before to peel out a few Slash-worthy solos, each one long enough to impress, but short enough to retain the evening’s momentum, giving everything a more professional, ready-to-step-it-up feel. While classics such as Heart Attack American and Shitty Future will always provoke bedlam, it’s these more recent, dare we say it commercial, cuts that really slam home tonight and prove just why this band are held in such high esteem. Could 2018 be the year hardcore goes full arena? On showings like this, don’t count against it. Sublime.