It makes sense that Ireland-influenced rock bands Flogging Molly and Young Dubliners will be performing in Utah this weekend.
After all, St. Patrick’s Day is Sunday, March 17.
But what on the surface doesn’t seem to make sense is Flogging Molly’s inclusion of a mariachi band on the Irish rock band’s annual St. Patrick’s Day-timed pilgrimage through the U.S.
Mariachi el Bronx — a side project of L.A. punk band The Bronx in which the members earnestly dress as charros and play traditional Mexican folk music — will be opening for Flogging Molly at Saltair on March 15.
Flogging Molly’s mandolin player Bob Schmidt said that there isn’t as big a disconnect as it might seem.
Schmidt, whose ancestry is Mexican (from his father’s side) and Irish (from his mother’s side), said Mariachi el Bronx’s role on the tour comes in part from his love for the unexpected. “I always appreciated rock bands that went off the beaten track, like Elvis Costello, Tom Waits and the Beatles,” he said.
Young Dubliners, who perform Saturday at The Depot, do not have a mariachi band opening for them — rather, they have Utah Irish band Swagger open for them. But as a former resident of Los Angeles, frontman Keith Roberts recognizes the similarities between what his band does — play rock music with Irish influences and instrumentation — and what Mariachi el Bronx does. “Bands like Los Lobos and Ozomatli did their [take] on traditional music like we did,” Roberts said.
In their hungrier days, Young Dubliners would even take advantage of the prevalence of Cinco de Mayo parties in southern California to beef up their bottom line once St. Patrick’s Day celebrations died down. “We would try to cash in on every holiday [including Cinco de Mayo],” Roberts said. “We would do whole sets of bastardizing ‘La Bamba.’ We would even dress up with sombreros.”
America is a melting pot, Roberts said, and while St. Patrick’s Day exposes American to Irish culture and music, it is also a day for people to appreciate and value the traditions of other ethnicities that are sown into the American Quilt.
So, what exactly is Mariachi el Bronx?
Matt Caughthran is the frontman of The Bronx, and he created the band in his native Log Angeles in 2002. In a phone interview, Caughthran said he grew up immersed in Mexican culture, but as entered his teens and early 20s he gravitated toward the punk rock that spoke to him.
But after several years of non-stop touring and recording, “The Bronx needed a little break,” he said.
While on hiatus, Caughthran decided to do perhaps the most punk-rock thing at all.
Record mariachi music.
“I’d had been writing punk for a long time, and there’s a familiarity,” he said. “We had never opened this door.”
The door was writing music that both reflected and respected the heritage of Mexican folk music, while adding English lyrics and a decided bite.
While Caughthran and his band mates were seasoned musicians, they knew they needed help. They met up with producer and engineer John Avila, a Mexican-American best known for being in the genre-bending Oingo Boingo from 1984 to 1995.
The debut, self-titled album was recorded in the spring of 2008, with Avila (who played the charango) bringing in Mexican-American musicians he knew to supplement The Bronx, whose Joby J. Ford learned how to play the vihuela, jarana, ukelele, and requinto romantico, and Vincent Hidalgo learned to play the guitarrón, jarana and requinto romantico. One of the musicians brought in to help the band was Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo, who played accordion, tresillos and guitar on the album.
The album was a resounding success when it was released in 2009, and so was the 2011 follow-up, also called “Mariachi el Bronx.”
Mariachi el Bronx has arguably gained more attention than The Bronx; for example, the last time Foo Fighters embarked on tour, they brought Mariachi el Bronx along as openers, rather than The Bronx. In October 2011, I reviewed the show, and wrote: “Opening the show was Mariachi el Bronx, a surprisingly fun eight-piece Los Angeles punk-rock band that on this tour doubles as its alter ego, a mariachi band. With drums, a violin, two trumpets, a classical guitar, vihuelas and a guitarron, the group dressed in studded charro outfits and sounded much better than the trios usually found in second-tier Mexican restaurants.”
“We get a lot more offers as Mariachi el Bronx,” admitted Caughthran.
The only bummer about this weekend’s show is that Utah audiences won’t also get a chance to see The Bronx, which is still alive and well.
The entire month of February, The Bronx played 22 shows in 27 days as The Bronx, in support of the band’s fourth album, “IV,” released on Feb. 5. The Bronx will open for Bad Religion on April 11 at In The Venue, but if we can’t wait that long, Caughthran had an offer.
“Maybe we can play a house party” as The Bronx after Saturday’s show, he mused.
¡Por supuesto! En mi casa?
Flogging Molly with Mariachi el Bronx and Donots
When • Friday, March 15, at 8 p.m.
Where • Saltair, 12408 W. Saltair Drive, Magna
Tickets • $25 at SmithsTix
Young Dubliners with Swagger
When • Saturday, March 16, at 8 p.m.
Where • The Depot, 400 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $22 in advance, $25 day of, at SmithsTix
Bad Religion with The Bronx
When • Thursday, April 11, at 7:30 p.m.
Where • In The Venue, 579 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $25 in advance, $30 day of, at SmithsTix