Jam Central Station 10.26.13: Keller Williams
Posted by Jeff Modzelewski on 10.26.2013
The one man dance party, K-Dubalicious!
Man, it got cold all of the sudden, didn't it? I'm actually not bummed that my band isn't playing an outdoor show this weekend like we thought we might. We played and camped in the snow once this year, don't need to do it again. Anyways, I wanted to go back and take a look at one of my early favorite jam banders, Keller Williams!
The one man jam band. "Guitar's mad scientist." K-Dub. Or maybe just plain Keller. Whatever you call him, Keller Williams is one of the most unique and exciting guitar players around today. His eclectic style crosses from rock to funk to bluegrass to electronic, yet he's able to fuse all of those influences into something that is fun, exciting, and most of all, very unique. From his solo work to his work with The String Cheese Incident, the WMDs, and many other "friends of Keller," Keller Williams is one of the most active and diverse acts active in music today.
Williams has been playing guitar for nearly his entire life, starting out seriously when he was a teenager in Virginia. By initially playing both in a band and as a solo guitarist, he quickly built the skills necessary to not only write and play diverse styles on his acoustic guitar, but also to tie songs together in innovative ways. He recorded his first album in 1993 in Virginia with basically no fanfare and no label. Freek ended up being a very basic and raw album, primarily just Keller on his guitar.
Keller moved from Virginia to Colorado in 1995 and quickly formed a friendship with Colorado band The String Cheese Incident. SCI was already forming a fanbase at this time and touring regionally. Keller became part of the String Cheese Incident family, first by opening for the band and eventually by becoming a part of SCI Fidelity Records, String Cheese Incident's record label. The admiration that Keller had for SCI ran so deep that he even agreed to tour with the band for free. These early shows with Keller opening for SCI helped to build his reputation as a solo performer and also helped him build his own abilities to use loops to create layered music on stage without the use of samples or pre-recorded music.
Along with the String Cheese Incident, a major influence for Keller came from Flecktones bassist Victor Wooten. Wooten was well versed in creating different sounds and effects through on-stage looping, and Keller began incorporating more of those ideas into his own work. He quickly began building up a vast array of instruments that he would use on stage, including a wide array of acoustic and electric guitars (6, 8, and 10 string varieties), basses, drums, and electronics. His style quickly moved from primarily acoustic guitar instrumentals to include the many different genres that he explores today. By the time he recorded his second album Buzz, he was already becoming adept at different styles, and by the time Spun was released, his "solo acoustic dance music" style was becoming apparent.
One of the primary turning points of Keller's career was the release of the album Breathe. Keller recorded this entire album with the String Cheese Incident, and this album helped increase the visibility of both. Keller continued to tour both on his own and with SCI, and his popularity really began to take off. Keller followed Breathe with the live album Loop in 2001, and The Keller Williams Incident played the first Bonnaroo festival in 2002. Keller continued to be a regular performer at Bonnaroo, both as a solo artist and later with his collaborative group, the WMDs. Laugh was released in 2003, and Keller has maintained a frantic recording schedule since then, releasing material every year other than 2006, and often releasing multiple albums in a year.
Keller hasn't been hesitant about exploring different themes in his albums, either. Dance was a remix album of Laugh, something that is not normally done in the jam band scene. Home was strongly influenced by his childhood and his hometown of Fredericksburg. He's released a pair of bluegrass albums with friends Larry and Jenny Keel that included both original and cover songs. He then went in a much more ambitious direction with Dream, bringing in collaborators and friends on nearly every song and mixing and changing genres often. Rex (Live at the Fillmore) is another live album, this one featuring Keith Moseley and Jeff Austin, and features bluegrass performances of Grateful Dead songs, and Odd showed Keller in more of a singer-songwriter mode. Over the past few years Keller has released more "specialty" albums, including his second Keller and the Keels album (an all-covers effort entitled Thief), a children's album (Kids), an album that featured Keller playing only bass guitar in a full-band setup (Bass), another bluegrass album, this time with The Travelin' McCoury's (Pick), and a piano album of Grateful Dead covers (Keys).
