Keller and the WMD's | 2.21.08 | NYC

Word by: Brian Bavosa | Images by: Mark Davidson

Keller Williams & the WMD's :: 02.21.08 :: Nokia Theatre :: New York, NY


Keller Williams & the WMD's :: 02.21 :: NYC
"It's no secret that The String Cheese Incident has helped me big time in my career," says Keller Williams when talking about Breathe, the title track off of his 1999 release. The track is also on his latest offering, 12, where Keller picks one track from his previous eleven releases, along with one new tune to make up – you guessed it – his twelfth album.

It is only fair then that in keeping with his retrospective theme, Keller has returned to his roots of sharing the stage with others. Introduced to the jam band world through his relationship with SCI and the aforementioned Breathe, Williams has become a festival staple, often called "guitar's mad scientist" for his wild one-man antics.

The WMD's, with whom he toured with a bit last summer (and will again this coming summer), consists of bassist Keith Moseley (The String Cheese Incident), guitarist Gibb Droll and drummer Jeff Sipe (Aquarium Rescue Unit, Jazz is Dead), who recently accompanied Keller at New York's Nokia Theatre Times Square.

Upon entering, I was startled to see the back section and seats of the venue curtained off, something I never even knew they did. I should have expected it though, due to the 2-for-1 ticket promotion that Ticketmaster was bombarding my inbox with all week. The floor area was crowded, mostly with teenagers who were off for their mid-winter break. It appeared that more than a few ate the yellow snow because I saw many toss their cookies. Sadly, that seemed to occupy and entertain me more than the lazy, lackadaisical playing from the band in the first set..

Williams & Moseley :: 02.21 :: NYC
Maybe that was the reason I felt uncomfortable and couldn't get into anything the band played during the first set. Even a hint of Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" and Keller's mega-hippie-hit "Freeker by the Speaker" lacked the usual oomph and excitement they typically generate, even with gyrating images of a dancer projected on the screen behind the band. There were a few bright spots, including a cover of Porno for Pyros' "Pets," but overall the first half of the show barely kept my attention.

The second set seemed a little more cohesive and a reminder that these musicians are all unique and talented in their own right. Sipe is a true driving force, much like a John Molo (Phil Lesh & Friends). Gibb Droll was essentially transparent in set one, but definitely stepped up in the second stretch. He can absolutely shred on the guitar, much like Buckethead, and showcased some fire-blazing riffs. I like SCI and Moseley, but I have never felt that he was exceptionally talented - merely above average - but I will say he thoroughly seemed to be enjoying himself and even showcased his guitar skills on one number.

There was a comical highlight in set two, where Keller sung about his buddy's dad smuggling pot over the border. Closing with a spirited cover of "Eyes of the World," a nod to his Grateful Dead touring days, sent me away feeling like a little fun and a touch of dance was better than none at all. The encore of "Best Feeling" was vintage Keller and had the underage masses grooving one last time, but still not enough to salvage this rather flat night.

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Continue reading for a mini-feature on Keller and the WMD's by Martin Halo...

Word by: Martin Halo | Images by: Rod Snyder


Williams & Moseley :: 02.21 :: NYC
Once, there was nothing more satisfying to me then the blues. I mean seriously, what could be better than a John Mayall record and a joint? Rod Stewart had his Faces, Mick Taylor immortalized the Rolling Stones, and Clapton became God. They were artists that dominated my soul. They were my bible, and I had comfortably numb tunnel vision with the headphones glued to my skull.

The jam scene wasn't even on my radar until about the age of 22. Now, I know what you are going to say, "How did you not know about the jam scene? What kind of man are you?" Well, the answer is simple: I'm from New York; we don't exactly have festivals in my neck of the woods. Our transcendence comes in the form of a dingy bar on Ludlow Street where nobody would think of adventuring into a solo for longer than thirty seconds.

Musicians, in a way, are kind of the same. Most don't have the eclectic tastes you might think. They travel the country incased in a bubble of nightly gigs and revolving barrooms. The last thing they are aware of is what is happening on the cusp of the scene. They listen to what they love and what inspires them. My own musical foundation was expanded by The Black Crowes. The Robinson Brothers turned me on to The Flying Burrito Brothers, Jimmie Rogers, Howlin' Wolf, David Crosby, The Jayhawks, Beachwood Sparks and a handful of others.

