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VIRGIL & THE ACCELERATORS
The Anchor Music Club, Lewisham, London SE13
25 September 2009
With a 15
year old schoolboy drummer Gabriel McMahon, a 16 year old bass player Tom
Sansbury (who is at Music College) and the fiery 17 year old Virgil
McMahon on guitar, Virgil & The Accelerators is a young band on the up
Hailing from Aberystwyth mid - Wales and with barely handful high profile
supports behind them Virgil &The Accelerators have seemingly come out of
nowhere to make a big impression.
power trio and fronted by Virgil, a guitarist for whom tone, sustain,
dynamics and spontaneity count just as much as speed and volume, Virgil
and his band are so much more than many of their contemporaries. Come to
think of it, they are so young they probably don't have too many
contemporaries let alone any that can boast opening for the likes of The
Fabulous Thunderbirds, Carvin Jones and Sherman Robertson.
And while this was ostensibly a low key London debut, the truth of the
matter is they provided jaw dropping evidence that they really do have
The two set show at this intimate blues club offered a clue as to their
influences and possible future direction. But even that notion was often
turned on its head in the course of a handful of familiar numbers that at
any time were supplemented by inspired guitar playing, sumptuous bass
lines and some powerhouse drumming.
Virgil is a 'feel' player who is not averse pursuing a musical idea to an
unlikely conclusion as he dredged up some angular riffs and led the band
into some combustible interplay.
So while he found his range on the opening cover of Steve Ray's 'Scuttle
Buttin' and quickly settled into a shuffle mode on a cool blues groove, it
was the self penned 'Everybody' that really offered a glimpse of the
band's future possibilities as they referenced Robert Randolph on a
repeated riff that formed the core of an impressive jammed out groove.
Similarly another Virgil effort, the muscular 'What Am I To Do' drew on another
of his influences Joe Bonamassa, but the band quickly turned the song into an
impressive rock/blues outing all of their own.
They further dipped into the Bonamassa template for 'Had To Cry Today' and a
raucous 'Ballad of John Henry', while the impressive rhythm section excelled
itself on the fractured funky groove of John Mayer's 'Who Did You Think I Was'.
Virgil meanwhile somehow managed to shift his attack from Mayer to Kenny Wayne
Shepherd via SRV in the course of barely 4 minutes.
Some of the influences may be obvious and in the case of a raucous cover of
'Crossroads' - think a tidal wave of notes played impossibly fast - and another
speeded up version of Hendrix's 'Wait Til Tomorrow', complete with falsetto bv's,
they showed a real penchant for taking the basics of a song and filling its
potential in a unique Virgil & the Accelerators way.
So far so good, but then came the stellar moment of the evening with a complete
rework of 'Voodoo Chile'. You might catch any number of bands reworking this
nugget, but the Virgil's trio made it something altogether different. And here
in a nutshell is their unique selling point.
Virgil band may be a power trio but they are a 'feel' led jam band with a rare
ability to draw on a related number of influences in the course of one song. The
middle section saw Virgil almost bent double at the front of the stage holding
down some spacey stained notes and slipping into some 50's pastiche - think The
Shadows meet The Ventures - before submerging the whole number in a psychedelic
For a London debut this was pretty impressive stuff. For such a young band the
playing was as intuitive as it was spell binding. But above all Virgil & The
Accelerators have an ability to get inside a song and turn in into something
else. If in the fullness of time they can add more of their own songs they will
really be on to something.
by Pete Feenstra
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