Live Review: Wille and the Bandits & Mike Ross at the Junction, Cambridge on 24-03-22 (photos from Bristol 26-03-22)

Wille and the Bandits with support from Mike Ross at Cambridge Junction, 24-03-22

Written By: PAUL MONKHOUSE

PHOTOS (from Bristol 26-03-22) BY: EMMA PAINTER (PACIFIC CURD PHOTOGRAPHY)

Individuality is a rare and beautiful thing in music, a lot of artists seemingly happy to cut and paste from well-worn and successful paths created by those who came before. Not so, Wille and the Bandits, their own blend of hard rock and blues spiked with other elements at once familiar but also overwhelmingly fresh. It’s an odd juxtaposition but it works, the band standing out like beacons in a crowded market and one of the most striking sets this writer has ever witnessed.

 

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Before them, a deliriously good opening slot by blues troubadour Mike Ross warmed things up nicely.  From the warm, evocative shuffle of The Reason This Railroad to the slow polka Young Man, you were immediately thrown into his stripped back and soulful worldview seen through the sepia tint of the Old West. There’s an earthy authenticity at play here, the heat of a New Orleans evening, the chirp of a grasshopper and the sound of a delicately plucked steel guitar in the air.

 

The touching tribute to his mother, Lily sees the melody floating as it wraps around you like mist and Leviathan brings in some otherworldly slide, matched with a gritty vocal. Blues stomper None of Your Business closes the set with a howl, Ross having won over the crowd with sheer force of his laid-back personality and a set of sterling tunes.

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Mike Ross-13

After this gentle Southern breeze, there was the feeling of a storm gathering and Wille and the Bandits brought a deluge that roared with thunder at its head. Caught in the Middle opened with a huge organ sound and a keening guitar, the shimmering promise morphing into a heavy and funky workout that exuded sass. This mix of Wille Edwards’ guitar and vocals with the keys of Matthew Gallagher is a powerful alchemy live, and along with drummer Matthew Partridge and bass player Harry Mackaill bringing a mighty groove, the band are a striking prospect.

 

Quite how they made Refuge both ethereal and driving is somewhat beyond comprehension, its otherworldliness bewitching and Move Too Fast blended stop/start funk with psychedelia. Continuing the irresistible momentum, Keep It on the Down-Low had touches of acid jazz, all heightened by a fearsome Hammond solo from Gallagher but the perfectly placed change of tone with Without You was breath taking. This is when the storm truly broke. Sounding like the dawn of an apocalypse, the track dripped with an ever growing tension as the sky cracked as twin behemoths of Pink Floyd and Mastodon rutted, the song their glistening offspring from the union, Edwards crying out like the last man in the Universe. It was a hard act to follow but the punchy Will We Ever and a blissful, Summery Mammon showed the breadth of their material, the latter highlighting the Bandits’ agility with layered harmonies.

 

Solid Ground exploded in a shower of keys and quicksilver fretwork, and a riff that echoed Dire Straits’ Money For Nothing kicked off the pugnacious but light footed Good Stuff, the quartet digging deep, and displaying their impressive chops. Closing the set, the scattergun fire of volcanic and block destroying funky blues tune I’m Alive led to souped up zeitgeist anthem 1970, a pitch perfect evocation of that harsh but heady era.

 

 

Encoring with the heavy blues boogie wrecking ball that is In This Together, it was game, set and match for the boys from Cornwall, Wille and the Bandits having added a room full of more converts to their growing base. They may be hard to pin down, but they’re even harder to hold back and may well be one of the most exciting bands we’ve seen in a very long time. Time for the giants to tremble as this set of young believers are here to take their place in the ranks of the good and great, and maybe steal a few crowns.

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