It took close to two years for all of the pieces of the American musical landscape to come into focus. The folkies of California, the hipsters of Brooklyn, the garage rock of the Pacific Northwest, the balladeers in the hills of Carolina, all fused to make up this country's voice. There were discoveries that were made within the process that stood out as unmistakably staggering. Keller Williams was one of them, a pure diamond in the ruff.

Williams & Moseley :: 02.21 :: NYC
Although Keller made his mark as a one-man jam band with loops and tricks and treats galore, speaking to him now, it's his Weapons of Mass Destructions (featuring Keller, bassist Keith Moseley, guitarist Gibb Droll and drummer Jeff Sipe) that he's eager to discuss.

"This project was all about timing," says Williams from his home in Fredericksburg, Virginia. "I have been doing the solo thing in the public eye for close to ten years now and I put myself in the shoes of the audience. I felt that it was time to set out and do something different."

The difference was assembling a supporting cast of musicians that Williams has been trying to organize for close to a decade.

"You have to understand, I was a fan of these guys," Williams offers. "Gibb Droll and Jeff Sipe came into my world around the same time. I was in my late teens. It was a very influential time in my playing career. I was much more of a sponge than I am now. Meaning, I was just absorbing everything!"

With a 60-song catalog rehearsed and in place, the WMD's hit the road in the fall of 2007 and again in early 2008 and left destruction in their wake.

"I believe in rhythm and the power of taking the listener out of the day-to-day thought process," says Keller. "I want to transfer them into something else that is not their routine stresses, because that is what happens to me. I get taken out of the long term and my entire thought process molds into what is happening when I am playing. It's all about the dance. It's all about the rhythm. It's all about the jazz and the disco."

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Comments

theworldisonfire88 Wed 3/5/2008 02:27PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I highly enjoy the music of Keller Williams.

Robusto Wed 3/5/2008 02:34PM
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Robusto

Jeff Sipe is uber robust. One of my favorite drummers. "What are we going to do about that dam!?"

Muffinman1 Wed 3/5/2008 02:58PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Muffinman1

I gotta say, I love Keller, a lot, but, I do not dig the WMD's much at all. I saw them at roo last year and I was not interested. I've seen keller solo at least 10 and loved everyone of his shows. Though I do appreciate him branching out. I would love to see him collaberate with a musician like xavier rudd. I've always thought that would be a killer duo, they would tear shit up. If you've ever seen Rudd live you would know what I'm talking about.

standingtaller starstarstarstar Wed 3/5/2008 03:15PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

standingtaller

Yea, I saw WMDs at Roo last year as well and was a bit on the bored side. This shocked me as I am a Keller fan for sure. I agree w/ Muffinman1. Keller should get the WMDs to a) kick their sound into something harder, more gritty or b) explore other musicans. I personally think the WMD thing could work, if they focused on melting our brains.

ewbolla starstar Wed 3/5/2008 03:19PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I was at this show and totally disagree. I have seen Keller many many times over the last years (around 40) and frankly was getting a little tired of the 1 man band show. Playing as a band allowed him to take many of his songs and really expand on them giving fuller heavier jams that really kept me moving. The first set contained an amazing "Kiwi and Apricot" like I have never heard with a raging jam. A funked out "Play This" was another standout. Sadly I have been unable to find a setlist of this show but I was surprised at how full the sound was and how great old Keller classics sounded.

nuke_ticketbastard starstarstarstar Wed 3/5/2008 03:21PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

saw keller for the 1st time last night( w/ wmd ) , it was a pretty cool show , they played "the girl from ipenema" which was fun and midway through the 2nd(?) song the fire alarm went off and they started playing "burning down the house" til the lights came up and everybody had to exit the theatre... it was pretty wild... almost nobody was dancing prior to the house lights coming up and then evrybody was dancing in their seats(not a dance venue really) , after the fire break(somebody lit up in a bathroom - duh )it was like a free-for-all , averybody was in the aisles and up in their seats dancing for the rest of the show , which had its highs and lows i guess(1st keller show) , it was def. a good time and the guy on lead rips.... BURNIN DOWN THA HOUSE ! classic

DELYEAH starstarstarstarstar Wed 3/5/2008 03:57PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

DELYEAH

I did not see the WMD's at NYC or the Bonnaroo show mentioned, but got a chance to see them in Asheville at the Orange Peel this year in January. They were royally nasty! The highlight for me was No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature. Jeff Sipe is incredible and I didn't know much about Gibb Droll prior to the show, but he was sick, too. I agree that Keith Mosely is not amazing on bass, but he is solid and did seem to enjoy himself, as well as Keller. I love Keller solo, but think the WMD's add a whole new dimension to Keller's tunes.

adventuresinperception starstarstar Wed 3/5/2008 04:12PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

adventuresinperception

I must agree with ewilson313 as well.

