Show of the week: The Wilders at Knuckleheads, 6.30.12

The Wilders are one of the most successful bands to emerge from Kansas City in the past decade. The 4-piece string band has been around for over 15 years (13 years with the same lineup), has churned out 10 quality albums, and has had a successful run around the continent and in Europe. With such an impressive resumé and a huge catalog of music, there was no question that this would be our show of the week.

After 15 years of constant touring and playing, the group has decided to take a well-deserved hiatus. The show at Knuckleheads on Saturday will give fans a chance to hear The Wilders’ entire catalog, ranging from their beginnings of playing old country and folk standards to original alt-country Americana songs of the past few years. Though they have never been a cover band, they've been careful to pay homage to their influences throughout the years and use them to create their own material. Their latest album (2011, The Wilders) was the first that contained all original songs, and was well received by fans and critics alike, winning an Independent Music Award for best alt-country album.

Though Saturday's show is being billed as a "farewell show" of sorts, fiddler Betse Ellis was quick to explain that the band was not breaking up.

"We love each other too much to break up," said Ellis. "We're not ready to call it quits but we don't know when we'll play next."

Either way, this is a rare chance to see The Wilders perform in their hometown. The group’s exuberant live show is not to be missed, containing an energy that many bands simply cannot achieve. Frontman and guitarist Ike Sheldon is an otherworldly force on stage, with riffs and a voice that could destroy almost any heavy rocker. “He can go from biting your head off to stabbing you in the gut quietly within 30 seconds of the same song,” explained Ellis.

In the same turn, Ellis’s fierce fiddle work ensnares audiences. Bass player Nate Gawron lays down a solid foundation for the controlled chaos the band is known to create. Phil Wade rounds out the 4-piece as the multi-instrumentalist, often switching from mandolin to banjo to any number of stringed instruments. And all of this is done without a drummer, yet The Wilders’ music has a propulsion that often rivals that of a marching band.

The show begins at 9:00 p.m. The Wilders will play for the entire evening, providing a retrospective of their successful and diverse career. Tickets are $15 and available here.

--Michelle Bacon