Neighborhood Theatre & MaxxMusic present
511 East 36th Street
Charlotte, NC, 28205
Doors 7:00 PM / Show 8:00 PM
Watch & Listen
After spending much of the last two years on the road, relentlessly showcasing their critically acclaimed 2015 self-titled debut album, the six bandmates of Banditos regrouped in late 2016 at Plum Creek Sound Studios in Dripping Springs, TX and democratically poured out sonic influences and emotionally charged personal experiences for their new album Visionland.
Produced by Israel Nash and Ted Young, the Birmingham/Nashville-based group’s second full-length has one foot firmly planted in reality as the other tip-toes in and out of mental complexities, self-perception and altered-state illusions. The results are revealing, exhilarating and profound.
The album-titled track reveals these defining, cohesive thematic intricacies. “Visionland” is named after the defunct $60 million theme park that was built in the late ‘90s near some of the band members’ childhood homes in Bessemer, Alabama. The park was shut down after only five years and the schizophrenic glimmer of hope it offered local residents connects to a greater overlying optimism for life present at the album’s core, an eerily relevant theme in contemporary complex times. Jeff Salter’s sweeping guitar strums swell at the song’s intro, lifting through the murky haze into the warm and sunny clarity of a duet between singer Mary Beth Richardson and singer/guitarist Corey Parsons.
“Strange Heart” rides to new 13th Floor Elevators psychedelic heights, with Richardson’s scorching, raw, show-stopping voice echoing Merry Clayton’s chilling performance on The Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.” Later in the album, singer/banjo player Steve Pierce channels the ebullient folk of electric Dylan with his free & easy flow on “Fun All Night.” The band also brought in the outside artistic talents of storied keys player Earl Poole Ball, upon a chance interaction they had after seeing him play with Ramsay Midwood at Sam’s Town Point in Austin, TX. Ball has performed and collaborated with The Byrds, Johnny Cash, Buck Owens, Gram Parsons, Merle Haggard, and many other greats.
There is a shared mindset throughout; a persevering glint of what could be, a distorted possibility, struck by a frigid gust of reality. Like some sort of modern day, Southern-born The Band, some songs were written over years by a single member (the surfy jam “Lonely Boy,” which was written by singer/guitarist Parsons in response to being tour weary), others by a combination of the players (the punk-garage soul Stooges-meets-Velvet Underground churner “Fine Fine Day” was penned when Parsons and Pierce drank massive amounts of vodka one day in Opelika, Alabama) and the dynamics show for it. There’s a phantasm of vintage ‘60s Etta James soul (plus burning-hot background singers) on “Healin’ Slow” and, later, the hopping country blues of “DDT.” Topics and styles range this way on Visionland - the heavy and emotional to the light and simplistic - but the Banditos always sound like themselves and always drive the nail deep into the groove.
The members of Banditos first met playing in various punk and rock ‘n’ roll projects around Birmingham at D.I.Y., all-ages venues. In 2010, Parsons and Pierce began busking around town and were soon asked to perform at their favorite local bar. Without a full band, they invited friends Randy Wade (drums), Salter (guitar), and Richardson to join them. Danny Vines (bass) joined the band later.
The group has been praised by NPR (“Three vocalists, a wicked guitarist...a banjo, an upright bass and a hot-footed drummer guarantee that every song they play is stuffed with crazy rhythms and melodic energy.”), Rolling Stone (“Equal parts alt-country twang and garage rock bang...recalling everything from ZZ Top’s greasy boogie to the Alabama Shakes’ coed soul”), and Garden & Gun (“These six keyed-up twentysomethings mix a hodgepodge of sounds. Sometimes it’s barroom country backed by a rogue kazoo, and other times it’s a chicken-picking version of slow-burning soul behind the Janis Joplin–esque wail of Mary Beth Richardson”). They have performed across the world supporting acts like St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Blackberry Smoke, and Old 97’s, and notably at prominent events like Newport Folk Festival, Hangout Fest, and Rachael Ray’s Feedback.
Hardly anyone has it easy these days. If you're lucky enough to have a job, you work too much for much too little, and you wind up holding on to even less. Lovers and family should make things better, but they can take as much as they give. After all you have to deal with, you sure could use a friend. Then again, friends have their own pressures and expectations. What you need is someone understanding but not demanding, who knows the burdens you bear and only wants to lift your spirit because of that bond. That's not a friend. That's Amigo.
Amigo is here for you because they've been where you are. Singer Slade Baird, drummer Adam Phillips, and bassist Thomas Alverson have gone through their share of difficulties. They want to help you feel good about things, though, even when things aren't good. Especially then. To prove it, they'll dress up heart aching poetry about the failure of a relationship in 50's style doo wop. They'll celebrate the shortcomings of God and man with defiant guitar solos. They'll rockabilly their way around masculine emotions and boogie to disappointment with enthusiasm.
Amigo won't kid you that your troubles will all go away, but they can sure get you to dance in spite of them. At least for the night, Amigo can put a joyous twist on the madness and sadness life brings you.
Comfort and assurance, that's what you get from this band. Even if they deliver those in rowdy fashion. You trust them because their lyrics echo your own feelings and experiences. The music, familiar in a way that takes you back to easier times, provides a certain comfort too. Which is not the same as saying it's soothing. The Amigo boys know their way around a honky tonk jukebox, that's for sure, but they're also proud of their old punk record collections. Raw emotion manifests in the music they play as clear as in the words they sing. This is not a band that holds back. Not on honesty or energy.
Amigo has maintained a rugged schedule of live performances in the Carolinas since 2012. On stage, the trio perform with remarkable confidence and fun. Adam, who played in Kimosabe with Slade, drums with delightful efficiency. Thomas's bass lines complete the jubilant rhythm section and provide harmonic texture to the songs. The guitar playing is well-edited but expressive, and Slade is a terrific showman, charming and engaging audiences with apparent ease. The band will embark on a national tour in 2014 in support of their debut LP, Might Could, recorded with Scott Solter (Superchunk, The Mountain Goats).
Amigo knows life can be hard. They also know how to laugh, rock and roll, and have a good time. Be encouraged. You have a friend in Amigo.
$10 adv/$12 dos
$3 Under 21 Surcharge at Door (Valid ID required for entry into venue. Under 18 permitted with parent.)
Accepted forms of ID: State Issued ID or Driver's License, Military ID, Passport.