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Thursday, 7 September 2017

A View From The Back Of The Room: Banditos

Banditos, KFC Nantgarw

So yeah as you can see from the title above this was an odd one. To coincide with KFC's Southern Legends burger tour they organised an actual tour of Southern bands, each band hailed from the place the burger was named after and the bands in question played two gigs in two restaurants. For the Alabama chicken burger (which is pretty much a McDonalds Quarter Pounder with Cheese but with chicken instead of beef) the band was Alabama Southern Psych rockers Banditos  and luckily enough their two shows were in Wales. I opted for Nantgarw over Merthyr Tydfil purely for convenience. Picking up a free ticket online I arrived at the venue and went in to the surreal sight of an empty restaurant with a drumkit, amps, guitars, a banjo and mics all in front of the desk.

Now here's where I do get a little annoyed so bear with me, the ticket included a free burger, fries and unlimited drink, no I know that the idea of the campaign is to advertise the food but around 70% of the crowd came for the free meal, 25% were staff roped in to fill the numbers and only 5% were there for the band. These small numbers were probably due to the lack of advertising on KFC's part, with only a Facebook advert promoting the tour at all, if they had broadened their scope a bit I'm sure there would be a lot of rock fans who would have loved to see the band.

Still rant over burger eaten, seat at the front (yes the front) taken. Banditos are a six piece band from Alabama who's debut album impressed me a lot, I've recently picked up their second album so expect a review for that in due course, what attracted me to this gig was that Banditos haven't played a lot in UK so this was a rare treat. With an introduction in place Corey Parsons (vocal/guitarist), Stephen Pierce (vocal/banjo), Randy Wade (drums), Jeffrey Salter (guitar), Jeffery Vines (bass) and Mary Beth Richardson (vocals) all took to the stage confined by the cramped conditions but looking ready to go in their Southern bohab chic of Stetsons and bell bottoms. Then they struck the first cord of the smooth and smoldering with Strange Heart and their almost workmanlike southern grooves blew your head off crystal clear sound, killer guitar playing from Salter who plays spindly guitar leads over the rhythms of Parsons and Vines as Wade keeps a rocking beat going for Pierce's banjo shuffle.

With the band reasonably static it was up to Mary Beth to hold the attention and she did with soulful vocals, sultry delivery, tambourine encouragement and even a mean kazoo (Fun All Night). They shook things up with Fine Fine Day, before the first Richardson showcase came with Healin' Slow which had her sashaying through the seated crowd using her choir trained vocal power to really drive home the tragic romance of the piece. As this was not their crowd they tried their hardest to win over the blank full of food faces in the audience by rocking out a little with new songs the psych drenched Visionland and the swaggering Still And Quiet. Trading vocals with every song Mary Beth and Stephen compliment each other well with Stephen's Dylan-like delivery working well with Mary Beth's gospel training.

I was wondering how long the band would play for but they still had a lot to play bringing classic boogie woogie of Still Sober After All These Beers and swamp blues of The Breeze saw Corey taking the first vocal of the evening but it was the showstopping Old Ways and their incredible cover of Screaming Jay Hawking's I Put A Spell On You that really brought those of us who were there to watch the band to our feet. I really, really hope Banditos play a 'proper' venue as even in what is a fast food restaurant (which admittedly had amazing sound) they were incredible. 9/10



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