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Keller Williams lays down the loops at Higher Ground

Last night, multi-instrumentalist/looper extraordinaire, Keller Williams performed a solo (if you can really call it solo) show at Higher Ground in South Burlington, VT. I picked up my ticket earlier this week, worried that it would be close to selling out. I was surprised to find that ticket sales were going much slower than anticipated. That certainly didn’t stop Williams from putting on a show to remember. For $23, I enjoyed a 3+ hour concert that actually started on time!

I got there at 7:40pm because I like to be in the front row whenever possible. If the only cost difference between being front row and being towards the back is time and patience, I’m certainly willing to pay. I was second in line to get in. I brought my Canon SLR camera to capture a bit of the evening.

Though I was told when I purchased my ticket that the only photography restriction for the evening was the typical “no flash” rule, I was informed at the door that no SLR photography was being allowed. Blast! I must say that I was kinda ticked at this. I had specifically checked what the rules for the show would be and then was told otherwise at the door. I ended up having to pay $1.50 to “check my camera bag” at the coat check. Not cool. I will be checking the rules again for the Lotus show this Friday and I plan to get the name of the person answering the phone because I don’t want to have the same situation over again.

The whole situation quickly dissipated as Keller stepped on stage. The stage setup was phenomenal. This being part of Keller’s “Guitar Shop Tour,” the stage was setup to look like an actual guitar shop. Peg board panels were setup along the back of the stage with lots of guitars and other fretted instruments hanging off of them. The typical “Ask Before Touching” signs were posted along the walls. Elixir guitar and bass strings hung from a wall along with several LP’s behind a makeshift sales counter. The counter had been setup with a cash register and all sorts of effects pedals on the left side of the stage.

At one point during the second set, Williams grabbed a guitar off the wall, set it down on the counter and began playing slide guitar. The sight was hilariously wonderful.

Keller Williams has a certain relaxed quirkiness that works very well on stage. He dances around barefoot, moving from one instrument to the next as he lays down seamless loops. The typical formula (which is not to say that his music is at all predictably formulaic) for one of his songs begins with him laying down some rhythm guitar on one of his many acoustics. Next he may lay down some vocal percussion and/or walk over to the mounted Hohner bass and put down a line. From here on out, it could go anywhere. With approximately 21 stringed instruments and many more other instruments at his disposal, he was like a painter with various shades of every color to choose from.

The highlights of the evening for me included the use of a Korg Kaossilator, use of an african djembe (during the the encore- “Celebrate”) and the performance of an original song about free speech entitled “Rush Limbaugh.”

With two sets of talented musical performance, exploration and experimentation, Keller Williams certainly did not disappoint. If you have the opportunity to see him play on this tour, definitely get out to the show.

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