Where Keller continues to shine is in his live performances. I've had the opportunity to see Keller Williams almost a dozen times, and his shows are always extremely entertaining. Watching him create loops with all of the equipment he has on stage does remind me quite a bit of watching a mad scientist at work. His ability to loop different vocal and instrumental sounds to create fun music to dance to is nothing short of phenomenal. That shouldn't take away from his guitar playing, however. He chooses to use electronics, technology, and a wide array of instruments to make his music, but he doesn't have to. Even when he's just playing his acoustic with nothing else, he's a sight to behold. On stage he bounces, he dances, and he makes some of the most original and exciting music around.
My one concern or complaint about Keller would be how short his attention span is. He moves from project to project, and very rarely do those project have a real opportunity to grow. I've said for a long time that I'd love to see Keller put together a band and stay with the same lineup for multiple albums. However, that doesn't seem to be in his DNA. He's done projects with Keller Williams & Friends, The WMD's, The Keels, The McCoury's, and his new funk project More Than A Little, but rarely sticks with anything for more than a few months at a time. Oh the other hand, with such a wide variety of tastes, I can't blame Keller for wanting to explore them all. Unfortunately that means that he doesn't take the time to develop any one project to its full potential.
Keller is honestly not the type of artist who will probably ever make a name for himself in "popular music." He's too quirky, too eccentric, and he plays too many different styles. Those reasons that keep him from mainstream success, however, are the very reasons that he's become so popular in the jam band scene. Talent and creativity are more important than fitting into a certain image or style, and talent and creativity are traits that Keller Williams possesses by the boatload. He also has a sense of humor about his work, and, by not taking himself too seriously, he allows himself to experiment with many different ideas to see what works. He tours relentlessly, records endlessly, and shows no signs of slowing down. I'd expect at least one Keller album a year for the foreseeable future, and the type of variety that allows him to hit the festival circuit every year and never become stale.
Phish to webcast Hallweeon run
Phish will be webcasting their entire 3 night run in Atlantic City, including their Halloween show. If you want all three shows the webcast will run $44.99, while the Halloween show will be $19.99 by itself and then $14.99 for the other two shows.
BassLights to return
Pretty Lights and Bassnectar will bring back their BassLights co-headlining show this year. The two acts will perform at the Hampton Coliseum on December 27 and 28.
moe. to release a studio album and head to Europe
moe. will be heading into the studio by the end of this year to begin work on their new album. They'll also be heading over to Europe for a 2 week tour starting at the end of March. The tour will take them through much of Germany with a stop in the Netherlands, England, and Italy.
Umphrey's McGee announce 2014 tour
Umphrey's McGee announced their first set of 214 dates this week. The band will be on the road for the end of January and beginning of February.
January 30 Knoxville, TN—Tennessee Theatre
January 31 Columbus, OH—LC Pavilion
February 1 Detroit, MI—The Fillmore (w/The Werks)
February 6 Clifton Park, NY—Upstate Concert Hall
February 7 Providence, RI—Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel (w/Kung Fu)
February 8 Syracuse, NY—F Shed at the Market (w/Kung Fu)
February 9 Rochester, NY—Harro East Ballroom
February 13 Norfolk, VA—The Norva (w/Moon Taxi)
February 14 Asheville, NC—Thomas Wolfe Auditorium (w/Moon Taxi)
February 15 Silver Spring, MD—The Fillmore (w/Moon Taxi)
February 16 Silver Spring, MD—The Fillmore
Railraod Earth add dates
Railroad Earth added dates to that will keep them on the road through the end of February. The new dates bring the band through the midwest and into New England in the early part or 2014.
