Move aside you Rascall-y Flat, pleather hat-wearing pop-twangers, this is real country music. The Wilders, hailing from Kansas City, play self-described “tunes from the golden age.” Betse Ellis (fiddle, vocals), along with band members Ike Sheldon, Phil Wade, and Nate Gawron, is excited to be possibly be one of the last bands playing our dying friend Cowboy Monkey. This being their first time in Champaign, Betse lets locals know what to expect from The Wilders: “We live up to the name, it’s a good description of us,” Ellis said. “We are pretty wild and crazy onstage, playing acoustical music but attacking it with a rock ‘n roll mentality.”
For The Wilders, their performances are anything but stale. “Most of the time, we honestly don’t know what is going to happen at our shows,”she said. By not using a setlist, the band hopes that their off-the-cuff approach will allow the audience to be able to let loose, too …
“We want people involved, we love to see people dancing and shouting along, getting the party going,” Ellis said. “It’s country music. We do a lot of Honky Tonk material. Some Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, fiddle bands, mostly old-timey. A lot of our own material is country and rock ‘n roll sounding, growing up on rock ‘n roll and found other kinds of music later on.”
The Wilders, who use only one microphone for vocals, embrace the traditional technique but never let its sound restrictions hold them back.
“That came about a long time ago, and its still pretty common with bluegrass bands right now. We have been doing it for at least eight years now,” she said. “Playing that close gives a more intimate impression to the audience. We like to listen to each other while we are up there; it works for us. We’ve been described as a bunch of pistons moving up and down on the stage.”
Well known for their own brew as well as covering the greats, The Wilders are influenced by a lot of music.
“There is no one thing that influences us. We have grown in directions we weren’t even expecting to go in,” Ellis said. We started out with a lot of Roy Acuff, but we have branched into things like fiddle and banjo music as well as keeping our roots in rock ‘n roll.”

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