‘Family’ band Bandits on the Run makes magic at Rose Bowl


James Hoeck

New York City Band Bandits on the Run perform an encore while walking across the bar at Rose Bowl Tavern on Feb. 11.

By Kylie Corral, buzz Editor

It’s a Friday, and downtown Urbana has settled into a tranquil evening. Inside the Rose Bowl Tavern, a crowd of people gathered to see Bandits on the Run.

The trio is composed of Adrian Enscoe, Sydney Shepherd and Regina Strayhorn, all lead singers and best friends since their musical act came together. But before there was Bandits on the Run, Shepherd and Strayhorn were just two best friends attending the same school.

“We go way, way back,” Shepherd said. “Adrian and I are engaged, and Regina and I are best friends from our senior year of high school. We met at this boarding school. It was a boarding school for the arts. We became fast friends, and then we ended up going to the same college as well — (University of) North Carolina School of the Arts. Regina would write songs every now and then just for fun. We were going to school for acting. We weren’t even going to school for music.”

After graduating from their university, Shepherd and Strayhorn moved to New York City where they met Enscoe performing in the subway station. They even wrote a song about it.

“I moved in with Sydney, and we were all jamming in the apartment together, and Adrian said, ‘Let’s go play in the subway,’ and I was like, ‘I just moved here, but OK.’ We just found ourselves loving the vibe between the three of us,” Strayhorn said.

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    Enscoe was the one to come up with the band’s name: Bandits on the Run. After that, their signature move was pretending to be real bandits who would tell their audience that their performance was in fact “a stick up.”

    Enscoe said that type of performance stopped after the incident at Pete’s Candy Store in New York, where one of the bartenders was convinced there was an actual robbery taking place.

    “We’re just trying to be whimsical in other ways,” Enscoe said. “Our goal really is to bring a sense of play and magic to any kind of space (or) stage — often we’ll just play songs to random strangers that we meet and like to have fun and spread magic.”

    Shepherd said the band is a very democratic one, where they all take turns singing in the lead and writing songs, emphasizing collaboration in creativity.

    “We’re three individual songwriters and artists, but what definitely (makes us a band) … is like the way that all of us collaborate,” Strayhorn said. “And you know, I don’t think any of our songs would be the same at all if it wasn’t for us coming together.”

    Michelle Wattles, an audience member visiting from California, agreed, saying she was excited to see Bandits on the Run because of the band’s style as artists.

    “All of them are very original in their songs, very eclectic in their attire, which is aligned to people and their vocals,” Wattles said. “Each of them individually is pretty phenomenal, and then to have that come together as one is what I’m looking forward to.”

    For Wattles, the Rose Bowl Tavern is great in part because of its music presence, drinks and comfortable bar stools.

    “A nice stage presence is key; My husband’s a musician as well, so you got to appreciate that in the sounds,” Wattles said. “I think they’ve got their sound bar and mixing dialed in, and that’s a good music listening adventure, which is what we’re on tonight.”

    Katie Walker, another visitor enjoying the atmosphere, said she comes to the Rose Bowl Tavern for the music it provides.

    “I love live music, and we don’t come here that often; I always love the vibe, and we haven’t been here in a long time,” Walker said.

    Walker said she enjoys the venue for many of the same reasons Wattles did.

    “(I like) how chill it is,” Walker said. “I like that the people are always friendly, drinks are cheap and there’s always some good music.”

    But tonight, Walker said she’s found herself at the bar to listen to the new band in town.

    “(I’m here) hearing a new band that I’ve never heard before,” Walker said. “I started to see the crowd come in, and I noticed it was kind of a younger crowd — mostly women — and I’m here for that. I’m excited to hear some new sounds.”

    As the Champaign-Urbana community gathered to come and see Bandits on the Run, Shepherd said it’s their shared community that has fostered a special connection between all three of them.

    “It’s like the community that sort of arises around a little family like ours,” Shepherd said. “We all live together, so we can write and create anytime we need to, and I think it’s kind of a unique thing, and that feels really lucky … I feel like we’ve, you know, made a little chosen family with this band and with the people that are sort of orbiting around it, which I think is really special.”

    For Enscoe, he said he’s thankful for where this experience has brought him and will continue to bring him.

    “It’s been very magical over the years, to go from playing truly underground to real venues and bigger venues and then going all around the United States and then Europe,” Enscoe said. “This past year, we went to Singapore. It’s something to be extremely thankful for. To be able to travel by doing something that you love and be with people from all over the world and really feel like you’re sharing something.”


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