December 7 Westbury, NY—The Space at Westbury
December 11 Puerto Morelos, MX—Strings & Sol
December 12 Puerto Morelos, MX—Strings & Sol
December 13 Puerto Morelos, MX—Strings & Sol
December 14 Puerto Morelos, MX—Strings & Sol
December 15 Puerto Morelos, MX—Strings & Sol
December 29 Asheville, NC—The Orange Peel
December 30 Asheville, NC—The Orange Peel
December 31 Asheville, NC—The Orange Peel
January 1 Milwaukee, WI—Pabst Theater
January 10 Minneapolis, MN—First Avenue
January 11 Chicago, IL—Vic Theatre
January 12 Bloomington, IL—The Castle Theatre
January 15 Des Moines, IA—Wooly's
January 16 Lincoln, NE—Bourbon Theatre
January 17 Denver, CO—The Fillmore Auditorium
January 18 Denver, CO—The Fillmore Auditorium
January 21 Fayetteville, AR—George's Majestic Lounge
January 23 Columbia, MO—The Blue Note
January 24 Lawrence, KS—Granada
January 25 St. Louis, MO—The Pageant
February 6 Richmond, VA—The National
February 7 Washington, DC—9:30 Club
February 8 Washington, DC—9:30 Club
February 13 Syracuse, NY—The Palace Theater
February 14 Philadelphia, PA—Union Transfer
February 15 Philadelphia, PA—Union Transfer
February 20 Burlington, VT—Higher Ground Ballroom
February 21 Boston, MA—House of Blues
February 22 New York, NY—Best Buy Theater
Keller Williams adds dates
Speaking of nonstop touring, Keller Williams added dates to his tour taking him through early March. These include sets with many of his collaborators.
October 18, 2013 Live Oak, FL – Magnolia Fest^
October 19, 2013 Pensacola, FL – Vinyl Music Hall
October 24, 2013 Wilmington, DE – World Café Live at The Queen
October 25, 2013 West Long Branch, NJ – Pollak Theater at Monmouth University
October 26, 2013 Huntington, NY – Paramount Theater
November 1, 2013 Morgantown, WV – Metropolitan Theatre (Freekoween)
November 2, 2013 Huntington, WV – V Club
November 3, 2013 Charleston, WV – Mountain Stage at Culture Center Theater^
November 7, 2013 Santa Ana, CA – Constellation Room
November 8, 2013 Los Angeles, CA – El Rey Theatre
November 9, 2013 Solana Beach, CA – Belly Up Tavern
November 14, 2013 Greenville, SC – The Handlebar
November 15, 2013 Athens, GA – Georgia Theatre*
November 16, 2013 Asheville, NC – Orange Peel*
November 20, 2013 Spokane, WA – The Center of Spokane
November 21, 2013 Whitefish, MT – Great Northern
November 22, 2013 Missoula, MT – The Top Hat
November 23, 2013 Bozeman, MT – The Filling Station
December 5, 2013 Arcata, CA – Arcata theater
December 6, 2013 Santa Cruz, CA – The Catalyst
December 11, 2013 Puerto Morales, Mexico – Strings & Sol
December 20, 2013 Keystone, CO – Warren Station Center for the Arts #
December 21, 2013 Keystone, CO – Warren Station Center for the Arts #
December 27, 2013 Millvale, PA – Mr. Smalls Theater*
December 28, 2013 Cleveland, OH – Beachland Ballroom*
December 31, 2013 Baltimore, MD – Ram's Head Live! %
January 4, 2014 Miami, FL – Jam Cruise
January 11, 2014 Fairfield, CT – Stageone
January 16, 2014 Covington, KY – Madison Theater*
January 17, 2014 Chicago, IL – Park West*
January 18, 2014 Madison, WI – Majestic Theatre*
January 19, 2014 Minneapolis, MN – Cabooze*
January 21, 2014 Iowa City, IA – The Englert Theater*
January 22, 2014 Ames, IA – DG's Tap House*
January 23, 2014 Urbana, IL – The Canopy Club*
January 24, 2014 Indianapolis, IN – The Vogue*
January 25, 2014 Columbus, OH – Newport Music Hall*
February 6, 2014 Beaver Creek, CO – Vilar Center for the Arts
February 7, 2014 Park City, UT – Park City Live
February 8, 2014 Jackson, WY – Pink Garter Theatre
February 20, 2014 Aspen, CO – Belly Up Aspen*
February 22, 2014 Laramie, WY – The Gryphon Theatre*
February 23, 2014 Lincoln, NE – Bourbon Theatre*
February 24, 2014 Sioux Falls, SD – The District*
February 25, 2014 Wichita, KS – Adobe Venue*
