With a start time 15 minutes earlier than previously advertised, the venue is still filling as the 4 musicians take to the stage. Launching straight into a solid chunky blues riff, the band begin their set with a powerful delivery of ‘Heavy Soul’ from their 2018 album Face to Face. The audience moves in closer as the second song begins and it’s not surprising – this band is quite something to witness.
Each member on stage is a stand-alone quality player. On vocals and guitar is Ben Edwards – his tone is powerful, his playing skilful and he exudes a natural crowd rapport to as he introduces the band after the second song. The Rainbreakers are from Shrewsbury in Shropshire and have played Bristol before, but not on this boat “What a great venue!” he points out to the cheering audience.
It would be quite possible to believe that Lead guitarist Charlie Richards had been born playing guitar. He executes each remarkable solo in such a natural style – often with his eyes closed as though he is really feeling every note and with an impressive variety of effects. Drummer Sam Edwards is animated and talented at switching the beat between sharp and punchy to slower and funky with plenty of extra volume and atmosphere built up on the cymbals.
‘Need your love’ from the Face to Face album is the 4th song of the evening and is a soulful experience with a funky relay between rhythm – bass – rhythm – lead. Perfectly mastered and playful. The dep bass guitarist for this evening (and the majority of this tour) Ash Milburn fits into the band’s style like a piece of a perfectly formed jigsaw. This band just don’t stop with the smiles.
BE introduces one of the songs ‘Lost with you’ from the Face to Face album as definitely a love song “Ok, this is a chilled-out number, then we’ll resume normal service by being loud and noisy.” It begins with bass line reminiscent of the Beatles ‘Day Tripper’ before sailing in to a slow but pleasant tune that isn’t soppy just strong and beautiful.
The last song of the set sees a quick shout out to “a very special person in the room tonight – Tom Gittins. He helped produce the first album and made us sound a lot better” jokes BE. ‘Ain’t nothin’ goin’ on’ again from the Face to Face album, starts with a stomping drum intro from SE and continues with all instruments as strong as ever. The band are shaking those tunes out of the guitars and the vocals grab you in a vice like hold with no messing around.
The set ends with enormous crowd applause, whistles and cheers “Thank you very much. We’ve been the Rainbreakers. We’ll see you again.” It is clear that this band love playing and that’s a lucky thing for the audience who will no doubt hold them to this promise of coming back. Rainbreakers’ music has an incredible sound. It’s a fresh take on soulful blues rock with no boring bits. Find out more at www.therainbreakers.com
WILLE AND THE BANDITS
The 3-piece band from Cornwall, arrive on stage in front of a fully packed Thekla. Each member adorned with a funky floral shirt, and surrounded by a variety of musical instruments.
Straight in with the first track ‘victim of the night’ from their new album Paths it’s a steady yet weighty blues-rock song with lyrics such as “They tell me I’m batshit crazy” “no-one can look me in the eye” sung by vocalist and Lead guitarist Wille Edwards in a mature gravelly voice.
Bass guitarist Matthew Brooks demonstrates his command of the 6 string bass with super funky riffs slammed out on the next 2 songs of the evening also from the album Paths; ‘Make Love’ which has lyrics that pack a strong message and ‘Find my way’ a much rockier tune with catchy hums of ‘uhuh-uhuh-uhuh’ . Drummer Andrew Naumann really thumps out his beats with meaning also conveyed in his facial expressions and keeps the band riding the groove with their bodies.
It is time for a slower tempo now with ‘Watch You Grow’ introduced by singer WE as a song he wrote about the birth of his first daughter, Niamh. There’s no denying that this is a pretty song, it has a happy soothing wondrous melody and there’s a gentle thunder of cymbals from AN together with a really lovely drum beat, almost like a thumping heartbeat, behind the whole song. MB backs up the vocals. It’s a song packed with emotion and heartfelt words.
The cover version’ of ‘Black Magic Woman’ (available on their Living Free album) features impressive slide work from WE and a combined bongo and drum effort by AN as well as an incredible bass solo from MB. This song just works perfectly in WATB style and has the packed venue jostling with dance moves to its lively rhythm.
The band vibe with the crowd throughout their set, joking about health warnings that MB’s shirt should carry as he casually sips his cup of tea in true rock n’ roll fashion. During the song ‘One Way’ from the Paths album, the band have fun with a head to head guitar play-off between WE and MB, compared by AN. It’s a short but sweet battle and both are clearly winners.
The song ‘Keep it on the downlow’ from the Paths album has an almost urban-poetry-like rap in-between groovy chorus and riffs and more stunningly fast bass action. It has a ‘70s-style feel about it. There is acoustic guitar and foot stomping with the song ‘Keep your Head Up’ from the 2010 album New Breed. Which gets the crowd funking just before slowing the pace right down with bongo and cabasa for the lovely lullaby-like ‘Mammon’ from 2012 album Break Free followed by ‘Four Million Days’ from the Paths album which has a sorrowful double bass introduction (played by MB with his bass still strapped to his back) and gradually progresses into a louder song with almost whale-song qualities to the guitar.
Every song of the diverse set, seems to further prove just how insanely in charge of their instruments these guys are. There are slide effects on acoustic guitars, lap-slide style playing, super-fast bass guitar, solos, chase-like drum playing and percussion, rap, screams and chants. The music is frighteningly good. This bands experience shines through and they are rewarded with a roar of cheers and applause from an equally diverse audience. All whilst still remaining modest and personable with their fans. Find out more at: www.willeandthebandits.com
Review : Suzi Bootz
Photography : Emma Painter