I attended the WMD’S Saturday afternoon show at bonnaroo last year and was grooving hard despite having not slept a wink the night prior due to an absolutely glorious String Cheese meltdown from midnight til 4am…. Anywho, Kellers show got started late, maybe 20 minutes, due to some rather lame technical difficulties but once it did he started it off with a few tasty freeform numbers before settling into a very heady freeker > BE women. Heady show, and will be seeing them again at rothbury

phunkle starstarstarstarstar Wed 3/5/2008 05:20PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

phunkle

Haven't seen either a ton, but have had the chance to see both Keller solo and the WMD's couple of times each. And I must say both times I saw the WMD's they left me longing for something more. I think they can get there but right now their shows don't do it for me. Gibb Droll is blazing, but I wish he would slow his jams down once in awhile and slowly melt my face, rather than trying to explode my head. The set at Asheville Jamboree last year wasn't bad though. Muffinman, I had the exact same thoughts as you about Keller w/ Xavier, and chatted with Keller about that after a Norva show one night. Keller said they toured together in Europe a few years back, but their personalities didn't blend well together. Still, would probably be hot to find a copy of them together! Glad to see one of the WMD shows finally get reviewed too!

MusicIsGood Wed 3/5/2008 08:05PM
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I'll check em out at Rothbury

manjotar starstarstarstar Wed 3/5/2008 08:07PM
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manjotar

i have to say that the WMDS shows aren't kellers best, but he's doing something he wants to do and right on for it.

now, the fredericksburg SPCA show this christmas with the transmitters was off the hook, i suggest checking out their combo set at wakarusa this year...

and of course keller and the keels put on the best damn acoustic show this side of that there yonder mountain. you can quote me on that.

TheACDCBag star Wed 3/5/2008 08:36PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I attended this show and have seen keller 5 times in the last year starting with his nokia date in 07.i hung out outside the centerstage with hundreds like myself top hear some keller and bob, but i must say that this show was absolutly mind blowing vompaired to other keller i have heard. the man writing this is obviously not into keller or cheese or anything along the lines because he would have known that the song Kieth played guitar on and keller on bass was the cheese song Sometimes a River. anyway best keller show to date in my opinion.

K-dub is the MAN

tourfan starstarstarstarstar Wed 3/5/2008 09:07PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I post some reviews here at JB and other music related sites and publications. I am a long time K-dub fan. I reviewed the WMD's in New Haven CT, just after this show. Great show. I for one dig what he's doing with this supergroup and hope he'll get some writing done with these guys.

http://www.courant.com/entertainment/music/reviews/hc-kellerrev.artfeb28,0,5145648.story

Peace.

sokbok starstarstarstar Thu 3/6/2008 07:29AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Floatin' on the freshies at Lawrence KS had me snowboarding in the heartland....dingle dangle

paul14 starstar Thu 3/6/2008 09:27AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Anybody have a setlist for the NYC show?? Keller setlists are so hard to find..

TimkoNug Thu 3/6/2008 09:49AM
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TimkoNug

I was at the Nokia show. I would have to agree that it was flat with the brief highlight. I felt the best guitar playing was done by Keith the one chance he got. Droll's playing I found to be unimaginative, instead of building a solo, he would go right into shreading it, while fun at first really became boring halfway through the show. Nepalize Temple Balls was a great new tune, and I would suggest finding at recording if your looking to laugh.

On a side note: I'm a NY Giants fan, but the 15 kids chanting lets go Giants in the front of the stage during the show is just lame, let the players play.

maverick6100 starstar Thu 3/6/2008 09:50AM
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maverick6100

Keller needs new songs and to stop covering so many. I've been seeing Keller since 2001 and since about 2004 all his sets sound the same...lame opening set and then into a killer second set (besides 'roo 05 with the keels). And there are fest in the nyc area (im from there)...what about gathering of the vibes, mt. jam, camp creek, camp bisko, moe. down...ect...jambase.com needs real people and not hipster jam band fans from the lower east side

id rather be phishing Thu 3/6/2008 09:56AM
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id rather be phishing

