Reviews

Keller Williams: 3 February 2012 - Solana Beach, CA

Like the best jam bands, Keller's influences extend far and wide. This enables the master craftsman to pull a variety of tricks out of his musical hat.

Keller Williams

Keller Williams

City: Solana Beach, CA
Venue: The Belly Up Tavern
Date: 2012-02-03

The early part of a new year tends to be a lean season for live music fans, with many bands taking a little time off after New Year's Eve festivities. But Keller Williams seems to like playing in the winter, hitting the road in February for at least the third straight year here (I caught him and also 2011 in Austin) . The multi-talented troubadour has carved out a niche as one of his generation's premiere draws, consistently packing clubs with fans eager to party with this one man band and his vast repertoire.

But it's not just about a party per se. Keller (his fans rarely use his last name) has become something of a touchstone spokesman for the jam rock generation, due to his savvy ability to not only speak to those fans with his own tunes, but also to mine the entire pop culture song catalog. He's also played at almost every festival in the country and with almost all the top bands on the jamrock circuit at one point or another.

Sure you can count on him to throw a Grateful Dead song into almost every show, he is after all an avowed hippie and proud of it. But like the best jam bands, Williams' influences extend far and wide. This enables the master craftsman to pull a variety of tricks out of his musical hat.

It's another packed house here on Friday night at the Belly Up. There's also a large gathering in the smoking section out back before the show, as would be expected. It's a balmy night in Southern California, so why not tour the warmer climates in the winter?

One wouldn't necessarily think there were a lot of Bon Jovi fans in this crowd, but “Wanted Dead or Alive” draws an instant sing-along early in the first set. It's just one of those classic tunes that resonates with most of Gen-X and Y. Williams injects some old school classic rock cred when he segues it into the Allman Brothers Band's “Midnight Rider”, doubling the fun quotient. He also mixes it up throughout the night by going back and forth between guitar, bass, keyboards and sampler as few others can. He'll lay down a groove, then play another part on top of that, then jam out over that. It's a master class on how far one musician dedicated to his craft can take it.

You've gotta be able to write your own classics as well though and Williams can do that too of course. “Alligator Alley” is just such a tune. The funky guitar riffs and lyrics about “ignoring all the racket of conventional reality” never fail to resonate. An instrumental jam on Stevie Wonder's “Superstition” brings the vibe up further before another wave of clever segues featuring “For the Love of Money” into Seal's “Crazy”, into “She Drives Me Crazy” from the Fine Young Cannibals, into the blues classic “Crazy”. It's a masterful way to riff out on a theme, with a variety of insanity in this case. It's an increasingly crazy world we live in here in the early part of 2012, long looked toward as a potentially historic turning point for humanity, so the theme seems apropos.

The second set finds Williams looking back on some insanity from the mid '90s with his beloved hippie anthem, “Gatecrashers Suck”. The biographical song is dedicated to the lot rats that crashed the gates during the Grateful Dead's July 2, 1995 show at the Deer Creek Ampitheater in Indiana, which led to the ultimate buzz kill when the next night's show was then cancelled. It's a perennial favorite, with the crowd singing along on the humorously endearing chorus of “Fuck you, you cock-sucking motherfuckers”.

This soon leads to a monster rendition of the Dead's “Shakedown Street”, with Williams jamming out with himself on an extended arrangement of the psyche-funk classic. It's almost hard to believe that just one musician can create a sound this big to do the song justice, but Williams succeeds here in magnificent fashion as the whole club gets down during what is probably the jam of the night. The Grateful Dead theme is strong tonight as Williams also ends the set with a special arrangement of the Dead's “One More Saturday Night”, turning it into a “Friday night” version. He also re-arranges the song into more of a funky vamp than the straight-ahead Chuck Berry-style rock of the original tune.

It's been a night heavy on covers and the theme continues in the encore with the Beatles' “Drive My Car". But Williams makes it all his own by delivering the song with a dance club beat and electronic-oriented groove that bears little musical resemblance to the original song. But taking a classic tune and re-shaping it in a fresh new way takes special talent and Williams has been demonstrating that all night long.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Television

'Tiger King' and the Post-Truth Culture War

Tiger King -- released during and dominating the streaming-in-lockdown era -- exemplifies in real-time the feedback loop between entertainment and ideology.

Books

Ivy Mix's 'Spirits of Latin America' Evokes the Ancestors

A common thread unites Ivy Mix's engaging Spirits of Latin America; "the chaotic intermixture between indigenous and European traditions" is still an inextricable facet of life for everyone who inhabits the "New World".

Film

Contemporary Urbanity and Blackness in 'New Jack City'

Hood films are a jarring eviction notice for traditional Civil Rights rhetoric and, possibly, leadership -- in other words, "What has the Civil Rights movement done for me lately?"

Books

'How to Handle a Crowd' Goes to the Moderators

Anika Gupta's How to Handle a Crowd casts a long-overdue spotlight on the work that goes into making online communities enjoyable and rewarding.

Music

Regis' New LP Reaffirms His Gift for Grinding Industrial Terror

Regis' music often feels so distorted, so twisted out of shape, even the most human moments feel modular. Voices become indistinguishable from machines on Hidden in This Is the Light That You Miss.

Reviews

DMA's Go for BritElectroPop on 'The Glow'

Aussie Britpoppers the DMA's enlist Stuart Price to try their hand at electropop on The Glow. It's not their best look.

Film

On Infinity in Miranda July's 'Me and You and Everyone We Know'

In a strange kind of way, Miranda July's Me and You and Everyone We Know is about two competing notions of "forever" in relation to love.

Music

Considering the Legacy of Deerhoof with Greg Saunier

Working in different cities, recording parts as MP3s, and stitching them together, Deerhoof once again show total disregard for the very concept of genre with their latest, Future Teenage Cave Artists.

Music

Joshua Ray Walker Is 'Glad You Made It'

Texas' Joshua Ray Walker creates songs on Glad You Made It that could have been on a rural roadhouse jukebox back in the 1950s. Their quotidian concerns sound as true now as they would have back then.

Music

100 gecs Remix Debut with Help From Fall Out Boy, Charli XCX and More

100 gecs' follow up their debut with a "remix album" stuffed with features, remixes, covers, and a couple of new recordings. But don't worry, it's just as blissfully difficult as their debut.

Television

What 'Avatar: The Last Airbender' Taught Me About Unlearning Toxic Masculinity

When I first came out as trans, I desperately wanted acceptance and validation into the "male gender", and espoused negative beliefs toward my femininity. Avatar: The Last Airbender helped me transcend that.

Interviews

Nu Deco Ensemble and Kishi Bashi Remake "I Am the Antichrist to You" (premiere + interview)

Nu Deco Ensemble and Kishi Bashi team up for a gorgeous live performance of "I Am the Antichrist to You", which has been given an orchestral renovation.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.