Warmth and Connection: An Interview with Bandits on the Run

by - August 22, 2023

Photo courtesy of Dan Holodak Teal

By starting their band in the subways of New York, Bandits on the Run were able to bring certain aspects of busking in their live shows. This is especially true during performances at music festivals.

There is always an opportunity to attract new fans, sometimes even before a set time. The band will try to find an ideal location, perhaps near a food vendor or crowded rest area, and play a few songs acoustic. It gives those listening a taste of what’s to come later in the day and gives the band the chance to promote their upcoming performance.

“I just think there’s almost no better place to meet people than a festival,” Adrian Enscoe said. “We’re lucky, because of our performance experience busking we’re very used to interfacing with strangers in public and we actually get a little high from it.”

They believe that there are two important factors that help a festival crowd remember a performance: staying in the exact same outfits worn on stage, and handing out a piece of memorabilia. Both were put to great use this summer when performing at Summerfest.

Dubbed ‘the largest music festival in the world’, the 10-stage festival grounds span all music genres over the course of three weekends. Bandits on the Run didn’t get the opportunity to put their true busking skills to the test, but did hand out stickers and walk around the grounds in their stage attire. Regina Strayhorn compares it to becoming a real life cartoon character, and shared a story about how a woman wearing a similar outfit that night kept getting complimented on her performance. She reached out to the band and let them know that not only was she getting their praise but gave the band a listen herself and became a fan that night.

Interacting with fans is something they make sure to incorporate on and off stage. It becomes a two-way street of creating a lasting impression.

“What I hope is that people make friends or find someone new,” Sydney Shepherd said. “It’s one of my favorite things about talking to fans after the show. I think it’s a possibility of warmth and connection that can lead to things outside of gaining new fans who like our music.”

Their Summerfest performance was memorable for several reasons. Their set was on the BMO Pavilion stage, which holds 10,000 people and would later that night welcome The Avett Brothers as the headliner. It was a dream come true to open for them, especially for Enscoe, who will be performing later this year in the brother’s musical, Swept Away.

What they loved about that stage was that it was the biggest stage they’ve played to date. It gave them the opportunity to enhance the audience participation that is a staple in Bandits on the Run shows. Whether it’s supplying them with confetti poppers, getting down in the crowd with them, or asking them to make sounds of bells ringing, it is as much the audience making art as it is them.

“To be able to hear the effect of a bunch of people singing in this big space all together and the resonance of all the voices against the roof was really fun,” Enscoe said.

During their last song, however, Enscoe broke a guitar string and was left to play with only five strings. It was a little messier than they had wanted and left them feeling unsatisfied with the end of their set. The mood changed when they bumped into Scott Avett, who had caught part of their set and told them that it is a good thing when moments like that occur because the audience sees you for who you are and understands when something doesn’t go according to plan.

“It was extremely meaningful for all of us,” Enscoe said. “We’re an indie band that’s just coming up, and to hear Scott with Seth and the rest of the Avetts who have just had this incredible career… it’s just really important to hear that from a storied musician and really, really encouraging.”

A live performance from Bandits on the Run is one that shouldn’t be missed. Sure, their presence can be heard in their music and seen in their music videos, but witnessing them in their element is an entirely different experience. Find a list of upcoming performances here.

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