Saw them at Somerville couples weeks ago, I was skeptical about the md's..But they were fucking crazy, what an awesome time, one of the best Keller experiences I had. Replace the guitarist and KDUBS set..

id rather be phishing Thu 3/6/2008 10:02AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

id rather be phishing

the bluegrass Phish at setbreak was insanity too! haa where can I pick up that cd? the whole theater in Somerville was groovin to some Phish

trista420 starstar Thu 3/6/2008 01:29PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

trista420

i have to say that the wmd's show in st louis was excellent. i've been seeing keller for years now and as of lately was starting to get a little bored with his solo shows. keller with a band definetly breathes new air into his songs, that is if he played more of his own songs and not so many covers. while i do love certain covers, i really would love to see a keller only show. that is why i love keller, for his music, not to see him play other people's music. either way, i'll probably still go to his shows whenever they come within a 3-5 hour radius of me, but i'll just try to request more keller songs. here's a link to the phish bluegrass cd at amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Still-Phishin-Bluegrass-Tribute-Phish/dp/B000063RTF

1radioheader starstarstar Thu 3/6/2008 02:05PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

1radioheader

Would love to see Keller with WMD's, he needs a band to really progress at this point, he's gone as far as it seems he will on his own. . . . that being said I've caught him twice with the Keel's and they blow the sky off the earth with your jams!!!!. . . . . . just my opinion.

manlejo Thu 3/6/2008 05:10PM
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anyone know where I can find a setlist/recording for the show Keller played at Copper Mountain, CO last spring? I've looked a bunch of places, never finding anything. I know there were tapers there, and I've never heard him play "Floating on Freshies"(?) before or after...

excellent snowboarding music, by the way!

Deklen Thu 3/6/2008 05:20PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Deklen

I just had the best time at K & WMD's in Ithaca Saturday. Besides with Cheese in Vegas, this was my best keller show ever. High energy all the way through, each musician building off the other - it was incredible.

All my friends agreed too, this was a good one. He had a couple of solo looping songs right after the set break followed by more tight jams with the WMD's. I sure hope you folks have better experiences in the future.

cuttyfives Thu 3/6/2008 05:51PM
Show -5 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
sacsquash star Thu 3/6/2008 05:58PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Had a good time at this show. I was drunk. Should've puked on you. Beer is good! Peace.

sk8er4ever0101 starstarstarstar Thu 3/6/2008 07:00PM
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i seen him with the WMD's once, not bad, but not very tight, so ill give em a go at rothberry this year, he wasn't announced for summercamp yet unfortunately! but now that they have had a bit more time to play together i expect something a bit better :)

Kavu152 starstarstar Thu 3/6/2008 08:43PM
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So, as for Keller, big fan, Every solo show, bluegrass show, Incident shows, have been totally unique, some better than others. All different though. I saw the 02/02 Denver/Fillmore WMD's show and had a good time. Not the best K-Dub show I've ever seen though. 2006 @ the Fillmore in Denver Greatful Grass set with Jeff Austin and Keith Moseley was off the wammer-jammer, best show thus far. Download that if you don't have it!

Manlejo I was at that Copper show too and have never been able to find it. I've seen him at small shows all over the Rockies and have never been able to find the little Snowmass type afternoon sets, so if you do ever hear anything about where to dig these up, shed some light on us!

rhythmic_randomness Fri 3/7/2008 05:11AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Go watch the kids then, man.

paul14 starstar Tue 3/11/2008 12:03PM
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anyone know what Jerry Garcia Band song keller played near the end of his set, or better yet... does anyone have this setlist? thanks!

kandrokitis Tue 3/11/2008 02:00PM
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kandrokitis

They played kind of close to me recently. I was busy and couldn't go. Definitely wanna check them out this summer if possible. Moseley, Sipe, and Droll are excellent musicians. It's weird that Keller is taking a backseat to another guitar player. Also, I've listened to some shows and they sound great but I still miss Keller's acoustic work. Nobody plays acoustic guitar like Keller.

cavemandan Wed 3/19/2008 03:14PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

keller is annoying, boring, non evolving, and seems to end up at all the major festys....can u say over-rated?..he couldnt hold a candle to estiban, pierre bensusan and about 1000 guitarists you can see on youtube who absolutely smoke keller... why do we get fed the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over again? can somebody please get him to sing in tune just once? holy tone death!

noltrain starstarstar Mon 3/24/2008 05:44AM
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noltrain

gibb droll rips it up!