You would expect a band called Audio Karate to give your ears a thorough pounding. Thankfully AK lives up to that name, and if the night is not quite the musical equivalent of Bruce Lee’s one-inch-punch it is at least a good slapping from Jet Lee.

The young crowd at the Barfly has already been warmed up by two bands by the time the they take the stage. My Awesome Compilation comes on like second album Three Colours Red meeting a hardcore version of Jimmy Eat World. MC Lars sounds like the Bloodhound Gang compressed into one man, if that man rapped about Edgar Allen Poe and critiqued the emo-punk scene.

At first it feels like the venue has emptied a bit as Arturo Barrios (vocals, guitar), Gabriel Camacho (drums), Jason Camacho (guitar) and Justo Gonzalez (bass) come on stage. Actually people have just moved closer to the stage, which isn’t really necessary as someone, somewhere has turned the volume up since the last two bands. But maybe it is a good thing – by the end of the gig more people have arrived to fill the space.

Although they have all the elements of the typical American punk band Audio Karate manage to be something more and something darker. Barrios rarely opens his eyes as he screams his choruses and bassist Gonzalez manages to lean over at gravity defying angles. Jason Camacho holds his body rigid but appears to have little control over his neck muscles. His head bounces wildly as he lets off guitar solos that defy the easy cliché of punk being only three chords. While the drummer is hidden at the back of the Barfly’s small stage he performs solidly, holding the band together in the instrumental interludes they’ve clearly mastered.

It doesn’t seem like their recent tour has tired Audio Karate at all and there is a tension in the band that hints at the serious damage they could do if they got really angry. ‘Gypsyqueen’ has a worrying expression of friendship when it opens: “Did you kill someone? I will hide your gun.” Then in ‘Hey Maria’ Barrios beseechingly threatens “don’t be too late – you’ll make me crazy”, and you get the impression that you wouldn’t like him when he gets crazy. But tonight I liked him – and the rest of the band – a lot.

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Commenting On: Barfly, London, 22/7/2004 - Audio Karate

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