Wailing Souls And Mariachi El Bronx At Hermosa Beach Summer Series, Sunday August 25th 2019
Reggae and Mariachi music are festive and happy music, they make you feel good and they are probably some of the least aggressive and most bring-people-together genres the music world has to offer. They are also not commonly heard together but it was nevertheless the lineup at Hermosa Beach Summer series, the last of their concerts held on the beach, on a late Sunday afternoon.
Wailing Souls are often described as a surviving group of reggae and roots originators, as you have to find their origins in the ‘60s and ‘70s where they started to play music along with reggae icon Bob Marley and the Wailers. The original members of the band, Winston ‘Pipe’ Matthews and Lloyd ‘Bread’ McDonald, grew up with legends like Marley and Peter Tosh in Trenchtown, a neighborhood in Kingston, where they still go back. After experiencing great success in the ‘90s, especially with songs featured in Walt Disney’s movie ‘Cool Runnings’, they received three Grammy nominations, but nevertheless never reached their reggae star counterparts’ fame.
Their fluid Jamaican music sounded like the epitome of coolness and smooth tempos, and they gave a taste of their catalog to beach goers who were dancing on the sand at the sound of ‘Diamonds & Pearls’, ‘Kingdom Rise & Kingdom Fall’. Or ‘Shark Attack’. With plenty of vocal harmonies, their songs were mostly dialogues between their two co-founders Matthews and McDonald, backed up by five other people on keys, guitar, bass, drums plus some mighty sax and horns, which were giving plenty of character to their sunshine-filled sound. Even though their fusion sound is even incorporating Motown soul and funk, they were truly reggae beat and vibe makers on Sunday, playing music with an infectiously danceable feel, blending dub, Jamaican euphoria, and Rastafarian fumes. opening pure blue skies at each song.
You can find a strange connection between Wailing Souls and Mariachi El Bronx, the band which played just after. In the hardcore world, the most famous Rastafarians are certainly the members of Bad Brains, who always play a few reggae songs to calm down their punk fury, and Mariachi El Bronx is actually the second outfit of punk hardcore punk, the Bronx,
Wailing Souls looked like the authentic ones, some reggae pioneers whose members were considering Bob Marley a brother, but what should we have done with a bunch of white punk guys playing Mexican music? Didn’t it sound like the least authentic thing ever? ‘It was the ultimate ‘Fuck you!’ When people heard about what we were doing they assumed it was going to be terrible, and even that it was borderline racist,’ has said Matt Caughthran in an interview. The fact they are successful at playing Mariachi and have already recorded 3 albums (plus a live one) just confirms this is far from being a stupid derogatory act.
Mariachi El Bronx played authentic Mexican music with their Mariachi suits and bright Mexican trumpets, while an all-smile Caughthran looked visibly delighted to still surprise people with a long-established genre. It was some all-sunshine music navigating between authentic Mariachi, traditional Mexican songs, sometimes reminiscent of bands like Calexico or even Los Lobos in their most traditional approach. The songs were pretty and filled with these delicate south of the border percussion, violin and horns, and Caughthran on vocals, showing his soft side with bravado. Some songs like ‘Silver or Lead’ had this grandiose cinematic Mexican adventure vibe, but they even brought the waltzes and the polkas, slightly updated into catchy pop songs, and an authentic vitality demonstrating at each moment they were not faking it.
Setlist Wailing Souls
She Pleases Me
No Big Thing
You Ain’t Leaving
Diamonds & Pearls
Oh What a Feeling
Kingdome Rise and Kingdom Fall
Things & Time
Picky, Picky Head
Setlist Mariachi El Bronx
Silver or Lead
My Brother the Gun