Walk with me, back to 1998. A girl on a church trip had a boombox, which made her the de facto DJ for the weekend. The usual suspects of Bone-Thugs-n-Harmony, Nirvana, and Sublime cycled through, until an unfamiliar song hit everyone’s ears. In a scene reminiscent of High Fidelity, even the uptight adults seemed to perk up and nod their head to the groove. A slow acoustic intro of a girl and a guy chanting call-and-response odes to “drinking cold beer” “down in the valley” quickly broke loose into an upbeat verse, depicting a peaceful day in mother nature that required alcohol. The chorus of “River Cold Beer” kept hitting us captive listeners, charming us into a chipper mood. The track immediately felt both familiar and unforgettable — infectious enough to chart on the radio with enough publicity and word of mouth. I casually asked my friend who this band was after the fact, and later secured a CD-R with “Bandolé” scribbled on it.
Bandolé checked every box for fun folk rock of the era. Every other song reached into tomorrow, celebrating life, refusing to look back on one misgiving. The acoustic pop sensibilities of Dave Matthews and the drum circle rhythms of Rusted Root were dashed with some noodling riffs reminiscent of Phish, conjuring all the fun hippy vibes of the time. I don’t know how my friend got this music or where it came from — I’m just glad I ripped the CD-R to my hard drive, where I’ve managed to harvest the mp3s over multiple computers ever since. I’m even uncertain of the song titles, having to have named them myself from the lyrics.
Aside from a couple of people on reddit trying to figure out more about Bandolé, who was in the group — or if they made any more music — there’s absolutely nothing on the internet offering any reliable intel on Bandolé.
When I first got a computer in the late-nineties, I attempted to find more information about Bandolé, and I remember finding an advertisement for a live show in Athens, Georgia. Did you ever listen to Bandolé? Do you have any live recordings of this band? Were you friends with any of the people in this recording? I’d love to know! I’ve shared “River Cold Beer” above in efforts to find whoever recorded it, tell them how much I’ve enjoyed their music over the years, and hopefully get more of Bandolé’s music to the ears of the masses!