Words & pics by Aatish Ramchurn
Tuesday evening. My car headlights stop working on my drive home, and the surprise flakes falling late at night are sticking to the ground. I’m hoping that on Wednesday I don’t wake up to eight inches of snow, and I can find a garage to fit me in to fix my headlights. Thankfully, both of my wishes are granted, and I have no problem making my way to see The Bronx live in Birmingham.
Knowing that the night has sold out, I arrive early to Digbeth’s most quaintly-decorated venue, Mama Roux’s. Standing by the stage in a virtually empty room, I watch it gradually fill up, with those arriving the earliest heading straight upstairs to the balcony to get the best view.
Until this point, I was unaware of who the support act was going to be, or if there even was a support act. I’d only seen this gig promoted by Surprise You’re Dead! Music, as The Bronx playing their latest album, The Bronx V, ‘in its entirety’. I found it a little hard to believe that The Bronx would be playing two and a half hour sets up and down the country.
Not that I doubt that they could. They’ve been touring as both The Bronx and Mariachi El Bronx for 15 years, even playing as both bands on the same night. It was just a gut feeling that there had to be someone supporting them throughout this club venue tour.
As it turns out, Ming City Rockers, from Immingham, are supporting The Bronx on their UK album showcase gigs. The East Lincolnshire rockers capture the attention of the audience with their fast-paced, punk rock and roll sound, reminiscent of The Buzzcocks and MC5.
Although there’s no restriction on the amount of photos I can take of bands at Mama Roux’s, I decide to impose the three song rule on myself, just so I can enjoy the rest of Ming City Rocker’s short, but powerful set, along with the rest of the audience. If you like your bands fast, loud, and slightly obnoxious (I mean that in a good way), their album, Lemon, would be worth checking out.
As Ming City Rockers leave the stage, I feel naturally drawn into the dispersion of the room, until this thought suddenly dawned on me: ‘This floor will be packed with people nearer the time The Bronx are on, do I really want to move away from the stage?’
I position myself to the left, until I’m wedged between stage speakers and the rest of the front row. I’m aware I’m not going to be in this position for too long but I have a decent place to start shooting from before things get less than ideal.
With the instruments set up, and beers settled by each amplifier, The Bronx are warmly welcomed by the Birmingham crowd. Frontman, Matt Caughthran, edges closer to the audience, greeting them as if meeting an old friend, before the band explodes into The Bronx V from start to finish. With where I’m positioned, I take advantage of getting shots in the limited time Matt Caughthran spends on stage – he seems more comfortable out in the middle of the crowd.
However, it was something else entirely. Whenever Matt Caughthran was down in the room, from where I was perched on the slightly poked out corner of a speaker to give me a higher vantage point, I found myself in a Where’s Wally? situation, as I was having trouble differentiating which out of the many bald, tattooed men present was The Bronx’s frontman. Following the trail of the microphone cable into the crowd didn’t help me find him either, as he’s quite short. There were times I’m sure I was focusing on the wrong person.
After playing their fifth, eponymous release from their record label, White Drugs, The Bronx ventured into more familiar territory, with fan favourites such as ‘White Guilt’, ‘Knifeman’, and set closer ‘History’s Stranglers’.
I know us concert photographers tend to prefer to shoot in the comfort of photo pits, away from people knocking our elbows in minimal space. But I have to admit, shooting a vibrant punk show in a packed out, intimate venue with poor lighting, not only provides a fun, yet frustrating challenge. It also gives you images that document the soul of punk rock in Birmingham.
The Bronx @ Mama Roux’s 17.01.18 / Aatish Ramchurn – Birmingham Review
Ming City Rockers – supporting The Bronx @ Mama Roux’s 17.01.18 / Aatish Ramchurn – Birmingham Review
For more on Ming City Rockers, visit www.mingcityrockers.co.uk
For more on Mama Roux’s, Birmingham, including full events listings, visit www.facebook.com/mamarouxs
For more on Surprise You’re Dead! Music, visit www.surpriseyouredeadmusic.co.uk