Photos by Justin Halgren
For anyone who has never seen Keller Williams, simply reading an article does not even begin to do Keller justice. His performance style is unmatched in the jam scene, and he redefines the term ‘one-man band.’ His exuberant stage presence is characterized by his semi-crazy facial expressions, cool yet funny guitar effects, and his far out recreations of songs. Saturday, November 20 marked the return of Keller Williams to San Francisco at the Great American Music Hall.
Keller Williams is one of the few musicians I have ever seen who consistently made the audience laugh. Unlike some other musicians who leave the audience in awe with their masterful playing, Keller left a smile on the faces of everyone in the audience. This is not to say Keller is not a good musician by any means—his extremely unique rhythms and solos and use of digital loop effects showed a great amount of skill.
Keller not only has the ability to play well, but the ability to entertain. The show opened up with an instrumental tune that Keller began playing while walking onto the stage. From there, Keller played “Eyes Of The World” by the Grateful Dead. This jam took a lot of twists and turns through Keller’s looping and using odd guitar sound effects. His sound during jams evolves constantly as he switches from instrument to instrument. Highlights of the first set included “Best Feeling” and a sit in from North Mississippi Allstars bass player Chris Chew. The two played a great bluesy version of “Ragged But Right.”
The second set seemed to have a ‘crazy’ theme. Several of the songs were about craziness in some fashion. Keller even covered “Crazy” by Seal, which had the audience laughing pretty hard. A slowed down, acoustic “Birds of a Feather” by Phish was one of the highlights of this set. At one point, Keller holstered all of his instruments and used his laptop to play, controlling the tempo and the speed of the jam. One of the funnier moments of the night came when Keller used an effect on his electric guitar that was his own voice, while mock singing the solo.
The show ended with an encore of “One More Saturday Night” by the Grateful Dead, an appropriate choice because of the location of the show and the fact that it was a Saturday night. Instead of the bluesy song I am used to, Keller played a down-tempo, semi-electronic version of the tune. At one point, he even used a handheld touchpad to create very strange sound effects.
All in all it was a great show. I had a great time at one of my favorite venues watching a madman do his work.