Photos by Rob Tobin
I was in San Diego, on vacation with my family, catching some Dodger games, when I read that the Rhythm Devils were going to be playing at the Wave House in Pacific Beach. So I got the family settled in to the hotel room and ventured out with a fellow Deadhead friend.
The venue was basically a large nightclub that probably held no more than 700 people. Bill Walton, being a San Diego local, was easily spotted (kind of hard to miss this seven foot red head). Seeing Walton is always a treat because of the many memories he brings back to me from so many other shows.
At about 9:30 the band appeared led by Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, two men I have spent many a night with (in a nonsexual way, of course). I love these men, in a way that only a fan can. These guys were the heartbeat of the Grateful Dead and just being around them makes me happy. I had seen the Rhythm Devils once before at one of the Vegoose festivals with a different line up and was curios about this latest incarnation.
Being slightly familiar with Keller Williams, I also wanted to see what he would bring to the table. He brought a lot. His charm, voice, playing ability, enthusiasm, and just plain giddiness was quite a treat. Davy Knowles, Andy Hess, and Sikiru Adepoju round out this latest group with a fresh blood vibe.
BAM! First song; “Cold Rain and Snow”, well played and energetic. “Cumberland Blues” is always a country treat and this one didn’t fail to get the river dance moves going. Some of the new songs were highlights of the entire show for me. One of these songs was “Strange World”, great funky jam with a dirty guitar riff. I have neverbeen a big “Fountains of Wood” fan, so that was a lowlight for me. Oh yes, I nearly forgot the “Uncle John’s Band” was sweet and dandy. The highlight of the first set, starting with the funky playing of the drummers was “Fire on the Mountain”. Keller did a great job of conveying the lyrics with his own storytelling vibe.
The rest of the set included some songs I am not familiar with, with the highlight of these being a slow, reggae tinged jam called “Zombie Town”. There was a powerful “Other One” thrown in there that really got the bus rolling.
The encores of “Sultans of Swing”, then “Ripple” were a perfect mix of jam and slow.
Overall it was a lovely time with some highs and lows (with the highs outnumbering the lows). I got the feeling that this is a band that is learning how to play with each other and having a great time doing it. As evidenced by all their beaming faces. I loved the mix of unfamiliar and of course the Grateful Dead mainstays. Keller is a natural fit with this band.
A real find is this Davy Knowles, a young blood who brings a certain vibrancy to the whole thing. In all honesty some of the highest highs and the lowest lows were provided by Knowles, which leads me to wonder what else this guy may have.