February 26, 2014 Lawrence, KS – The Bottleneck*
February 27, 2014 Tulsa, OK – Cain's Ballroom*
February 28, 2014 Dallas, TX – Granada Theater*
March 1, 2014 Austin, TX – Antone's*
March 2, 2014 San Antonio, TX – Sam's Burger Joint*
March 3, 2014 Houston, TX – Fitzgerald's*
March 5, 2014 Jackson, MS – Duling Hall*
March 6, 2014 Fayetteville, AR – George's Majestic Lounge*
March 7, 2014 St. Louis, MO – The Pageant*
March 8, 2014 Little Rock, AR – Revolution Music Room*
(*) Second set with More Than A Little
(^) with Traveing McCoury's
(#) with Keller and his Compadres
(%) with Keller and the Keels, More Than A Little
Hangtown Halloween Ball
October 25-27, 2013
Railroad Earth will host the event and perform three shows. Other performers include: Matisyahu, Les Claypool's Duo de Twang, Lotus, Greensky Bluegrass, Elephant Revival, Marco Benevento, and many others.
October 31-November 2, 2013
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park
Live Oak, FL
Performers include: 3 nights of String Cheese Incident, STS9, Big Gigantic, Emancipator, Conspirator, Steve Kimock & Friends, Future Rock, and many others.
November 1-5, 2013
Sailing out of Miami, FL
Performers include: Michael Franti & Spearhead, G. Love & Special Sauce, State Radio, Rebelution, Trevor Hall, and many others
Bear Creek Music Festival
November 14-17, 2013
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park
Live Oaks, FL
Performers include: The Roots, Bootsy Collins, Galactic, Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, Lettuce, The New Mastersounds, Zach Deputy, Toubab Krewe, The Motet, Break Science, and many others.
Strings & Sol
December 11-15, 2013
Puerto Morales, Mexico
Performers include: Yonder Mountain String Band, Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, Keller & The McCoury's, and Greensky Bluegrass
Warren Haynes' Christmas Jam
December 13-14, 2013
US Cellular Center
Performers include: Gov't Mule, Phil Lesh Quintet, Aquarium Rescue Unit, michael Franti, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, Keb Mo, OAR, and The John Scofield Uberjam Band.
December 16-20, 2013
Puerto Morales, Mexico
The event will feature three shows each from Umphrey's McGee, The Disco Biscuits, and STS9, and will also feature Big Gigantic, Papadosio, Cherub, Orchard Lounge, and DrFameus.
December 20-21, 2013
Papadosio will headline both nights. Other artists include: Ott & The All Seeing I, Hundred Waters, Shigeto, and The Main Squeeze.
January 4-9, 2014
Performers include: Les Claypool's Duo de Twang, Bootsy Collins, Galactic, Robert Randolph & The Family Band, Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, Keller Williams, Galactic, and many others.
One Big Holiday
January 26-30, 2014
Riviera Maya, Mexico
My Morning Jacket will be performing 4 nights at this event.
Hard Rock Hotel, Riviera Maya, Mexico
Performers include: Multiple shows from the String Cheese Incident, EOTO< Kyle Holingsworth Band, The Motet, and Prophet Massive.
Jam in the Sand
February 28-March 4, 2014
Dark Star Orchestra will host the event. Other performers to be announced.
Panic en la Playa tres
March 17-21, 2014
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Widespread Panic will perform four shows during the event.
March 20-23, 2014
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park
Live Oaks, FL
Performers include: Avett Brothers, Punch Brothers, Sam Bush Band, Southern Soul Assembly, Donna the Buffalo, Greensky Bluegrass, and many others
April 10-12, 2014
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park
Live Oaks, FL
June 12-15, 2014
September 5-7, 2014
Thanks again for stopping by. I'll be back next week with more jam. Until then, check me out on Facebook and Twitter for up to the minute concert announcements. Until next week, Jam On!